Instagram recently announced it had reached a big milestone: half a billion users. The BBC asked me to interview the company’s COO, Marne Levine to explore the company’s appeal and find out why video – and new products like Boomerang – are helping fuel that growth.
“We’re certainly marching towards a billion…and even beyond a billion. Today, video is exploding on Instagram… In the last six months, consumption increased by more than 40%…Sometimes people want sight, sound and motion to tell their stories. ” Instagram COO, Marne Levine
Here’s a transcript of the conversation, edited for length and clarity:
BBC host, Fergus Nicholl: Do you use Instagram? A new study says that half the Fortune 500 companies use it for marketing. Alison, you’ve been talking to a bigwig at the company about its recent announcement that it’s reached the magic number of half a billion users?
Alison van Diggelen: That’s right. I interviewed Marne Levine. Instagram is very well known as a place where youth congregate, especially teenagers…they use it to reach their friends and share cool things…a lot of these users are women. But they’re not the only ones making up this figure of half a billion users. I asked Marne how entrepreneursare using Instagram to attract more business…
Marne Levine: There are so many different stories of small businesses, big businesses that have grown through the Instagram community. A woman named Isha Yuba in Germany – has “Art Youth Society.” She started by designing a bracelet, she posted a photo of it. Somebody inquired and suddenly she has a thriving business. She has turned her passion into livelihood. A lot of businesses have started to advertise on Instagram. We now have more than 200,000 advertisers…the vast majority of those are small businesses.
Alison van Diggelen: You’ve added about 100 million users in about 9 months. Obviously the next milestone would be one billion…Any ideas when that might happen?
Marne Levine: We’re certainly marching towards a billion…and even beyond a billion. When we have more people on the platform, it really benefits the Instagram community – we get a wide range of perspectives, new windows into different things that are happening around the world.
Those could be big events like the Olympics…that’s probably how I’m going to experience the Olympics, through Instagram. Lots of people are sharing ordinary moments, epic moments and everything in between.
Alison van Diggelen: Why do you think Instagram is doing so much better than Twitter, that seems to have plateaued?
Marne Levine: We’re constantly trying to thinking about: what would add value to the community? We listen to feedback, continue to innovate so people can tell their stories in different ways. When Instagram started it was really all about photos. Today video is exploding on Instagram… In the last 6 months, consumption increased by more than 40%.
Sometimes people want “sight sound and motion” to tell their stories. Sometimes it’s not necessarily just a straight video….I don’t know whether you know Boomerang? Cool little looping videos that take ordinary moments and turn them into fun and delightful moments.
Alison van Diggelen: You posted one of your son going up and down the stairs?
Marne Levine: I did! Somebody once said this to me and this is how I now think about it: Motion is the new filter.
Marne Levine: The Pope is looking to inspire lots of people. What he told our CEO, is that a lot of times….people will show him an image to get over the language barrier…Images are the most powerful way to connect, because they transcend borders, language, cultures, generations. You look at the image and instantly connect. He understood that there’s a new global language of images. In this case 500 million people are contributing to that new global language of images – it could be images that are documenting the plight of refugees… images of hope and opportunity. That can be really inspiring…
(End of interview)
Fergus Nicholl: She could be VP for sales, as well as COO. She does a pretty fantastic job of selling…But just to zoom in on one of the questions I thought was very sharp: this question of plateauing.
You were talking about Twitter, and people might also think about Snapchat…I wonder whether Instagram is doing really well just because it’s in vogue. Maybe, in a year’s time there’ll be something else?
Alison van Diggelen: I think that’s the constant challenge of Silicon Valley companies, of social media companies in general. They have to keep innovating. They can’t just put out this cool platform and assume that people will come to it. She talked about how they listen to feedback…because not everyone loves Instagram. They recently changed their algorithm to make (the feed) not just strictly reverse chronological order and that caused push-back from certain users, so she underlined how they try to listen to their users and please as many users as possible.
