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Videos emerge that drive petitions against Northern Pass

Last modified: 8/4/2014 12:23:52 AM
Three two-minute videos on YouTube have helped conservation groups drive nearly 7,000 people to sign a “Bury or Stop Northern Pass” petition online.

A newly formed Maine-based nonprofit, which aims to help conservation groups use video to connect with voters, produced and posted the videos.

The Conservation Media Group launched its pilot phase this winter. The nonprofit chose “Bury or Stop Northern Pass” as its first campaign and partnered – free of charge – with the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests for the video-petition project.

In each of the three videos posted to YouTube between March and July, tall utility towers burst through the ground of various New Hampshire landscapes. At the end of each, a link to the petition appears on the screen.

So far, the videos have more than 10,000 views and have propelled people to sign and comment on the petition.

The conservation groups delivered the first batch of signatures to Gov. Maggie Hassan last month.

“We were very pleased with the result,” said Jack Savage of the Forest Society. “Anytime you are doing advocacy and you are successfully able to get people to act, that’s huge.”

Harnessing the power of video for conservation efforts is a driving mission of the Conservation Media Group. David Conover, a Maine resident and filmmaker, launched the nonprofit initiative earlier this year. The nonprofit focuses on conservation groups that work on energy and ocean issues and draws its funding largely from the Lewis Family Foundation.

“Our goal is to increase communication capacity of conservation groups,” Conover said. “We’re providing infrastructure for groups already working on a certain thing.”

The group is still in the ramp-up phase, Conover said. It launched in March with the “Bury or Stop Northern Pass” pilot project, producing the videos in tandem with the New Hampshire conservation groups and hosting the petition on its website.

It picked that project for several reasons, Conover said, including the group’s interest in working further with New Hampshire conservation groups and because the Lewis family has properties in the state and is interested in the outcome of the Northern Pass project.

The Conservation Media Group has since piloted two more campaigns: one in Europe focused on banning deep-sea bottom trawling and another in Rhode Island focused on water quality.

“It’s at their lead,” Conover said. “We’re giving them the tools.”

The group is experimenting with video and petitions to see how they complement one another. The goal is for the Conservation Media Group to eventually run workshops, host residencies and fund fellowships to train filmmakers on how to make and distribute videos effective in conservation. That could begin as soon as 2015.

Video is a good tool in conservation because it’s experiential, Conover said. “It conveys the feeling and the emotion,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the Forest Society has used videos to get the message out, but it is new to combine the media with a specific request for action, Savage said. Once they posted the videos on YouTube, the Forest Society and the Appalachian Mountain Club began sending and sharing the link through social media.

“We were unsure. We haven’t done anything like this,” Savage said. The video “has to be interesting enough or clever enough for people to not only click through to look at the petition, sign it . . . but also then to share it. That’s a big ask in today’s social media world.”

The groups have plans to release more videos in the future, but they wouldn’t comment on specifics.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)


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