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Category: Climate Change

Revealed — The Pets of the Future

The world is changing quickly, and so is pet ownership. Looking at the trends in the market and projections of a warmer planet, we explore the possible pets of the future. Join Timothy Meadows in this special segment of That Day in Climate History. Find out what might just replace Fido, Princess, and Fred.

Transcript:
I am Timothy Meadows, it is Saturday February 16, 2165 and time for That Day in Climate History.

By the year 2026 the human population exceeded 8 billion people. Dog and cat populations also exploded. In the US alone the number of dog and cat pets reached over 200 million, many of these overfed and dangerously overweight. With the growing droughts and disruption in grain and meat production in the 2020’s the cost of pet care grew dramatically. While pets provided companionship and entertainment, more and more people found they simply could not afford to keep a dog or cat in their homes.

As a result, pets got smaller. Large dogs consumed too much, so for a time smaller breeds became popular. Also, people began to opt for more practical pets, ones that also provided food. Chickens, who can be surprisingly friendly and social, became the rage in suburbs and even in cities where their owners benefited from the eggs the chickens produced. Guinea pigs, a delicacy in Ecuador and Peru, became popular in North America as an inexpensive pet that could provide a meal in a pinch.

By 2035 pet sharing became much more common. Much like communities share vehicles through services like Zip Cars and Communicar, pet sharing services abounded in North America, Australia, and Europe. Animal lovers could spend time with a dog or a cat for a few hours a week while sharing in the luxury of pet ownership.

By 2075 historians note a dramatic decrease in the public interest in pets. With closer knit communities, more social cohesion, active friendly collections, and more people living in community with some shared spaces, people found their need for companionship met through friendship with other humans. On this day in 2165, we remember that day in Climate History.

Want to know more? Check out Erik Assadourian’s article: Are pets bad for the environment?

The Truth is Out There. X-Files, Ex-Gays, and China

Maybe you are like me, and your brain works in an odd fashion, making strange connections with news stories, pop culture, and random ideas that get stuck in your head. That happened to me yesterday. It started when I got absolutely giddy over the news that X-Files is returning to Fox TV for six special episodes. (hat tip to @hermitary ✝ Contemplative mystic fumbling toward Jesus & St. Francis / semi-retired poet / urban hermit / sinner & saint… ✝ )

According to CNN:

Fox announced Tuesday that “The X-Files,” the series about the paranormal that ran for nine seasons in the ’90s and early ’00s, is returning for a special six-episode “event.” Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are both back to play Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, those FBI agents who always got a little too close to the truth.

Agent Mulder

Agent Mulder

I completely missed the first five season of The X-Files because I had been adducted by gay reparative therapists who tried a variety of methods to de-gay me, including a sustained abstinence from all secular pop culture, including The X-Files (They deemed it too New Age and Scientific, and that it would interfere with my recovery.) Soon after I emerged from the mother ship, (Homo No Mo Halfway House) I began watching DVDs of the series until I caught up.  All the conspiracy theories, the other worldly situations, and the sexual tension totally reminded me of my years trying to go straight for Jesus.

Two weeks ago on a long winter hike I was talking about the X-Files with Peter Buckland. ( @pdbuckland over at Twitter: Works for beauty w/ PhD from Penn State.    & . Tweets my own.) As we trudged through the forest snow, we both gushed over the series as we shared our feelings about the main characters. After all these years he still drools over Scully. As a gay guy, it took me years to figure out that people who are attracted to women found Scully to be really hot in some weird librarian sort of way. Her charms were lost on me though, eclipsed by Mulder in his FBI suit and tie and that flopped open overcoat, rawr!

Anyway, I was thrilled to hear about the mini reboot of the sci-fi series.

Completely unrelated anywhere except in my own mind was a news story out of China I heard about from Prescott Allen Hazleton, my source for hundreds of climate-related stories every week. According to Aljazeera America, Zheng Guoguang, chief of China’s Meteorological Administration, is sounding the alarm about climate change.