They’ve also launched “business profiles” to allow businesses, like the entrepreneur mentioned, to get the word out and reach their target audience. And of course, over 50% of the users are in this very sought after demographic of under 35-years old. So it’s a great way for companies, business and media outlets to reach this young demographic.
As the seismic impact of Britains’s vote to leave the European Union continues to rock the political and financial world, the long term impact is still unclear. But it’s likely that the creation of a new political divide will have incessant repercussions around the world. What does it mean for globalization, and for U.S. presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton?
I see Brexit as part of a larger trend: a widespread shift to nationalism and anti-globalization. It could be the beginning of the end of capitalism as we know it – the majority of Britons have voted against the status quo. Globalization is NOT working for them. In the US, it’s a big wake up call to establishment politics here. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party need to take note.
BBC host, Fergus Nicholl led a lively discussion on the pros and cons of the Brexit vote. Here is a transcript of the globalization discussion (edited for length and clarity). Listen to the podcast at the BBC(Globalization focus starts at 38:38)
Robert Hormats (former Under Secretary for Economic Growth for President Obama and Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates) explained the U.S perspective:
Robert Hormats: We have a great stake in the global economic system…the global economy has a big effect on our own economy, as it does on other countries’ economies and if we give up that leadership or turn inward, it will hurt our economy…
Laura Trevelyan (BBC Correspondent, Washington D.C.):What can be done to restore economic stability?
Robert Hormats: I think it’s very important that political leaders try to help people who do not feel that they’ve benefited from globalization or from technology, to feel more included, to listen to those people. If these people feel more confident about their own lives, they’ll feel more confident about the global economy…We need to make sure the global economic system works effectively and that is now in jeopardy.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth: I’m fully in favor of globalization, but it doesn’t have to mean that Brussels can control what kind of vacuum cleaner you can buy…The EU has become too intrusive. And that’s why the majority of people voted to leave… not having to do with globalization but intrusion in everyday life…
Fergus Nicholl: Simon, take us into Asia with this issue of globalization…
Simon Long: It’s not just that people are uncomfortable with globalization, they’re uncomfortable with some of the byproducts: increased inequality, entrenched elites making decisions for them. And in that context this (Brexit) vote has resonated in some parts of Asia as a revolt against doing what you’re told is best for you. It’s a phenomenon one’s seen in elections in Indonesia in 2014…in the Philippines with the election of Rodrigo Duterte on an explicitly anti-elite, anti-establishment platform. It’s part of an anti-globalization trend…a general revolt by the people who feel excluded from the elites.
Fergus Nicholl: Alison, you’ve got friends and family back home in Scotland. I wonder how they’ve been reacting over the last few days…
Alison van Diggelen: It looks to me like another referendum on Scottish independence is almost inevitable. I’ve heard anecdotally that some Scots who voted “No” to independence in 2014 are now inclined to vote “Yes” – they don’t want to be part of what they see as an isolationist, xenophobic “little England” mentality.
I see Brexit as part of a larger trend: a widespread shift to nationalism and anti-globalization. It could be the beginning of the end of capitalism as we know it – the majority of Britons have voted against the status quo. Globalization is NOT working for them. In the US, it’s a big wake up call to establishment politics here. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party need to take note of it and start doing more to address the people who’re not benefiting from globalization and doing something to help them.
Fergus Nicholl: Simon, that’s a very bleak message: a sense of fundamental danger to the global financial system?
Simon Long: I think it’s justified. What we have seen is a big step back to the international order of the post 40-50 years. It does reflect a sense of resentment, not just in the UK, the EU, but felt around the world, against the current economic system. If one looks at pioneering trade agreements, for example, the Transpacific Partnership, it’s hard to find any country where that’s a popular idea: people think it’s either nothing to do with them or is against their interest. The popular mood has disassociated itself from what governments are doing in globalization.
