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Category: Climate Change

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?

Moving Beyond the Traditional Climate Talking Points

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, PhD

Climate Stew crew member, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade wrote an Op-Ed that was published in the Lexington Herald Ledger. She recognizes that most people are not moved by the traditional talking points when it comes to climate change. She is undeterred. Her response is to consider new talking points about issues that drive the point home.

No matter how much I think the ethics of our faith should be extended to our neighbors within the other-than-human world and to generations of people we will never meet, that is simply not the reality. Humans, generally speaking, care most about their personal circumstances, immediate family and short-term impacts on their wallets.

So why should someone care about climate change? Are there any immediate impacts on our health, family or wallets? As a matter of fact, there are.

 She then goes on to outline these impacts. Read more here

Can US Conservatives and Progressive Agree on Climate Action?

The Elephant Podcast has an excellent episode produced by Barbara Lucas. She asks if we can find common ground between Conservatives and Progressives when it comes to climate solutions. In order to find out, Barbara speaks with many people on all sides.

The episode is insightful, revealing, and hopeful.

Conservatives, especially in America, are known for doubting the scientific basis of man-made climate change, and the need to do anything about it. But earlier this February something surprising happened – several elder Republican statesmen released a proposal for what they call a Conservative solution to climate change. The plan consists primarily of carbon tax – something that many progressives have long advocated for. But controversially for Democrats, the plan also calls for repealing more intricate climate regulations such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

At this time when by all signs it seems like the divide between Republicans and Democrats is wider than ever, Radio producer Barbara Lucas takes a look at the plan, and asks, when it comes to climate change, can Conservatives and Progressives in the U.S. ever find common ground?

Climate Communication: Better Stories Needed!

How do you market a problem like the Climate?

I spoke with a marketing expert yesterday. Lesley Beatty, a volunteer at Citizens’ Climate Lobby, is concerned about climate change and its affects on her children. Part of our conversation centered on marketing climate change–getting people to understand and care about it. She says climate global warming may be the greatest marketing challenge of all. As a storyteller, I agree.

Stories matter. They help shape how we perceive the world and our roles in it. In considering our climate change narratives, Michael Segal explains,

Peter Sheridan Dodds has a nickname for us humans: Homo narrativus. Dodds, a professor at the University of Vermont, uses mathematics to study social networks. He has argued that people see the stories of heroes and villains, where there are really just networks and graphs. It’s our desire for narrative, he says, that makes us believe that something like fame is the result of merit or destiny and not a network model quirk.

Breaking out of the narrative binary

Segal says that with an absence of helpful stories about climate change, the vacuum has gotten filled with a glut of unhelpful ones.

Faced with an absence, we revert to old narratives, and there are few older than utopia and dystopia. The skeptic storyline of the rise of a dictatorial world government usurping American values must be considered not as a unique reply to climate change but as the latest instance of a well-established dystopic trope, stoked by the climate narrative vacuum. Something similar can be said for attacks on the capitalist enterprise from the left. The public, for its part, is served visions of an apocalyptic future, whether it’s from politicians or from Hollywood—and, simultaneously, the utopianism of far-distant science fiction, which as a category is consumed in greater quantity than science journalism and which reflects and encourages what sociologists call “optimism bias” or “technosalvation.” These utopian instincts are strengthened by a historical data point obvious to all: Our species has survived every obstacle we’ve encountered, and we are still here.

As a performer and climate communicator, I stay away from both utopian and dystopian visions of the future. They do not require that much imagination. It is more challenging is to imagine success and a practical, stable future that still has flawed humans in it with the on-going social issues we face that we carry with us into the future. It is an imperfect world, but a workable one. In part, that is why I created the series of monologues, That Day in Climate History.

Who is telling good climate stories?

One of the challenges that interferes with good climate storytelling is the vast scope of the problem. It is global and takes place over hundreds of years. Aaron Their, in his novel Mr. Eternity, has embraced the immenseness of the issue by setting his story over 1,000 years with five narrators and some characters who never die. They live as witnesses. I interviewed Aaron on my Citizens’ Climate Radio show where he also reads excerpts from his book.

