Celebrity Endorsement: Spotlight Effect?

As a huge fan of Jack Dawson, I am one of many Titanic fans who have been waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar winning moment. His act to speak out on climate change at the 88th annual Academy Awards was much appreciated by people from all over the world. I agree with our friend’s post on “How Celebrities Help Save the World”. The role of celebrities is very important to influence people in many ways, from how they live to what they believe (good or bad).

Now how effective is the celebrity fame can influence the population? Do people really care who or what celebrities endorse?

Interestingly, according to research done for US, UK and Australia published in the Global Environmental Change journal in 2013, images of identifiable people (politician, business leader, scientist, celebrity and member of the British Royal Family) made participants in this study feel quite strongly that climate change was unimportant.

It makes logical sense when an actress’ endorsement can increase sales of cosmetics because people want to look flawlessly pretty all the time like her. But it could be tricky when using celebrity on the spotlight to stand up for climate change. That could provoke backlash if they present to the public occasionally for political campaign without really living in a carbon efficient lifestyle. I do not have specific suggestion but involving famous people for climate change advocacy events might need extra consideration and better preparation on the communication strategy. This includes finding the right momentum, defining the effectiveness, selecting the celebrity, and preparing the transcript. Meanwhile, the politic advocacy of climate change may need to be balancing out by engaging more locally resonant figures to raise awareness of climate change. Figures who gain trust because they are living with climate change.

How to make celebrities gain more impact in addressing the climate change thread? This might take sometime but some suggestions are first to consistently let the paparazzi record how “green” their personal lifestyle is. Second, take moments to speak out about the sustainability issues not only at politics or environmental events but anytime you got a chance to be on a spotlight, just like Leonardo at his Oscars speech. This should be an effective ways to be better remembered and reach out more audience and more credibility. Third, is to make a new trend of green Hollywood image beyond just celebrities. The man behind the scene; directors and screenwriters of all genres could be urged to add green touches to their creative process of a movie. The casts could be working in a Solar energy company. Ben Whishaw as Q could have created an electric super car for James Bond. Tony stark could have reconstructed his house and office tower as the coolest zero-energy building. Or a group of friends who use ride sharing application, or owning ride sharing.

The World Health Organization is aware of film’s ability to shape young minds that it has called for all films that feature smoking, including animated pictures, to be given adult ratings. We could create a green rating credentials for cinema based on the gentle green message addressed and low carbon emissions used in producing the film. We don’t need all films to be made as dramatic versions of environment theme, but we need 100% of them to tell stories in which sustainable lifestyle is just normal way the world works. What about us? We don’t need all of us to become an environment activist, but we might need to make sure we do small sustainable act everyday and think about green elements we could add in our daily job.


Final: The Road Ahead

Like many other students in class, I also joined the Lobby Day in Olympia to support I-732. I’ve met with Representative Chris Reykdal, Senate Karen Fraser from the 22nd District, and Representative Jessyn Farrell, Representative Gerry Pollet from my own district. Instead of just recording what we’ve discussed, I’d want to share my views of the whole issues.IMG_9368

What’s my attitude to I-732?

I -732 is a creative and innovative approach to cut carbon emissions.
It includes four key points:

  • Add a $25 per metric ton tax to polluting fossil fuels
  • Reduce the B&O tax on manufacturing
  • Cut the sales tax by 1 cent
  • Fund the Working Families Tax Rebate

I supported I-732 in lobby day with the similar words below.

“Although I am an international student from the University of Washington, but I do care about the I-732. Because I am willing to set my home here, so I’d like to see a world with cleaner air and cleaner water. I’ve studied transportation engineering for many years. So from the side of transportation, I-732 may not only potentially reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, but also alleviate traffic congestion pollution to some degree.”

What did they concern?

With discussion with Rep. Jessyn Farrell and Rep. Gerry Pollet, I noticed that they were familiar with I-732 and they offered support for the initiative or alternative. Nevertheless, what they really concerned was the next step. From the point of Rep. Jessyn Farrel, we should put more efforts to obtain more voters in our side to support I-732 on the one hand. On the other hand, if there is a possible I-732b, we should also consider to support it.

