How We’ll Reach A Global Tipping Point on Climate

Posted on March 7, 2013 by Joe Brewer in Cultural Tipping Points, Meme Science

In our report, we introduced the Climate Meme Map (shown here) to explain how different kinds of memes help or hinder the spread of the global warming meme.  It shows how hostile memes seek to do it harm to the global warming meme and how immune deficiency memes make it inherently weak.  This tells us why global warming won’t go viral on its own.  The real gems are the symbiotic memes that provide a “blue ocean” where the global warming meme can swim free to spread far and wide — the topic of this article.

Some of the symbiotic memes we found in our analysis focused on global social movements (e.g. Occupy, Arab Spring, etc.) that suggest a “state-shift” is currently underway.  Others harken us to think about how to create meaning in our lives.  And others draw upon the open source movement as a path forward that draws upon indigenous wisdom.  These memes are not primarily about global warming, though they provide spreading power when linked with it.  In this way, the global warming meme draws upon the strengths of these other memes in a mutually beneficial way.

In order to reach a global tipping point on climate action, we must identify those symbiotic memes best suited to helping the global warming meme spread.  Future research is needed to determine which memes these will be, though some candidates to look at were mentioned in our report (including memes for collaboration, love, creativity and entrepreneurship).  One meme that stands poised to make a significant impact is the sharing meme.

Our friends over at have been monitoring trends in the realm of sharing for several years now.  This article provides a snapshot for how much it has grown in the last decade.  The sharing meme has viral qualities that we found lacking in the global warming meme.  It has already spread across the domains of lifestyle, business practice, daily routines, and technology platforms

Perhaps it can provide a much needed boost?  Future study of the sharing meme would be needed to tell for sure.  But it definitely has a flavor of desirability that the global warming meme could benefit from.

Other possible leverage points may be found in the broader open culture movements that have brought forth an emphasis on DIY (Do-It-Yourself) through the explosive rise of hacker-maker spaces and the open innovations that come through crowdsourcing, micro-finance, user-generated content, cooperative ownership, and many other related arenas.  These cultural expressions contain memes that show prospects for being symbiotic with the spread of democratic governing systems, an emphasis on love, compassion, and happiness, and a burgeoning global citizen meme.

At this point, we don’t know which memes are strongest and most ripe to truly go viral.  But it is clear to us that the global warming meme will benefit from greater synergies with any and all of these meme ecosystems.  The next step will be to select a manageable number of them and secure the resources necessary to conduct a thorough meme analysis.

What do you think?  Please post questions and comments below to elaborate this discussion further.


  1. On the positive meme side, I don’t see much focus on reminding people that humans are animals too and what happens to animals will happen to all animals. Since there is so much attention given, properly, to the joys of nature and the human need for experiencing it, it seems that if more climate marketing emphasis was placed on that reality there would be more buy-in.

    In addition and in general, people have assumed the mental role of spectators and have begun to see humans as some unrelated creature who sits on top of the natural world and manipulates it, watches it but basically disassociates from it. The remote control nature of technology helps to foster this mindset. And when it is combined with the ultra-individualistic era we have now, then humans wait and watch until the worst happens to them personally before believing it is time to participate.

    It is time to re-convince people that they are animals too, participatory ones, not spectators. Participation is the responsibility and the cost that we pay for having a bigger animal brain.


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