Joe’s Collected Writings

I hope these words bring strength and hope to you in your personal struggles. I ardently believe that the greatest knowledge emerges through insights into ourselves.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Brewer

Joe Brewer was very prolific during his time at the Rockridge Institute and beyond. He has written on a wide range of topics, always with the goal of sharing his insights with the world. A collection of his writings can be found here.

Click on the links below or scroll down the page to scan them all.

Writings on Climate and Environment

Climate in the News

Climate and Cognitive Policy

Environmental Movement

Healthy Food and Livable Communities

Responding to Our Energy Challenges

Writings on Political Thought and Behavior

Political Commentaries

Political Strategy

The Political Mind

Writings on Political Issues

Foreign Policy

Health Care



Writings on Social Technologies

Social Change Through Social Networks

Writings on Miscellaneous Topics

Things That Don’t Fit Anywhere Else

Writings on Climate and Environment

Climate in the News:

Beyond Extreme: The Illusion of a New Climate Centrism

  • Getting our labels right is important to the environmental movement. This article clarifies some of the confusion between labels and ideology in media coverage of the climate debate.

The ‘Feel Good’ Approach to Climate Distortion

  • A number of rhetorical tactics to mislead the public are explored to reveal the importance of self-knowledge in citizen action.

Bush’s Trade Barriers to Climate Success

  • Narratives trump facts. This article explores the narrative used by President Bush to capture media attention without changing his position on global warming in any genuine way.

When Climate Message is Strong, Attack the Messenger!

  • Al Gore’s credibility is bound to the framing of messages by the media. This article reveals the rhetorical tricks intended to spread doubt about his message by attacking his character.

Climate and the Psychology of Loss

  • Fear is often used to deter the public from taking action. This article presents a well-known psychological mechanism to reveal how feelings of loss emerge through crafted language.

Missing the Real Message in Nobel Prize?

  • A redirection technique has been used to draw attention away from the real story of Al Gore’s accomplishments.

Climate and Cognitive Policy:

Comparing Climate Proposals: A Case Study in Cognitive Policy (also available as a PDF)

  • This analysis of Lieberman-Warner and Cap and Dividend reveals the importance of human cognition in the policy-making process.

How Conservatives Have Duped Us in the Global Warming Fight

  • A strategic idea advanced by conservatives is hindering efforts of progressives to solve the climate crisis.

Who Framed Global Warming?

  • The climate debate has been shaped by deep cultural understandings, some of which were manipulated to direct attention away from the truth.

Why We Are Losing the Global Warming Battle

  • Solving the climate crisis requires that we cultivate a new commonsense.

The Key Ideas Behind the Sky Trust

  • Revealing the underlying ideas and assumptions behind policy proposals is necessary for finding effective solutions.

The Environmental Movement:

How Can We Make ‘Green’ an Identity?

  • Narratives shape our perceptions of environmentalism and hold the key to making “green” a popular identity.

Fads, Frames, and the Environment

  • The environmental movement is here to stay. It just needs to overcome a few faulty frames to really go mainstream.

Healthy Food And Livable Communities
High Tech is Down in the Dirt

  • How we conceptualize ideas like “technology” will shape whether or not we think outside the box

The Frame, The Farm, The Harm

  • Central frames in the debate around agriculture and food policy will determine the future of food

Bee Keeper’s Wisdom for Human Flourishing

  • We can learn a lot from bees about how to create thriving communities

Agro-Fuel Craze Squeezing Farmers

  • By framing our energy problems as being about which source of fuels we use, we have landed in a trap that is hurting local farmers

Emergent Ecological Order – When Players Change the Game

  • Building a flourishing and healthy economy in the 21st Century will require that we come up with new “rules for the game.”

Responding to Our Energy Challenges:

Energy Crisis Won’t “Wait for the Market”

  • Central to addressing the climate crisis is the way markets are understood.

Debating Energy as if Communities Mattered

  • At the heart of our energy debate is the need for livable communities. This idea has been absent for too long, impoverishing the debate considerably.

The Coming Biofuels Disaster

  • Biofuels are not the clear solution they seem to be. They do not meet the “livability” criterion for any sustainable solution to our energy woes.

Writings on Political Thought and Behavior

Political Commentaries:

What Obama Can’t Do for the Progressive Movement

  • The progressive movement cannot depend on hero myths to save the day. We need to build new infrastructure to solve many problems in our movement and change the way we do things like philanthropy, advocacy, and communications.

Calling Out the Conservative Lies on Stimulus

  • Public discourse around the economic recovery plan of 2009 has been shaped by disingenuous claims by conservative leaders who’d rather see our economy collapse than have decades of propaganda become obsolete.

Breaking Down the Media Spin on Obama and Stimulus

  • Conservative owned media has dominated political discourse in the United States. It is time for progressives to challenge false stories promulgated by this message machine by offering alternatives that tell the truth as we see it.

We Need a President, Not Just a Commander-in-Chief

  • A simple phrase used to capture the meaning of the presidency has nefarious and far-reaching implications for U.S. politics.

Who is Really Winning the Primaries?

  • The frames and metaphors we use to understand political campaigns can draw our attention away from what matters most.