Why aren’t more women in tech? That was the main topic for discussion yesterday on BBC’s Business Matters. I shared my report from Google’s I/O conference, where almost one in four attendees were women. The Women Techmakers team managed to increase female attendance from 8% in 2013 to 23% this year. How did they do it and what can other companies learn from their strategy?
Here’s a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
BBC Host, Roger Hearing: Have you thought how many women there are in the new high tech industries? Not enough is the general verdict. Have a quick listen to this:
Google CEO, Sundar Pichai: Welcome to Google I/O and welcome to Shoreline. It feels really nice and different up here. We’ve been doing it for many many years in Moscone and in fact we’ve been doing I/O for 10 years, but I feel we’re at a pivotal moment in terms of where we’re going as a company…. There are over 7,000 of you joining in person today.
BBC Host, Roger Hearing: That was the boss of Google, Sundar Pichai, opening a recent conference held near the tech giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, Silicon Valley. Alison, you were at that conference. Tell us more about it….
Alison van Diggelen: Google I/O is the annual Google developers’ conference. I/O stands for Input/Output and Innovation in the Open. It attracts thousands of developers from around the world who use Google’s open platforms, such as Android and Chrome, to build apps for your smartphone, smartwatch, or computer.
Google has been battling to increase the number of women in its tech teams, and I was pleased to see a decent number of women making presentations on the keynote stage. The company managed to triple the number of women attending the conference by partnering with other tech organizations like the Anita Borg Institute, Women Who Code and Hackbright academy.
At the conference, I spoke to Natalie Villalobos. She’s Google’s Head of Global Programs for “Women Techmakers.” I began by asking her WHY Google is seeking more women in tech…
Natalie Villalobos: We need everyone to contribute to make the most innovative technology. The more diverse voices we have, contributing, participating, and building the technology, the better technology we’re going to have…We always need more diverse voices at the table: for women, people of color, veterans, people with disabilities because the people building the tech should be as diverse as the people that the technology serves.
Alison van Diggelen: You went from 8% female attendance in 2013 to 23% this year, almost a quarter today. How did you do that?
Natalie Villalobos: ‘What could only Google do?‘ is a big rallying cry of my work and it was partnering with community organizations, locally, nationally and internationally to bring women to the conference, by providing travel grants, access to tickets and so we wanted to create these lasting partnerships…And one of the things we worked really hard at is how can we really engage women across the spectrum? We welcome all types of women: whether you identify as non-gender binary, women of color, Latinas…Also geographic diversity: We have women from South Africa, Taiwan, Tunisia, China…a lot are coming here to the U.S. for the first time for Google I/O.
Alison van Diggelen: What makes you special, is it just deep pockets? (Google has earmarked $150M this year for its diversity programs)
Natalie Villalobos: We’re really looking at how we can engage and meet developers, designers and entrepreneurs wherever they are. Diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is not just in the United States. There are people all over the world who want to be here in this industry who can’t move to Silicon Valley. How can we meet them where they are and share our new platforms, our technologies?
People who can’t come to Mountain View can join a local extendedI/O event – I believe we have over 400. Our biggest this year is in Sri Lanka with over 2000 attendees. It’s about reshaping the industry and supporting people where they are.
Roger Hearing: Alison, we’ve heard this a lot before…there aren’t enough women involved in the high tech industry. But it doesn’t seem to get any better.
Alison van Diggelen: It seems to be moving in the right direction but it’s very slow going. I actually had the chance to speak with Sundar Pichai and he said that this is a long long road. He’s talking about 10 years, 15 years before they can get close to equality. It’s a pipeline issue, it’s a role model issue. There are inherent biases in companies that make it more difficult for women to get into tech companies and thrive in tech companies. He did point out an encouraging fact that at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, the most popular major is no longer Biology but Computer Science. So anecdotal evidence like that says that perhaps we’re reaching a critical mass, perhaps a turning point, where women can feel at home in that geeky, computer science world.
Roger Hearing: Let me posit that maybe that’s because it’s Stanford…it’s California. Simon, let me come to you (in Singapore) In the high tech world where you are….where some of the most cutting edge stuff is going on. Are there many women involved?