As the world warms, risks of climate change and climate disasters to China could become more grave,” Zheng said. China is the world’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, which cause climate change. Beijing has said it aims for those emissions to peak “around 2030.” Temperature increases in China over the past century have been more extreme than global averages, Zheng added.

He described climate change as a “serious threat” to several Chinese mega-projects including the vast Three Gorges Dam, a railway connecting Tibet with northwest China, and a huge scheme to divert water from the country’s south to its dry north.

With new regulations in place and copious amounts of money being spent on the cleanup of existing pollution, change in China is possible. Like most other industrial nations suffering from similar problems, though, a meaningful reversal of course is contingent upon the will of the people to save their country from the environmental despair of their own making.Image source: The Brics Post

With new regulations in place and copious amounts of money being spent on the cleanup of existing pollution, change in China is possible. Like most other industrial nations suffering from similar problems, though, a meaningful reversal of course is contingent upon the will of the people to save their country from the environmental despair of their own making.Image source: The Brics Post

Zheng concludes that China must embark on a “low-carbon development path.” Seems they are already on that path producing more solar panels than anyone else in the world and shutting down coal burning plants in Beijing and converting them to cleaner natural gas, in large part because of the horrific pollution plaguing the city. As a country, China produces loads of carbon pollution, but per capita they actually produce much less than the average American.

My cousin, Marin Toscano, recently returned from a year in China on a Fulbright Scholarship. She remarked that she encountered no climate deniers in China. The taxi driver, the high level government official, the farmer, and the mother who is hesitate to take her child out into public because of extreme pollution, all feel concerned about the reality of climate change. No mystery, no conspiracy, no doubt

Here in the USA though, for some, climate change is still mythical like Big Foot or Mulder’s UFOs. Even those of us who are convinced that we are in hot water, the reality of climate change can still feel fictional.  Those sounding the alarm about the reality of the climate criss are perceived as over-zealous frightened dreamers forced to convince the skeptical. It is like we are living in an X-Files episode with the roles reversed: The science-based, rationally minded Agent Scully has to convince magical thinking Mulder of the real danger in the skies. He needs to see it for himself; data is not enough.

But the Truth is Out There. There is a threat in the sky, on the ground, and underground. Scientists write about it in the journals. It’s in the news. It is discussed at the World Bank, by insurance adjustors, economists, and the military. It is being highlighted by officials in China. It’s not as sexy as Mulder’s UFOs, swamp beasts, or Chinga,  the murderous antique china doll from Season 5 Ep 10. Creepy! It’s not even that mysterious. It is as mundane as pollution. In fact, it is pollution. No mystery.

Chinga

Chinga

Let’s Get Our Head’s Out of the Polar Bears’ Asses — Climate Change and People

I know I pick on the polar bears. They are the popular kids in the environmental movement hogging up all the airtime, looking all forlorn and needy on their ice flows. I see lots of images of these creamy white desperate bears displayed as an example of how climate change is already happening. What I have barely seen are the images of flood victims in Malawi.

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Malawians evacuated after devastating floods in late January wait out another deluge at a makeshift shelter. Roughly 175,000 people have been displaced and crops were destroyed by what the country’s president says is the worst flooding in its history. Credit: Sam Eaton.

During the last two months the worst floods in over 50 years displaced 230,000 people in the African nation of Malawi destroying homes, fields and livestock. In Malawi right now parents, spouses, children, and friends are morning the loss of over 270 people. Many schools are also destroyed. And while the floods have ended for now, citizens struggle to get clean water to drink and basic food supplies.

Did climate change cause these floods? Sam Eaton, from the radio program, The World, has done a stellar job reporting on the floods and their aftermath. He explains:

The causes of the disaster are a complex mix, including those torrential rains, of high population density and deforestation. In the Shire river watershed, the hillsides have been completely deforested for cooking fuel, among other things, so there’s nothing to stop the huge amounts of rainfall from surging into the valleys.