What do I think?

As we know, I-732 is designed to be revenue-neutral, so this might be the reason why there were so many rumors related to I-732b. In my opinion, lawmakers would like to adopt a revenue-positive measure. However, recently, there was an article mentioned I-732 is not workable because it would reduce state revenues. Based on the four-year impact of the measure, the Office of Financial Management estimates that state revenues would be reduced by $914 million. Carbon WA leaders disputed this finding, but Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, chair of the House Environment Committee said they trusted the experts.

To be honest, I have no idea which side I should trust for now. However, I do know that we don’t have much time for other options. So basically, lawmakers have only two courses of actions:

  • Send I-732 to voters as it is
  • Offer an alternative plan and place it on the ballot alongside I-732

However, it is still ideal that lawmakers would devise their own alternative I-732b. Before that, I’d like to hold the view that it is more practical that lawmakers are likely to pass the measure along to voters in November.

What’s the next?

According to the official WAcarbon, WAcarbon will continue to have in-depth conversations about carbon taxes and I-732b option with legislators. And they will also launch a campaign for the November ballot.

But just as I said before, I still think the November ballot is more practical. The more votes we have, the more chance we’ll get to see a healthier Washington State.


*I’ve learned a lot through this event. It is the first time that I know the appearance in Olympia will work. It is likewise the first time I get to understand the difference of public participation between United States and China. I’d like to appreciate this chance to push me to get familiar with the whole procedure.
*After meeting with my district representatives, I’ve sent the follow-up emails to say thanks and my concerns. But unluckily, I didn’t get any feedback yet.


FullSizeRender 2


Final: Supporting on I-732

This was the first time I went down to Olympia to support a bill. On February 23, 2016, after an hour of driving, we arrived at a beautiful house near the State Capitol Building to start our trip. After the pre-training, the 15 people in my group met with one senator and two representatives of District 43 to lobby for I-732. As a Chinese student, I didn’t know what to expect from this experience, and my imagination was full of scenes from the television series House of Cards. People working at the Capitol are all dressed up and always look like they’re in a hurry.


Back to the meeting, we met with 43rd Legislative District Senator Jamie Pederson and two other representatives for about 20 minutes to talk about our Carbon WA vision. At first the lead Constituent introduced how I-732 will impose the carbon tax, the rate and how it will impact our society. The context of I-732 includes: cut the sales tax by 1%, fund a tax rebate for working families, reduce the B&O tax on manufacturing and add a tax to fossil fuels. At the meeting, I was told that 732A didn’t work out because it would cost the state $900 million, and the group was working on 732B as alternative.

From my perspective, I-732 is necessary and consequently. By taxing carbon dioxide emissions, the State can successfully reduce those emissions, which will contribute to reducing global warming and climate disruption. This is not about ourselves, but more about the moral responsibility to our children and future generations. The solution doesn’t occur in one day and it will take time to change the current situation. Starting now we need to tackle climate change, to make sure we can leave our children a cleaner, healthier, safer world.

However, I could tell that the representatives’ attitude towards this bill wasn’t totally positive. Even through this may be a good idea in the long-term for the state, it’s such a big step for the senate to take. It will be hard to get support from the senator unless the funding problem is worked out. They won’t take risks until everything is ready and thought out. I can totally understand this when thinking about how many bills and constituents they need to deal with every day.

Another thing surprised me was the diversity of people in our group. Besides us, there were several other volunteers who came from the 43rd District, including an old gentleman who has lived in the U-District for 30 years, a couple who care about the environment and a teenager who seemed really interested in politics. They showed up highly interested in this event and were well prepared. I respect their involvement and enjoyed getting to know more about democracy in America. Back in China, all of the legislations are done inside of the government system. Even though we may get the chance to attend public hearing, there is not much room for audience to appeal for their opinions. Also, I cannot image a teenager coming in and talking with our government legislators!