Simon Long, The Economist: I’m struck when I visit multinationals (in Singapore) like Google and local startups how dominated they are by the young…and men. Alison put her finger on one of the main problems: who’s studying what at university? Who has the right skills? There are these ingrained prejudices…people recruit people like themselves.
Alison van Diggelen: The pipeline issue is not the whole excuse. I did speak with Ellie Powers, a product manager at Google and she was on the keynote stage. It’s a lazy excuse, she says, “if you’re looking for gold, it’s rarer, you have to look a bit harder” and you have to figure out how find and connect with people outside your network. She put a challenge out there to Google and beyond for any company looking for women, in order to make a better team.
Roger Hearing: Perhaps the women are not there, they don’t want to do it? Is it a cultural bias?
Alison van Diggelen: I think there is a bias…there’s the stereotype of the geeky coder, but I think that’s changing. After being at that conference for an entire day, and seeing that one in four of the attendees were women. It was different from other tech conferences I’ve been at where if feels more like 10%.
Unconscious bias training will help. I think role models like Ellie Powers, up there on stage, wearing a dress, talking tech, being geeky…that will help get more young women to say, maybe coding is for me, maybe computer science is for me?
Roger Hearing: Simon, does it matter what the gender balance is?
Simon Long: I think it probably does…if everyone had equal access to do what they’re good at, the world would be a better place. As Alison says, if the problem is not just a pipeline one… If there are biases inhibiting women from doing as well as they might, then we’re all losing out.
Roger Hearing: If women were involved in designing the Apple Mac, would it be different, better?
Alison van Diggelen: Natalie’s point is relevant here: if your end product is for the world – 50% of which is women – you have to include women in the process. By attracting a more diverse employees base, you’ll get a better workforce. I talked with Steven Levy, a well-known tech author and he said, the days when a credible company can have an all-male conference or panel are just “way over” – it’s about sending a message to all people that they’re welcome. It’s about getting a better workforce and building better products. That’s the bottom line.
Why are women still struggling to reach parity in the Indian and Silicon Valley jobs market? Why is rock star economist Thomas Piketty predicting that revolution could be the great equalizer? And what explains the unexpected and dramatic rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders in the US election? All this and more was discussed last night on the BBC’s Business Matters.
Here are some highlights from our conversation, (starting at 20:43, edited for length and clarity):
Anu Anand: Alison, you’ve reported from Japan where there’s a real impetus to bring women into the workforce. Any lessons from there?
Alison van Diggelen: Prime Minister Abe has a goal of reaching 30% of women in positions of leadership by 2020. What he’s doing is mandating that large companies reveal their diversity statistics. Someone I interviewed there -Elizabeth Handover – called it a “shaming and blaming” strategy. In other words: release your figures and the shame upon you will incentive you to get more women into positions of power…But as in India, there is a big cultural pressure in Japan for women to stay at home, especially if they’ve had children.
Anu Anand: You’re in the heart of Silicon Valley.Would you say that women have achieved parity in the high tech workforce?
Justin Rowlatt: In India we see very rapid growth, an economy growing at 7%. In a society growing that quickly, surely inequality is less of an issue?
Thomas Piketty:Inequality is an even bigger problem in emerging countries. One important lesson from my historical study of inequality is that it took very big shocks, major shocks – World War I, Wold War II, the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution for the Western elites to accept the kind of social, and fiscal reforms which brought a reduction in inequality and increased economic growth….
The big risk here in India like in other parts of the world, is that extreme inequality tends to lead to sometimes violence, some politicians to try to exploit…that’s why it’s so important to have more transparency about the complex relationship between caste and income and wealth; and address it through adequate reservation systems, adequate social policy…
Anu Anand: Let’s turn to Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues in San Francisco and Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics here in Delhi….Women are bearing the burden of growing inequality?
