- Dr. Short
We need to talk about the climate emergency
It looks like the judeo-christian world will be having another weird holiday season, with family gatherings happening over the internet, again. Most small talk will be about the latest covid variant as it spreads through the human population like the fires and heatwaves that ravaged the world this year. There will probably be more focus on the former rather than the latter, as humans tend to focus on immediate threats rather than those caused by an invisible, smell-less, taste-less gas that is produced by our daily activities of (over)consumption.
The problem of the climate emergency is so big, so all-encompassing, and the causes of it so intimately tied to the neoliberal socio-economic reality that we live in and have grown up in, that we cannot imagine a way out. So most of us just don't talk about it- especially not to our families or associates. Especially not during the holidays. But we need to. We MUST.
Most people will tend to filter new information through what they already believe to be true. So just explaining the climate science and how science works to someone, especially someone whom you don't know well, is not likely to change their opinion on climate or what needs to be done about it. It probably won't change their behavior either. Another reason for this is that some truths are difficult to hear, so most people will make excuses in their heads as to why they can't/don't/won't behave as though we are in a climate emergency. This is a very human reaction. It is short-term self-preservation, and it is practical to approach people in passive denial with compassion. Arguing with, shaming, or blaming the average individual does not work (ask me how I know).
What can and does bridge this knowledge-action gap is human connection. Not with strangers on the internet or through social media. Through real, face-to-face conversations with people who already know and trust you. That established relationship lays the groundwork for the meaningful, compassionate transmission of information about the climate emergency and how to urgently address it. A quiet moment during holiday visits (if those happen) can be a good opportunity to have a talk -not a 'debate' - with a relative about the climate crisis. They can in turn, use the information that you've shared with them to talk with someone else in their close circle. The more of us who do this, the sooner we can start a social positive feedback that will lead to the broad social change necessary to prevent the climate from deteriorating further.
In the next post, I will provide a script for having 'Climate Conversations' this holiday season, and hopefully, beyond.