Overall, it was such an educational trip. I enjoyed talking with all the volunteer constituents, and the chance meeting with the senator. I hope I-732B can get passed in the future. 


Final Assignment: I-732 Lobby Day

On 23rd February, 2016 – it was my first time to visit the Capital of the Washington State. It was great exciting experience to me. I visited the place to help I-732 which is a law to tax carbon dioxide emissions. I went to the Washington State Capitol Campus too early, so I joined two meeting, one is other district(22nd) and second is my district(46th). This was a good choice to join two meeting because the senate in the first meeting and the representative in the second meeting have totally different view on the I-732. Compared to two meeting, I can have a balance viewpoint of I-732.


I joined first meeting at 11:15 AM. The senate Karen Fraser conducted a meeting. After introducing ourselves, some lobbyist presented why we need I-732 by using Washington State 2050 Carbon emissions Forecasts. Without I-732, we will face a big problem in the future. However, I felt that the senate didn’t agree his opinion. The senate said that other group worried that I-732 affects the economy, so he wants to make an alternative to replace I-732.



I joined another meeting at 12:45 PM. The representative Jessyn conducted a meeting. But, the meeting mood is totally different. The first meeting was very formal, but the second one was very freely. This is because who managed the meeting and he or she agree or disagree the I-732. She totally agrees the goal of I-732, and tries to legislate the law. At the first meeting I didn’t ask, but I wanted to ask her about I-732’s negative impact in the second meeting. Everyone agrees I-732, so I asked different view point “how does I-732 impact the economy?” But, I can’t, because of limit of time. So, after meeting I asked some lobbyist about that. The lobbyist said that I-732 is not just a tax on carbon emissions. I-732 eliminates the Business & Occupation Tax on business owner and reduces the sales tax 1%. Namely, I-732 doesn’t affect the economy, it’s the other way around. It improves new business about climate.


To sum up, this Lobby day was wonderful to me. My undergraduate major is politics, so I have a lot of interest in politics. I had an experience about Korean Politics, but I felt different mood and thought related to politics. In Korea, many people felt that politics is difficult. However, American is very active to join politics. This is very interesting point to me.

From Seongwoong Kwon


Control the Desires

Current office development is not solely to meet people’s need for enough space but also another aspect of our desire for more. It is not just a quantitative increase in office space, on the contrary, office space per employee is actually shrinking. New office tenants are looking for more amenities, flexible floor plans, better views, and easier accessibility. There are many research papers supporting an increasing working efficiency in these new spaces. However, I used to work in an office built in the 70’s and it only provided basic facilities for the day-to-day job. Did it really reduce my efficiency during work? Not so much.

I’m not opposing new office development, I just hope it comes in a smart way regarding a long period of time for which an office could last. Redevelopment of old buildings is a good option to save energy and generate value to the city, which would reduce new development volume. On the other hand, our desire changes from time to time, and we can hardly forecast what future offices will be. Is the suburban office going to become vacant due to the current urbanism trend? Are we going to work at home by VR (Virtual Reality) in the future? If so, what are we going to do with those new spaces?

Those questions are hypothetical and we are more focused on the present rather than unpredictable futures. Office developers are always targeting the current tenants’ desires to maximize profit. We are flowing by trend and have little control over which direction it heads. It doesn’t only happen to office but also to the city. An example would be Beijing in the 1960s when a new government selected the city as the capital and changed the urban appearance by diminishing a considerable amount of historical buildings. Few people criticized this decision at that time because we were asking for more housing, wider roads, and a completed grid system. People nowadays realize the issue and question the decision. Opposite to Beijing, Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is able to reserve its historical beauty.

Our desires are endless, and also in other aspects of life such as food, transportation, entertainment, and so on. We are consistently asking for superior things than we previously had but fail to think about if it is worthy of the cost to do so. Thinking about the future and controlling our desires are probably my solution to better solve it.

Accountability for a better regional future

Some government employees are terrible and they make it seem like they alone are the reason for all the issues in government work. We should be able to fire them more easily. There absolutely should be a way to get rid of them. But that’s a whole other can to open. I am going to argue that they actually aren’t the real, big problem. Yes, there are people working for this City’s planning, development, and construction sections who don’t know much about the Code or about SEPA or any other number of very important tools.