Jayati Ghosh: The proportion of women who get any kind of income from working (in India) is only about 2%. About 90% of women are working and they’re really engaged in unpaid work. Policies and processes don’t even bother to recognize this work so they don’t do anything to reduce it…for e.g. piped water, which would reduce the burden of going to fetch it. Piketty is right: India is one of the higher inequality countries in the world…the elite in India… holds on to most of the assets, grabs the natural resources, concentrates the wealth and shapes policies to make more of this…This leads to violence.
Anu Anand: Alison, inequality in the US has been growing too. It’s certainly a big point of debate at the moment, especially with the presidential candidates sparring with each other?
Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely, it’s a huge issue here. The inequality is the highest today since the 1930’s. The surprise popularity of Bernie Sanders – who has made inequality and poverty one of his number one issues – he calls it “The Great Moral Issue of our Time”…He came from nowhere – it’s to do with his message resonating that income inequality affects us all. A lot of people thought Hillary Clinton had the Democratic nomination in the bag. Sanders has really grasped on that and he’s riding on inequality and really giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money for this Democratic nomination.
Anu Anand: Do you see a world in which we’re not going to have to talk about inequality? Both india and America are very market driven economies?
Alison van Diggelen: I think inequality is rife here however, two studies in 2015 confirmed that people – both rich and poor alike – still believe in a brighter future. It may be misguided, but there is that aspirational idea and the class system in my experience – especially in Silicon Valley full of inspiring entrepreneurs – is less prevalent than I experienced growing up in Britain, where you’re encouraged to stay in the class you’re born. For example, when I was offered a place at Cambridge University, my father, a working-class union man from Glasgow asked me: what do you want to go there for? Aren’t the universities in Scotland good enough? There was that “stay in your place” attitude that I broke away from.
Check back soon for a report on online education and its potential to help close the income divide by increasing access to education and tech jobs.
Prime Minister Abe’s government has been taking baby steps in Womenomics with some success, but in the longer term, what more needs done to change deeply entrenched cultural norms? In August, Japan’s government passed legislation mandating that Japanese companies with over 300 employees disclose their diversity statistics and goals in 2016. The Prime Minister’s ambitious target is for 30% of leadership positions in business and government to be filled by women by 2020.
What is Womenomics and why could it become a template for other Asian countries? I went to Tokyo to investigate for the BBC World Service…
Alison van Diggelen: I’m here in Tokyo to explore the promise of Womenomics, Prime Minister Abe’s plan to increase the country’s GDP by up to 15% by tapping its most underutilized resource. That is: Japanese women.
What exactly is Womenomics?
The term was coined by Kathy Matsui in a Goldman Sachs report outlining the economic potential of closing the gender gap. Japan faces a time bomb of a rapidly shrinking and ageing population; and a low female labor participation rate (although it has increased recently, many female workers work only part-time). This year, Prime Minister Abe, perhaps in desperation, is rebooting Womenomics and has set a 30% leadership goal for women in business and government.
[Atmos: Tokyo Metro announcements, doors closing, and passenger hubbub]
My first stop was the Gender Equality Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I asked Rui Matsukawa who’s Director of the Gender Mainstreaming Division: what’s the promise of Womenomics?
Rui Matsukawa: Womenomics’ essence is unleashing the talents of women in quality and quantity and make that help for the prosperous future of Japan. If Japan can change, that’ll be good prospects for the other countries. My conviction is: Japan will change is a very constructive way…where each individual is given the opportunity to fully express his or her own potential.
She points out that diversity is a great source of innovation.
And that’s one of Japan’s biggest challenges today.
Womenomics policy faces an uphill struggle: Japan’s cultural norms, and its male-centered, long and inflexible working hours.
I met with Elizabeth Handover, a Brit who’s lived in Japan for decades. She’s cofounder of the Women’s Leadership Development Center, in Tokyo.
Elizabeth Handover: Japan is struggling right now…some companies are still stuck in a Victorian hierarchy era…It’s that hierarchy that women get trapped in…
Alison van Diggelen: How do you think the PM’s goals will help?