Political Strategy

Model of Left and Right Falls Flat

  • Part 1 of a three part series on the mechanics of shifting political discourse. Explores the prominent metaphor of political “left” and “right” to show how misleading this concept is.

Overton Window Presents Distorted View

  • Part 2 of a three part series on the mechanics of shifting political discourse. Reveals the role of deep frames and moral worldviews in shifting “political reality.”

How Conservatives REALLY Shift Public Opinion

  • Part 3 of a three part series on the mechanics of shifting political discourse. Provides an account of how conservatives have managed to transform the culture to their advantage.

Communicating the Progressive Vision

  • An exploration of the importance of communicating progressive values clearly in order for others to know where our thinking comes from.

Why Voter’s Aren’t Motivated by a Laundry List of Positions on Issues

  • An introduction to cognitive policy that explores how political behavior works.

Too Far Left to Be Progressive

  • Elaboration upon the strict father/nurturant parent worldviews identified by George Lakoff that reveals the complexity of political morality.

Jujitsu in Action – The Smart Way to Fight Smears Against Obama

  • Reveals the problems with conventional “myth busting” and offers an alternative technique for countering smears.

The Political Mind

Status Quo and Progressive Reform

  • Social progress requires that we understand the mechanisms that promote the status quo.

Gut Feelings and Political Choice

  • Emotions play a significant role in human decision-making.

Politics and the Psychology of Blame

  • Innate tendencies exist that bias how we attribute blame – with implications for how we engage in political action.

Understanding the Politics of Fear

  • Perhaps the most important emotion to understand in politics is fear.

How Framing Differs from Spin

  • The starting point for ending deception is to distinguish it from authentic communication.

Rockridge and Your Daily Life

  • Insights into the political mind can be applied in your personal life.

When Values Go Beyond Self-Interest

  • Human beings are extremely social. It’s high time that we recognize the range of motivators that shape our behavior.

Contemplative Practices and Framing

  • Training the political mind has important parallels with meditation practices.

Thinking Points Discussions

  • A collection of writings based on the progressive manual, Thinking Points, published by the Rockridge Institute.

Writings on Political Issues

Foreign Policy

The Unspoken Questions About Ending the Occupation

  • A good way to start seeing which frames are absent is to look for questions that aren’t being asked.

The “Enemy” in the War Frame

  • Thinking about world issues in a war frame has disastrous effects.

“Rescue the Troops”

  • A trap has been set for progressives that we can get beyond if we understand it properly.

Framing “Pre-Emptive War”

  • Just as “premarital sex” makes specific assumptions about sexual relationships, so also does “preemptive war” about global relationships.

America Betrayed: Will Progressives Take the Fall

  • A trap has been set for progressives that we need to be wary of.

Shifting the Climate of Security

  • The climate crisis can help shift the meaning of security to encompass a broad array of progressive concerns.

Health Care

Who’s Afraid of Sick Kids?

  • Conservatives are afraid that people will realize a powerful hidden truth – that government can solve important problems!

Where’s the Healthy Debate, CNN?

  • The media has skewed its coverage of the health care debate, to the detriment of civil discourse.

The Importance of Mental Health

  • Cognitive mechanisms, such as the way our brains construct categories, can have serious consequences on how we think about health issues.

The Meaning of “Socialized Medicine”

  • This “bogey man” stereotype has been crafted to mislead the public and fabricate mythical threats to deter progress on health care reform.


Beyond Scarcity: Re-Inventing Wealth in a Progressive World

  • Progressives have internalized a negative stereotype that has crippled our ability to strengthen our movement and invest in one another.

Preserving Our Shared Responsibility

  • It is very important to clarify the different missions of nonprofits, charities, and the government.


Taxation and Values

  • The morality of taxation can be seen in the values we express as we think about it.

Ending the Hidden Agenda Behind Tax Cuts

  • The truth and consequences of different metaphors for taxation reveal a hidden agenda to unravel the fabric of society.

Writings on Social Technologies

Social Change Through Social Networks
Changing the Culture of Consumption, One Book at a Time

  • Challenging consumer culture can be easy and fun – if we embrace the joy of sharing

Save the World, Quit Smoking

  • Harmful behaviors are about more than personal choice. Recent studies of social patterns that influence smoking behavior offer insights into how we can change the world

The Power of Solar Communities

  • Innovative designs are emerging to demonstrate that how we organize our communities will shape the future of humanity

Climate Action and the Wisdom of Crowds

  • The secret to solving the climate crisis is to tap the power of crowds

Absurd Behavior? Look for Systemic Causes

  • Blaming individuals for bad behavior only masks the deep influences of the systems we live within for constraining and shaping our choices

Living on Stolen Time: The Population Problem

  • A huge challenge hides invisible in the shadows. Solving it will go a long way towards ending injustice in the world

Writings on Miscellaneous Topics

How to Reframe the “Smoking Ban”

  • Our sense of shared space has implications for the policies that arise to protect the commons around us.

Living Wage Framing

  • At the heart of a prosperous society is an understanding of shared prosperity.

Framing Feminism

  • Care needs to be taken when unpacking gender issues in politics.

Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.

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