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Climate Stew Blog

Apocalypse Now? Fear Tactics and Climate Communication

Recently some climate communication experts have been freaking out about freaking out. In reaction to a New York Magazine article, The Uninhabitable World, by David Wallace-Wells, a big debate is raging about fear tactics when talking about climate change.

In my latest Citizens’ Climate Lobby podcast, we look at the different sides and some of the social science around fear and rhetoric. Joining me is Halldor Björnsson, the Head of the Atmospheric Research Group at Veðurstofa Iceland also known as the Icelandic Met Office. Also, we hear from Dr. Kristian Bjørkdahl who has earned a PhD in rhetoric and continues his studies at the Centre for Development and the Environment, at the University of Oslo. Oh, and Aristotle makes a surprise cameo appearance.

Noah’s Ark in a Time of Climate Change

Rev. Leah Schade published an insightful piece that asks churches to consider their role on a changing planet.

The archetypal story of Noah and the Ark has become a beloved children’s motif.  But it takes on heavier significance when read in light of our climate crisis and the floods of global warming.  How should the Church respond to the threats of climate change?

In the piece she raises really interesting questions and provides sharp analysis and personal storytelling.

At Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago, we were talking about world events and politics when my then 11-year-old daughter piped up, “I don’t know why you’re talking about all this.  None of it is going to matter.  The apocalypse is already happening.  The end of the world is coming.”

Forks clattered.  Mouths stood agape with half-swallowed mashed potatoes.  All eyes turned to me, the ecofeminist-climate-activist mom.  I shrunk in my chair.  I never actually used the word “apocalypse” when explaining climate change to her.  How did she come up with that?

“Why are you looking at her?” my daughter asked.  “Don’t you read the news?  It’s not her fault.  She’s just trying to warn us.”

There is no sense in me quoting more. Read it for yourself. Noah’s Ark and Climate Change: What Kind of Church Will We Be?

Raining Cats and Dogs: Pets and Climate Change

Growing up we had lots of pets in the house. In addition to the typical cats and dogs, we also had rabbits, chickens, a lamb, and a deer fawn that we found wandering alone in the woods.

I adore dogs. They adore me. I am allergic to cats, so I stay aloof. As a result, they are all over me. They must value the cool affect of apathy.

I have lots of conversations about climate change. Not everyone is interested. BUT when I talk to folks about pets and climate change, they perk up. I decided to chat with a veterinarian about household pets and farm animals and how global warming already affects them. What is a pet owner to do? Lots.

Have a listen to Dr. Steva Stowell-Hardcastle as she outlines for us the many ways climate change and pets rub up against each other.

Moving Tribute to the Great Auks

I am packing for 11 days in Iceland where I will see lots of wild life including puffins and arctic foxes. One animal I will not see is the great auk. I knew little about this bird unit I met Kay Cramer. I am reprinting an amazingly powerful piece shewrote for our local paper. Please feel free to share it.

Sunbury Daily Item 4/23/2017

Op-Ed by Kay Cramer

After all these years, I remember how I felt as a sixth-grader reading a library book. It told the story of the very last Great Auks. Black and white like penguins, and almost three feet tall, this flightless seabird nested in Iceland, Greenland and other north Atlantic islands. Back then most people did not believe an animal could ever go extinct, so no one set quotas or monitored the flock. I got to the last page of the book, and learned that on July 3, 1844, three hunters, sent to collect specimens for a merchant, strangled to death the very last mating pair. The pair were incubating an egg. One of the hunters crushed this egg with his boot, unaware his was the final act that led to the extinction of the Great Auk. I sat holding the book and cried. The story has stayed with me for life.

About 15 years ago, I read David Quammen’s book The Song of the Dodo. Turns out the many species, including the woolly mammoth, the giant sloth and the elephant bird, had gone extinct because of over-hunting and habitat loss. Hunters and the officials who oversee annual quotas today try to find a healthy balance when issuing hunting licenses, but in the past our ancestors, sometimes unknowingly,made dangerous mistakesleading to great harm.

While hunting animals out of existence is still a reality in parts of the world, here in the United States we face another responsibility in caring for life on earth. The writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains we are in the midst of a sixth extinction (the other five, including the one that caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs, were in prehistoric times). She warns that the continued fast pace of climate change is leading to a massive die-off in both plants and animals. Many will be lost in our lifetimes. In her book, The Sixth Extinction, she outlines how this process has already begun.

I feel pain when I contemplate a world without the birds, trees, plants and animals we love. It is even more painful to think they will not be here to awe and delight future generations.

Sometimes we are terrified and overwhelmed, thinking things have gone too far for us to make a difference.

And climate change has progressed very, very far. Discouraged people think, “Why change our consumption habits when they are just a drop in the bucket of carbon pollution?” But there is hope. Some changes make big differences.

The Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonpartisan volunteer advocacy group that for the past 10 years has quietly reasoned with members of Congress to consider a carbon fee and dividend plan. Understanding that fossil fuel companies will likely pass this fee onto consumers, CCL volunteers suggest a monthly dividend check for households. This will help families cope with the rising energy costs as our communities move to cleaner, renewable energy. As the price of fossil fuel rises, businesses, government and households will use less. The air will be cleaner leading to significant decreases in respiratory diseases. We will begin the cleanup effort required to make the weather and atmosphere stable for all of us.

I have been encouraged by the formation of a Republican Climate Leadership Council headed by James Baker. They advocate for a carbon fee and dividend. Republican U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania have already shown leadership by joining the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. These include Pennsylvania Republican members of Congress, Ryan Costello, Patrick Meehan and Brian Fitzpatrick. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that climate change is happening right now, that it is caused by human activities and that carbon pricing is an effective means to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change.

As a little girl, there was nothing I could do to save the Great Auks. But today we can call on our members of Congress, like Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino, to get serious about addressing climate change to stop further extinctions. The cause is very urgent, and the goal — to preserve our world for future generations — is one of the highest and best actions we can take.

Optimism, Climate, and Tolstoy

The latest episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio is up!

As climate advocates, we come to this work with our own set of values. I speak with marketing researcher and volunteer climate advocate, Lesley Beatty about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Core Values. CCL founder Marshall Saunders joins in the conversation with a burst of optimism.

Art House

Marshall Saunders sticks around to help with our Art House segment. He has a book recommendation to share, a novel written in 1899 by Leo Tolstoy. Marshall tells us why he thinks climate advocates should read Tolstoy’s Resurrection. South African author, Glen Retief reads excerpts from the novel.

Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep 12 Values with Marshall Saunders and Lesley Beatty