Climate change may also be involved. The intensity of the storm system behind the floods fits with what climate models have been projecting could happen as carbon emissions trap more energy in the atmosphere. These storms can have devastating effects on poor countries like Malawi, where many families live in simple mud brick homes and farm land that can’t withstand this kind of weather.

from The Flood of the Half Century You Probably Haven’t Heard About (with audio)

Today many citizens and leaders in Malawi are working hard to survive the floods and look after each other.  The Journal of the Turkish Weekly published an article, Malawi Flood Survivors Slowly Pick Up Their Lives and highlights some of the challenges:

Thousands of grass-thatched homes built by villagers have been swept away by the floods.
Agriculture and education have been the most affected, with over 181 schools being occupied by the displaced, affecting the education of over 300,000 children.
“Our schools are flooded; the classrooms are full of mud,” said Losha, head teacher at Chikonje Primary School.
“This whole area was flooded. Now we will have to remove the dirt by hand, so that learning in classrooms can start again,” he told AA in an empty classroom half filled with sand and mud.
“We also must rebuild our lives,” he added.

Some of the nearly 250,000 Malawians displaced by recent flooding in the southern part of the country sit for a photo at a school where they've taken refuge. Far from the epicenter of international flood relief efforts, the 4,220 people in this isolated camp face hunger and disease. Credit: Sam Eaton

Some of the nearly 250,000 Malawians displaced by recent flooding in the southern part of the country sit for a photo at a school where they’ve taken refuge. Far from the epicenter of international flood relief efforts, the 4,220 people in this isolated camp face hunger and disease. Credit: Sam Eaton

Kate Seymour and Erin Law writing for All Africa report on the projects citizens including clergy have taken up to respond to the crisis brought on by the flooding:

Local pastor and Malawi Red Cross Society volunteer, Isaac Joseph has been working hard to ensure that the immense damage done to water and sanitation facilities does not impact the health of his community. Together with other community-based volunteers, Joseph is helping to construct new latrine facilities and hand washing stations.

Following the floods, Joseph and members of his community were able to reassess their priorities relating to health, water and sanitation using strategies and processes they had learned during their community-based health and first aid training. Together, the community decided that their post-flood priorities were latrine coverage, preventing malaria transmission from stagnant water, and re-establishing gardens that had washed away. Joseph’s training has also helped him to construct tippy-taps, which are plastic jerry-cans or water bottles suspended on a rope that can be made to tip and pour water, thanks to a wooden foot pedal, for hygienic hand-washing.

Looking ahead, the conversation has also opened up to consider how to address over population in the region. Sam Eaton reports about a Muslim community that is having frank discussions about contraception, something many of the village women want but cannot easily access. The chief of a village in Mbosa, Sheikh Mosa, is also speaking out in favor of family planning.

A village chief in Malawi, Sheikh Mosa, is trying to persuade other chiefs in his area to support family planning.  Credit: Sam Eaton

A village chief in Malawi, Sheikh Mosa, is trying to persuade other chiefs in his area to support family planning. Credit: Sam Eaton

Mosa’s village has been leading the family planning push in this part of Malawi. It formed a mother’s support group that spreads the message of modern contraception and smaller family sizes through words and song. The group also rescues girls from child marriage and teenage pregnancy, ensuring they stay in school — all without a penny of outside financial support.

They’re doing this not because someone is telling them to, or paying them to, but because, as Mosa says, their future depends on it.

Sosten Chiotha, Southern Africa regional director for the sustainable development NGO, LEAD, says climate change and population growth in Malawi are not separate issues.

“I think maybe 20 years ago, they may not have been interested in these linkages because the population was low … the land was still fertile, there were still a lot of forests. So I think there was not so much pressure then to try and understand. But now they do understand,” he says.

The problem, Chiotha says, is that Malawi’s people lack access to family planning services. Malawi is a country that, for the three decades leading up to the mid 1990s, banned not only birth control but sex education and even miniskirts, thanks to the conservative beliefs of then-president Hastings Banda.

from Sam Eaton’s piece, ‘God Commanded’ family planning, says this Muslim leader in flood-ravaged Malawi.

