Monday, February 28, 2011

Jennifer Jobson takes the Red Ape Brigade challenge in Australia

From the Chicago Brookfield zoo
This is the beginning of diary items as Jennifer Jobson in  Gawler, Australia, chronicles her Red Ape Brigade attempt to have her local municipal council declare an Orangutan Appreciation Day to help raise awareness about the red apes. Anyone can join this effort in any part of the world. The more the merrier. For details, go to The Red Ape Brigade.

Feb. 28, 2010

By Jennifer Jobson

I have taken up the challenge to help raise awareness of the orangutan in Gawler, South Australia. I am writing to my local council and asking them to set aside February 12 (Charles Darwin's birthday) as Orangutan Awareness Day in Gawler. 

To me every animal on this planet is precious and deserves to live as nature intended. But to all of us we hold one species especially dear to our hearts and for me that is the orangutan. I am blown away by the fact that in this day and age there are people out there that do not know what an orangutan is or where in the world he resides, or the very real threats to his survival he faces. 

I know that many (including me) feel powerless,. We feel “what they hell can I achieve, I am only one person.” But with anything that is worthwhile it starts with one person, then two, three and so on until you have a snowball effect. 

At the moment The Red Ape Brigade is in it’s infancy. That is why I am reaching out to all of you out there, hoping to inspire you to pick up a pen and also write to your local council. Just imagine, Orangutan Awareness Day worldwide. 

So tomorrow, I will ring my local council and find out who I need to address my letter to and tomorrow night, I will be busy penning it. I promise to keep you posted on what transpires and hopefully February 12, 2012 will be a sea of orange in Gawler, South Australia.

Monday, February 21, 2011

BRAINSTORM 1: Lobby your municipality for a local Orangutan Appreciation Day

 Orangutans need publicity, but the message is not getting out.

Why not start an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign to your municipal council to have Feb. 12 (the birthday of great ape liberator and evolutionist Charles Darwin) designated in your municipality as Orangutan Appreciation Day.

It does not matter if the idea is not accepted -- although it is hard to imagine that happening because orangutans are such lovable creatures.

Remember that publicity is about publicity, getting attention and gathering support, not political action in itself.  The mere act of the request being put on a council agenda and considered helps to publicize orangutans. You might even get a write-up in the local media. Imagine the headline: "Council considers Orangutan Appreciation Day," followed by comments why the idea was not accepted. Remember that in the world of the media being rejected is also publicity. It documents attitudes and gives more to circulate and publicize. Meanwhile, just being considered by an elected body adds both publicity and credibility to the issue. If this happens often enough, in enough different places, it might create a critical mass of awareness.

Here are some suggestions:
  • Be nice in your letter. Be simple and charming and affable and don't harangue them about environmental issues. Nothing turns people off quicker than being lectured by someone who is too preachy and displays too much knowledge.
  • Be clear in the first line that you are asking for the official designation of Orangutan Appreciation Day in the municipality to raise awareness about "a fellow primate."
  • Make a brief statement that apes are "like people," that we "belong to the same family tree" and that we should "respect our extended family," and don't forget to mention that orangutans are threatened with extinction. 
  • You might also offer to bake the council a tasty batch of the palm-oil free orangutan cookies.
  • Keep the letter to just one page. Too much writing just dilutes the message. 
  • Write a letter with a local postmark, not an email. Give only a return mailing address and phone number, not an email address, so that the response on official stationery can be used later. (Wikipedia uses the same tactic to show the arrogance and lack of intelligence of its critics.)
  • Take relish in any wisecracks and derogatory statements about orangutans that you can document or record, because they make great fuel for the fire. We will quote their own words to make a point. But, if they say good things about orangutans, we can use that too.

Use a personal letter and not an e-mail or an online survey, since those methods are so easy to use these days that they do not carry the weight that they once had. Whereas someone who takes the time to write a letter, put a stamp on it, walk it to a post box if those things still exist, creates more of an impression, particularly if you can interest your more credible friends to do the same.

When you have done this and got a reaction, sent us notification so that we can post it on this website to encourage and inspire others. Keep the official documents that you receive in reply, copy them and send them to us to use for more publicity. Maybe we could even give out the Red Ape Brigade order of merit.

If we could get enough municipalities in different countries to consider this, then we could approach federal governments to declare national Orangutan Appreciation Day and eventually the United Nations. Wouldn't that be nice? Although it is too early to ask that orangutans and the great apes be allowed to have a representative at the U.N.

But the point is that thinking small is a only a way to accomplish small things. Thinking big makes a difference. A big difference.