Elizabeth Handover: One thing that’s really powerful in Japan is that companies don’t like to be “shamed and blamed”, so when the appalling statistics come out about how many female managers they’ve got, I think that’ll be a big influence for them to make changes.
I caught up with the former Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten and he shared a global perspective.
[Atmos: breakfast meeting audio]
Chris Patten: I think it’s a very good idea that a PM should be so determined to increase the number of women in leadership positions. It’s not just a problem in Japan… I think it’s a big issue everywhere.
van Diggelen: What do you think is the PM’s greatest challenge? Do you think it’s a societal cultural shift that needs to happen?
Patten: Some of the changes that he has to cope with are common to other societies as well, but plainly, the main issue in Japan – as elsewhere – is the attitude of men.
Yumiko Murakami is Head of the Tokyo Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She cites Akira Matsumoto, the CEO of Calbee, a Japanese snack company, as being a male champion of diversity. She’s hopeful that the mandated release of diversity stats will spur change.
Yumiko Marakami: Japanese society is very a homogeneous society…there is a very strong cultural pressure to follow the herd.
Murakami is concerned about shrinking population and is convinced that Japan’s policy will have global implications.
Yumiko Murakami: Japan is facing this humongous time bomb – companies don’t have enough people to hire, it’s really hurting the bottom line. China is going to face the same future…Korea is exactly the same thing. If we succeed in Japan today, maximizing the talent pool, other countries they are going to get good practice policy lessons.
But some female executives in Japan feel more could be done: like addressing the childcare shortage and changing the existing tax laws, which discourage married women working full time.
[Atmos: Tokyo Metro announcements, doors closing, hubbub]
Before leaving Tokyo, I took the Metro to meet with Aya Usui, a senior consultant at Lumina Learning, a leadership training business. She’s expecting her third child and commutes 4 hours a day.
Alison van Diggelen: Are you encouraged by PM Abe’s commitment to Womenomics?
Aya Usui: To tell the truth…not really…
Alison van Diggelen: What would you like to see him do?
Aya Usui: I’d ask him to invest more money and time to develop female leadership because many females have a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but they’re not used enough…they’re killing their possibility…If we can achieve full potential it’s really a wonderful world this world becomes…
That’s the promise of Womenomics: a wonderful world where everyone achieves their full potential. The world will be watching in 2016 to see if Prime Minister Abe’s shaming and blaming will work.
Anticipation is building that El Nino will bring much needed relief to drought stricken California this winter. But will it end the drought? And how will it impact the Golden State’s impressive drive to conserve water?
In my recent report for the BBC’s Business Matters, I explored the, um, creative ways in which the water conservation message is being spread and how things might change when the deluge arrives.
However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis. Gary Kremen, Chairman Santa Clara Valley Water District
The report aired on the BBC World Service last Thursday (Listen from 16:45 in the podcast). Here’s the original report and a transcript of the program, edited for length and clarity.
Fergus Nicoll: The last month has seen some pretty freaky extremes of weather across the U.S. We reported on the drought in California and the flooding in South Carolina…bursting dams that have been caused by torrential rain in different parts of the state. Well maybe California can expect more of the South Carolina treatment?
I’m going to bring in Alison van Diggelen of Fresh Dialogues for more on this. Set the scene for us…it seems, partially at least, down to El Nino?
Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely. The experts have called it a “Godzilla” El Nino. An enormous one is building in the Pacific right now and experts are predicting record breaking rainfall this winter. As most people probably know, we’re in our fourth year of drought (in California) and things are getting pretty desperate. But people have been pretty good about water conservation…so I wanted to explore how authorities are getting this water conservation message out and how things might change, once the rain does start falling.
I interviewed Elizabeth Dougherty. She’s the founder of Wholly H20, a nonprofit in Oakland that wants to make water conservation, as she calls it, “hip and sexy.” She says it’s not a supply issue but has to do with our relationship with water.