In his article about climate narratives, Michael Segal raises lots of questions. He expertly points out how we are getting it wrong in the media and in the scientific community. He makes some suggestions but ultimately ends with more questions that need to be considered.

The narrative questions around climate change are broad. What does it mean for there to be a scientific consensus? How is the scientific method properly applied to a system that resists experimentation? What does a complex system look like? What is the nature of risk and probability? Each has a direct bearing on the climate change conversation without necessarily being about climate change. They, and others like them, constitute a suprascientific narrative that is necessary for science to become culture. In a way, every good science story is a story about all of science and helps us understand every other science story.

Read To Fix Climate, Tell Better Stories: The Missing Climate Change Narrative by Michael Segal writing for Nautilus.

(Art by Ernesto Neto : Cuddle on the Tightrope installation at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, NYC)

Be Hopeful; Be Very Hopeful.

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My man, Glen Retief.

Are you Afraid?

I hear this a lot from friends and people I meet as I travel around.

You read a lot about climate change and the social justice threats on a rapidly warming planet. You read the science about what is going on–Does it frighten you? Are you afraid?

I can say I am concerned. So concerned that I took a year off to study climate science. These days I spend almost all of my time devising creative ways to get people see they have skin in the game. I work hard to convince them they have the power to make a difference.

Yes, I see risks ahead, more suffering in the world, climate instability. These are serious issues. But typically I do not feel gripped with fear. I am concerned but not frightened.

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Open ceremonies of National Museum of African American History and Culture

What is the opposite of fear?

Instead I feel: What an honor to be one of the people on the planet today. What an honor to join in with fellow earthlings to pursue solutions, not simply to avoid a catastrophe, but to work together to make the world a more stable, just, and peaceful place. It is an awful honor in ways, but one all the same to be not only witnesses to these vast global changes, but to also be able to take part in looking after each other as we provoke our specie to be humane in a time of climate change.

img_5427And strange as it may seem, I feel hope and faith–particularly in humans. I know it is the default setting these days to expect the worse in everyone. We have carved out our lives into warring camps. It is easy to lose confidence in government (corrupt! rigged! dysfunctional!)

Looking ahead and behind

But in addition to looking ahead to what the future may hold for us, I also study history. I look at how our ancestors faced massive challenges. They never responded perfectly. They made mistakes. At times there were outright abuses by some. But so often they rose to the challenge. They acted in extraordinary ways. They committed extreme acts of humanity.

I do not feel fear. I feel hope. I feel determination. I feel honored to be on the planet today. And I feel confidence that you will be historically significant in these strange and uncertain days ahead.

Global Warming Impacts Architecture and its Beautiful

As Global Warming becomes a more visible and pressing issue, many industries are taking notice and taking measures to adapt.  Green architectures becoming more and more visible and prevalent. Here is a consciously designed house in the Miami, Florida area that takes Global Warming into account with its design.

Oh, and it looks amazing too.

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As the globe gets warmer, architects from all over the world might have to start taking cues fromthe architectural vernacular of hot regions. Studio Brillhart Architecture did just that with their breezy minimal pavilion-home, which takes inspiration from Tropical Modernism. Immersed in a lush Miami forest, the Brillhart Residence is lifted off the ground to avoid rising sea levels and has a full front facade shielded by wooden shutters to help control heat and provide privacy.

Breezy Brillhart Residence is designed to withstand global warming  by Ana Lisa for Inhabitat

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Global Warming is in the “Now”

Global Warming: something happening over there?

One of the things that always catches my eye is what is currently happening with Global Warming. I try to get away from Global Warming as something that is “over there” and not my issue, or something that is “in the future” and not now…

Global Warming is very much in the “now,” as China’s expanding deserts are proving daily…

For years, China’s deserts spread at an annual rate of more than 1,300 square miles. Many villages have been lost. Climate change and human activities have accelerated desertification. China says government efforts to relocate residents, plant trees and limit herding have slowed or reversed desert growth in some areas. But the usefulness of those policies is debated by scientists, and deserts are expanding in critical regions.

