Click here to sign the petition and save this species, ban that chemical or raise the other issue. But do they really make a difference?
A friend recently created a petition to stop the use of Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico to clean up the oil spill (it is not very good for wildlife - probably better than oil but still not good) and he was disheartened by the lack of response. "Another petition .. that needs to be closed as no one cares, what the hell am I even doing on here."
Truth is, there are too many petitions. A search on http://www.thepetitionsite.com for Corexit comes up with a dozen petitions covering the same issue, not including the ones closed down already. For this type of online petition to have any real impact it needs to be a single concentrated effort to get the message across, but even then, the ease with which petitions can be created, marketed and signed greatly devalues them. Taking a random 10 minute period on a Sunday morning, a search for the word "petition" gives 15 tweets; this was probably a quiet period. It also turns one of the early ideals of the environmental movement on its head - "Think Global, Act Local" has been turned around to "Think Local, Act Global" as we are encourage to sign petitions on local issues at the other side of the world. That is if we consider clicking a button on a petition web site as "Acting" for the environment.
An old fashioned paper petition, with people going around with clipboards collecting pen and ink signatures and the end result being deposited in big boxes on the steps of downing street had more visibility and reeked of effort by people who will not go away. Even more effective in today's instant digital age would be a well thought out and well written letter arguing support for the cause and highlighting the downsides for the recipient not supporting the cause. Taking time to do this may impose a responsibility on the recipient to take the time to read it.
However you choose to get your message across, Happy Campaigning!