Reports of these floods in Malawi and the ways local community members are responding have barely made it in the mainstream press and are absent from environmental reports about climate change. While Americans obsess over climate deniers, stories like these out of Malawi get overlooked.

Brentin Mock in a searing piece for Grist entitled, It’s hard to worry about polar bears when Malawi is flooding RIGHT NOW, refocuses the climate discussion onto humans and immediate needs. Quoting  Janani Balasubramanian, from her piece, “Why Climate Change is a Human Rights Violation,” for Fusion, Brentin drives the point home.

Her opening sentence alone probably melted a few polar caps in the past few hours: “The rise in sea levels isn’t a coincidence or an act of God – it’s a man-made weapon.”

That’s a hell of a statement, something like a caption for Beasts of the Southern Wild. And she takes it even further, saying, “Sea level rise is a type of ‘natural’ weaponry generated through the domination of water and air by specific world powers.”

Let her explain:

The framing here is key: understanding the rise in sea levels as solely an environmental phenomenon prompts us to try to save polar bears and ocean water. Understanding sea level rise as a weapon makes us wonder ‘who’s pulling the trigger?’ and ‘who designed the gun?’

This concept of climate change as a weapon wielded against the poor is not something we are likely to hear in the mainstream environmentalist movements, organizations that bemoan the fact they they cannot attract people of color to their events. But without seeing the connections to poverty, racial inequity–particularly when it comes to pollution and disaster relief–and climate change, these environmentalist group present the “environment” as that place where one goes hiking, not where one must survive. Brentin Mock makes the connections in his piece:

As I wrote recently, nothing clears out communities like climate change. I don’t know if the floods, or the rising seas, are a “weapon” used against the poor. It’s likely more collateral damage from industrialized nations at war with themselves over how to grow wealthier. But what I think doesn’t matter. When you read in PRI about these people stranded in Malawi, climbing on top of termite mounts, crocodiles circling them in the water as they wait for helicopters or boats to rescue them, you can’t help but think of them as victims of weapons of injustice. You can’t help but think of similar scenarios of people in New Orleans after the levees broke, stranded on roofs, with law enforcement officials pointing guns at those seeking higher, dryer ground.

Brentin Mock ends his piece with a brilliant tie-in to the polar bears in Alaska. It is not about being insensitive to their plight, but to broaden the lens and see the connections to how we treat each other. Sure I pick on the polar bears. I do it because it is time to refocus the discussion–not to exclude the many animals facing extinction–but to include humans, our communities, our cultures, our lives in the discussion, especially those who are most affected by climate change right now.

Conflict on Facebook over Climate Change

Over at my personal Facebook page I have a vast diversity of friends. Conservative Christians, radical anarchist atheists, loads of queer Quakers, hunters, vegans, ministers, sex workers–you get the idea. Surprisingly we don’t often get into heated angry debates. Folks disagree no doubt, but somehow we keep it civil.

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Image Credit: Stuff Point

 

One friend, Jennifer, who also attended the Love in Action gay reparative therapy camp like I did,  is married to a man with a delightful tribe of children that rivals Jacob’s many sons and daughters. She often let’s people know that God changed her; she is living proof that Change is Possible as the old Exodus slogan went. While this ruffles lots of feathers among the hundreds of FB friends who also went down the path to de-gay themselves, I usually respond by saying,

I understand that is your story, but for the vast majority of us, such a change was not possible and turned out to be harmful. If you are happy and healthy pursuing a straight life, then I am happy for you. Please realize though I believe it is normal to be gay and dangerous and unnecessary for most people to force their orientation.

We have the same exchange about once a month, and it always ends with mutual affirmation and respect, even as we continue to disagree.  