Here’s the piece:
Ambi: Sound of bucket being put in shower, tap turning on…water running, shower hitting tub
Dougherty: I keep a bucket in the shower…you can use that water to flush the toilet, water your outside plants, give water to your animals….
“Extreme water saver” Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty says her phone has been ringing off the hook with people looking for rainwater harvesting and graywater systems for their homes. Her California non-profit “Wholly H20” aims to make water conservation “hip and sexy.” Dougherty, an anthropologist, wants us to explore our relationship with water.
Ambi: Sound of running water in sink…
Dougherty: The water crisis in California, the world, is not a crisis of supply; it’s a crisis of connection. We are so disconnected from water, we don’t even know where our water comes from, how much we use every day.
And this crisis has produced fertile ground for water and landscape consultants. Water maybe scarce in CA, but it’s boom time for water related “green jobs.”
Dougherty argues that it’s normal to ask: where does my food come from? The energy for my home? So why not ask: where does your water come from? What’s “on tap” in your home?
Dougherty: We want the hipsters in Downtown Oakland to be thinking water conservation: Wow, hey….so where do you get your water?
This Fall, Wholly H2O is partnering with Burning Man artists on community interactive water features; and is launching a series of crowd-funded video shorts to get the message out via social media. Dougherty has Hollywood connections and hopes to get “green” celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow to take part. Is California’s Governor on her list?
Dougherty: (CA Gov) Jerry Brown skips a shower for the day. I’m thrilled, I’m glad. Would I hold him out as one of my hip and sexy people? No I wouldn’t. I’d like to see Batman…how about Michael Keaton? Let’s see you bucket your heat-up water from your shower and dump it in your garden!
Dougherty’s mission to make water conservation hip and sexy has been adopted by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. Here’s one of their video ads:
SFPUC Video: (Sultry baritone like Barry White, sound of tap running) Conservation can feel, ohhhh, so right. Turn off the faucet while soaking those…oh so dirty…hands. Get some efficient fixtures for your kitchen and bathrooms…screw them on…yeah! Beat the drought. Hetch Hetchy water is too good to waste.
This summer, the commission spent $300,000 on billboard ads with provocative demands like “Go full frontal, upgrade your washer!” and “Nozzle your hose, limit outdoor watering.”
Love them or hate them, the water conservation message is sinking in. In July, Californians reduced their water consumption by over 30% (compared to 2013 levels) in response to a state mandated reduction of 25%. But with dramatic El Nino conditions building in the Pacific and predictions of an unprecedented deluge of rain hitting drought-starved California this winter, will the “save water” mantra evaporate as the first raindrops fall?
Kremen: Water districts are conservative. We have to assume it’s not going to happen. We have a comprehensive education enforcement campaign to make sure one raindrop doesn’t cure the drought. The good news is people in Santa Clara Valley are pretty educated, they can hold two thoughts at the same time: we’re in a drought, you have to conserve, and you have to prepare for flash floods.
What does he think of SF’s sexy water conservation efforts?
Kremen: However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis.
Kremen: What climate change could mean to us is more volatility: more floods, more droughts.
I ask Wholly Water’s Dougherty what one thing we all can do to end the water crisis. Her answer is surprising. She’s not pushing low-flow toilets, rain barrels or graywater systems…instead she says:
Dougherty: Go and sit next to a river and not talk, but simply watch the river for half an hour.
For Dougherty, the anthropologist, it’s all about strengthening our connection with water and thinking of that river every time you turn on the tap.
Ambi: sound of tap going on, water hitting sink.
Fergus Nicoll: Very nice piece, Alison. Thank you.
It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock if California goes from drought to heavy rain?
Alison van Diggelen: Yes, it’s going to be a major shocker, but as Gary Kremen from the Water District says, they can’t rely on the El Nino conditions coming. It’s been predicted before and it didn’t materialize, so we may get floods but they’ve got to store that water and make sure that it’s available for future years.
Fergus Nicoll: All options still to be considered. Great to have you with us.