Ending the world as we’ve known it, whether in a matter of weeks or in slow motion over countless decades should, it seems to me, evoke the screaming headlines of our times.
But next time someone deploys the hypocrisy weapon, think about flipping the script: perhaps it exposes just how hard it is to change and only reinforces the weight of the alleged hypocrite’s message.
A trusted and competent government is an essential component of the transformative changes required to simultaneously confront the climate crisis and reduce economic and racial injustices.
What should be the message from the climate scientist, the environmental activist, the conscientious politician, the ardent planner – those daunted but committed to pulling out all the stops? It is the single most important issue facing the community of climate-concerned Earthlings.
Artists are enlisted to help ‘deliver the message’ and ‘raise awareness’, as though art were a sophisticated extension of the PR department or a cheap alternative to an advertising agency. This is not only a misconception of what art is and what it’s good at, it’s also a misconception of the knowledge work that remains, when the scientists reach the end of their road.
If you’ve ever seen an ad featuring ExxonMobil scientists handling beakers of green goo, the algae that will supposedly fuel the future, you’ve been the target of an oil company’s advertisement. Exxon isn’t trying to sell you a product, exactly — but it is hoping to sell you on the idea that it’s committed to a greener future.
In the March for Science Facebook page, someone asked how group members might engage in productive conversation with a family member who holds opposite ideologies. The query immediately prompted hundreds of comments and suggestions, with the tally increasing by the minute.
I’m a scholar of environmental communication who examines how people become engaged with solving dilemmas such as climate change, and how activism motivates others to take action. A new study I worked on suggests that large rallies, such as this youth-led Climate Strike, could be influencing public opinion.
In other words, making business cases for better behavior around climate change won’t evoke the amount of change needed; but engaging people’s sacred values first – and then showing that there might be resulting economic benefits – will.
When I look at the world today, I see the vast majority of academics, scientists, activists, and politicians ‘self-censoring’ their own work and ideas, in order to share views that are socially, politically, or even personally palatable.
This discrepancy begs the question: if carbon emissions keep rising, and our behaviors and lifestyles are not changing, what does that say about our current climate communication initiatives and messengers?
Deniers—particularly those in political circles—are intuitively sensing just what the surveys seem to be suggesting—people’s increasing confidence in mainstream climate science based on their own experiences.