When it comes to climate change, Jennifer does not believe the planet is warming. She sees Al Gore as a hypocrite and believes the science on climate change cannot be trusted. She likes to tease me whenever a snow storm buries us, asking, “How is that global warming going?” Lots of people react to Jennifer’s posts with articles to prove her sources are faulty. It gets tense; it gets personal. My response though is always different. It may because I have a friendship with Jennifer that extends beyond Facebook. I like Jennifer. I know her as a concerned, passionate person who has a lot of faith in God. She is a fierce protector of her children. When I talk about things like carbon taxes, she reminds me of the cost on the working poor. She has publicly shared about the financial struggles she and her family face and the possible disastrous effects of a climate tax on her family.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution

Earlier this week she posted an article claiming that fossil fuel pollution resulting in climate change is a hoax and that sunspots are instead to blame. As expected, climate hawks swooped down with their talons drawn to destroy the argument and overwhelm the conversation with data about the theory, the scientist who proposed it, and the blog that posted it. I have to say though when I read the article Jennifer shared part of me leaped with joy–what if it were truly a hoax? That would be the best news in the world. Here is my response:

Personally I wish the story Jennifer posted was correct. How glorious to discover that climate change is not actually happening, that the planet is not warming. I would love that more than anything else. Who can face the reality that this planet, that has seemed so stable for all our lives is shifting under our feet and over our heads? How can people of faith accept the facts that we are facing the greatest challenge ever? What does that do to our belief in a God who is always in control?

Living in the USA we are sheltered from tribulations and crisis. But for many people in the world, they have already faced “end times” when civilization has broken down and a safe protected life could no longer guaranteed. We are sheltered from much of this. And most people cannot imagine a worse life for their own children. It is too upsetting, too disruptive, too life changing. 

I sympathize with people who cannot yet accept the times we are in and who cannot see the handwriting on the wall. Not that we are in hopeless times. There is still much work we can and must do–work that goes far beyond simply recycling, changing lightbulbs, and driving less. We have the chance to come together to create a safer, more stable, more just world. And we desperately need believers to see they have a vital role in this world. 

We live in a time when acts of mercy and caring for each other will be needed more than ever, like the times of deadly plagues in the Rome when Christians famously cared for the sick and dying regardless of their own safety. We live in a time when hope and comfort are in high demand. We live in a time where we will be called upon to look after each other like never before in recent history. 

My mom, Anita Toscano

My mom, Anita Toscano



These days I am often reminded of my mother when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2004. My sisters, my dad, and I could not believe it could possibly be that bad. Mom was indestructible–too big to fail. Surely the doctors were wrong. But sadly the diagnosis was correct and we had to live in a new world, one with a mother who was weakened, failing, dying. Once we understood this–and it took time to fully grasp it–we suddenly found new strength and abilities that we did not know we possessed. It was sad and dreadful, but we also learned how to love each other more deeply as a result. 

I see these days to be very similar for all of us–time of change, dangerous times, but the greatest danger is that we will not see the signs of the time, then we will be unavailable to take our role on this new planet.

 

 (cartoon credit: weather-ned-and-larry-comics-climate-change-global-warming-funny-weather-cartoons-fish-cartoons-cartoon-goldfish.png)

Pets of the Future! We give a sneak peek

Every week on the Climate Stew program we somehow obtain a recording from a radio segment that airs in the year 2165, (we cannot reveal our sources.) What a weird, hopeful, surprising future we learn about from Timothy Meadows when he shares That Day in Climate History. Perhaps this week’s episode is the strangest of them all. After some news out of Latin America and Marvin Bloom sharing a very sweet story about how love led him to climate action, we get a glimpse to the pets of the future.

That Day in Climate History—Pets of the Future

I am Timothy Meadows, it is Saturday February 16, 2165 and time for That Day in Climate History.

By the year 2026 the human population exceeded 8 billion people. Dog and cat populations also exploded.  In the US alone the number of dog and cat pets reached over 200 million, many of these overfed and dangerously overweight. With the growing droughts and disruption in grain and meat production in the 2020’s the cost of pet care grew dramatically. While pets provided companionship and entertainment, more and more people found they simply could not afford to keep a dog or cat in their homes.

As a result, pets got smaller. Large dogs consumed too much, so for a time smaller breeds became popular. Also, people began to opt for more practical pets, ones that also provided food. Chickens, who can be surprisingly friendly and social, became the rage in suburbs and even in cities where their owners benefited from the eggs the chickens produced. Guinea pigs, a delicacy in Ecuador and Peru, became popular in North America as an inexpensive pet that could provide a meal in a pinch.