Nearly 20 percent of China is desert, and drought across the northern region is getting worse

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The Tengger Desert lies on the southern edge of the massive Gobi Desert, not far from major cities like Beijing. The Tengger is growing.

For years, China’s deserts spread at an annual rate of more than 1,350 square miles. Many villages have been lost. Climate change and human activities have accelerated the desertification.

1477284385930That is just a teaser. The article is long with gorgeous photos and video. It is informative and moving.

Check out: Living in China’s Expanding Desert by JOSH HANER, EDWARD WONG, DEREK WATKINS and JEREMY WHITE New York Times

Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Industry: A Double Threat for the Inuit

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One of many waterfalls cascades down the vertical cliffs of Sam Ford Fiord, testament to the volume of glacier melt. (Photo: Chris Williams)

Which Americans are most affected by Global Warming?

An ongoing interest of mine is the effects of Climate Change on minority populations. Here in the USA, we have, to some extent, the money to insulate ourselves from the immediate effects of Global Warming. Not so much minority populations as this article about the Inuit of Alaska shows…

For Inuit, Arctic climate change imposed by a social system based on profit and endless commodification represents a double threat to their culture.

The Inuit in the Canadian Arctic are engaged in a centuries-old fight to retain their culture and reestablish self-determination and genuine sovereignty. In particular, Inuit in the autonomous territory of Nunavut are resisting what American Indian studies scholar Daniel R. Wildcat has described as a “fourth removal attempt” of Indigenous people, coming on the heels of failed efforts at spatial, social and psycho-cultural deletion.

Read: On Melting Ice: Inuit Struggle Against Oil and Gas in the Arctic by Chris Williams, Alternet.

 

Queer climate action, justice, and faith

How Science screwed up my GPA

img_0332I was just interviewed by Peter Buckland for his regular column, The Field Guide to Teaching Sustainability. We cover lots of ground from my  bizarre, failed quest to de-gay himself to how my artsy fartsy brain deals with all of the scientific climate data.

I am so NOT a scientist. I come from the world of humanities—literature, theater, and Bible scholarship. In university I had to take some science classes to graduate, and they seriously lowered my once impressive GPA. Then years later starting in 2013 I took a year off to study climate change—both the science behind it and the ways people were talking about it. Fortunately I felt very motivated to learn, something that has been proven to push students to excel where they failed before.

Climate Denial–It’s not just for skeptics

climateinactionfiguresI also talk about climate denial, stressing that we make a serious mistake in mocking climate skeptics. Not only is it dehumanizing, it is dishonest and distracting.

And if we are honest, we each struggle with climate denial to one degree or another. To fully accept the weight and reality of climate change and all it means would crush us. Scientists around the world who study climate change have to develop strategies to deal with the emotions that hit them as the seriousness of the problem becomes more and more evident. By picking on other people about their denial, we then inoculate ourselves from seeing our own. There is the denial that says, “If we each just do our part, drive less, take shorter showers, etc, we will begin to tackle climate change.” No, that is not true. We need to look honestly at this problem. So that is one issue—we judge others than end up absolving ourselves or hiding out a very very low bar for our lawmakers. It is enough if they acknowledge climate change is a problem.

Denial or Dishonesty?

I do make an important distinction between the person who struggles to accept the reality of climate change to the leader who outright lies about it.

Read the interview: What is a queer response to climate change? 

Want to read about my take on climate denial comedy, check out Climate Inaction Figures–Superpower to Deflect our Inaction

Jesus and the Curious Case of Global Warming

Did Jesus contribute to global warming?!?

Climate Stew commentator, Elizabeth Jeremiah, knows a thing or two about the Bible. In this short video she alleges that Jesus of Nazareth was a big ole polluter. After his famous resurrection, what does he do? Burns fossil fuels.

She claims she has biblical support for this wacky notion. And you know what, she’s right!

If you like what you hear, check out Elizabeth Jeremiah in the latest episode of Climate Stew podcast. It gets down right wonderful.