My good friend works for this City in one of those sections, and he is very smart, hard working, and is moving up quickly. I asked him how the bulk of his problems could be solved, and he told me the absolute, number one, most needed thing to do is make information more easily accessible and understandable so that the people reviewing don’t have to waste most of their time on project applicants who haven’t been in the business forever. For example, these applicants give messy drawings and expect the City to figure out their mess. They don’t know Code and seem to not know how to find Code let alone navigate a murky regulatory framework that seems to never end.

Information such as rules, code, law, process steps, and zoning need to be more public, easily accessible, understandable, and a requirement to know before plan/permit submittal. Information should be in one easy to navigate process/user experience in the form of a training.

A group of people (such as my smart friend) need to create this detailed process, tree-like, training tool that shows every single little step needed to implement buildings, cafes, trees, anything using application, permitting, and review processes (and mega tax dollars). Next, the City needs to make it a requirement that an applicant watch the training–our society requires this for driving! We should require it for development. If someone at your company has already sat through the training in a year, then you don’t have to do it again until the next year or two. Additionally, updates can be sent out to those who have sat through the training just like SEPA does for people who are signed up for its updates. If you only want to get a tree permit, then only do the tree training. If you only do single family, there’s no use in making you sit through the large office tower training. I’m sure there are lots of kinks to think about such as those. Point is: training should be a requirement.

My friend works 60 hour weeks wasting most time on applicants who failed in their accountability. If you apply to build, you should know what you’re doing or be open to being shown how to learn fast. He could spend those wasted hours on project applicants who are legitimate. Your curb cut may be seen to sooner next time, if the employees had taken this type of training and thus felt assured of their answer and of not getting in trouble for guessing. The training gives them the power to know what they tell you passes muster without needing god’s approval.

One more thing needs to happen! The directors need to be sent to other cities like New York or Frankfurt to learn about other regulatory methods and implementation processes and then the directors should have to report back to the Mayor, City Council, and their department employees in a formal presentation about what they learned and which changes they will make by the following year based on what they learned.

These things would bring accountability to applicants and City employees simultaneously creating a better regional future.

Accountability should be instilled on both sides of the wall.
Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.17.36 PM.png
Image from http://mathieudietrich.com/

Car Fast

Recently our only car broke down. Although the timing was inconvenient to say the least, it has provided a great micro case study for us. Since moving into Seattle we have been speaking in hypotheticals about if owning an automobile was a necessity or convenience for our family of 5. Now we have been forced to confront the reality of operating without a vehicle.

Even when we had an operating car we only used it sparingly for extra circulars like medical appointments, shopping, church, destination parks, and restaurants. Our everyday needs like getting to school, work, neighborhood parks, and grocery shopping were met by walking, biking, or public transit. Granted, on rainy days we would use the car to drop our kids off at school or go to the grocery store etc. Inevitably these “rainy day” habits would sometimes carry over to pleasant weather days because of the ease the car provided.

Since the car has been out of commission it has allowed us to take stock of our habits (good and bad). We have been able to differentiate between what is required for us to function in society from day to day and what is superficial. Operating without a car has confirmed that simple living and solid planning can alleviate most of the perceived inconveniences that come when you don’t have a personal vehicle at your disposal.

If our car is reasonably repairable we may decide we can operate without it for the next 6 months or we may decide to repair it and continue to use it. Regardless of what we decide our forced car fast has allowed us to recommit to more healthy sustainable lifestyles. We were forced to go on a car fast, I would encourage everyone who owns a car to voluntarily go on one for a predetermined period of time as an experiment. You may be surprised how far a little creativity can go, and how freeing it is to operate without the need of an automobile.

As I finish these post we will be walking out to take care of some errands. Although this may seem like a small thing it is going to allow us to get in a little physical activity, family time, and a restful break from the breakneck pace modern society. Something we wouldn’t get if we drove.