By 2035 pet sharing became much more common. Much like communities share vehicles through services like Zip Cars and Communicar, pet sharing services abounded  in North America, Australia, and Europe. Animal lovers could spend time with a dog or a cat for a few hours a week while sharing in the luxury of pet ownership.

By 2075 historians note a dramatic decrease in the public interest in pets. With closer knit communities, more social cohesion, active friendly collections, and more people living in community with some shared spaces, people found their need for companionship met through friendship with other humans.  On this day in 2165, we remember that day in Climate History.

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How I got tangled up in climate action in the first place

I realize I talk a lot about global warming and how I do not see it as an environmental issue, but a very human issue, an LGBTQ issue, a faith issue, and a justice issue. But I have not share a lot personally about how that is and how I got all caught up in the climate parade. This week on the Climate Stew Show, I get personal and reveal how I went from being a queer Bible comic scholar guy to the host of Climate Stew.

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My very first promo card deigned by Tina Encarnacion

 

Here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps it’s time that I tell you a little of my own story. For those who know me and the work that I have done over the past 12 years, it is surprising that I have jumped onto the climate action wagon. Truth be told, I’m not really an environmentalist. Not that I don’t care about the planet. But when I say I’m not an environmentalist, I mean that it has not been the focus of my activism until now. It’s not my jam. I have worked primarily as an LGBTQ rights advocate and as a scholar looking at gender non-conforming people in the Bible. I’ve been concerned with religious violence against LGBTQ people and have tried to tell stories that bring out our humanity. Using my voice, my comedy, and my art to address the climate crisis? That’s something new.

Let me give you some back story: As a kid in the Catholic Church growing up in New York, I seriously considered becoming a priest. I felt a stirring to know God and serve God. At age 17 I left the Catholic Church to study at a Christian and Missionary Alliance College. As an Evangelical Christian, I then determined to be a missionary in a foreign country telling the good news of Jesus. For nearly 20 years that’s what I pursued doing mission work in New York City, Ecuador, and Zambia. But I had an abiding problem that interfered with my Christian service. I was a guy attracted to other guys, which was forbidden in the churches I chose to attend. From the age of 17 I desperately tried to de-gay myself.. I spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents in hopes that I would find the elusive key to become straight and more masculine. I believed a lot of faulty science mixed in with Bible teachings. Bad science mixed with biased ideology inspired destructive choices.

You can hear the whole piece over at the latest episode of Climate Stew where we even speculate about how will we cope with warmer winters. I mean, what about all the winter sports?!? Some creative solutions ahead.

California’s Redwood Forests — Too Big to Fail? Sadly No

This week on Climate Stew, special correspondent Tony Buffusio, a lover of Redwood trees, reports on the state of these giant trees. Turns out heat and drought are taking their toll.

Writing for the Independent, Tom Bawden says, “California’s iconic big trees are dying at an alarming rate, according to new research which finds that more than half of the state’s redwoods, Ponderosa pines and other woodland giants have perished in less than a century.”

What are you talking about Tom? Perished? That’s a serious word. These are huge trees we’re talking about, some have been around for over 2000 years, what could be killing something so big? Turns out the culprit may just be climate change. I’m starting to hate climate change as much as I hate cancer. The heat and droughts over the past 90 years have taken a toll on the trees. Big trees can’t handle the heat and water shortages as well as the smaller ones. It’s like my Uncle Tony’s Great Dane, what a big dog, but it is half dead in the summer heat. Unlike my mother’s Chihuahua which is indestructible.

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You can hear the full report on this week’s episode of Climate Stew. Links to this story below.

  • California’s Iconic Big Trees are Being Killed Off Due to Climate Change Scientists Suspect
  • National Parks Service Redwood Q&A
  • Climate Communication–Keeping it Real and Close to Home

    Climate Stew Crew Member, Keisha McKenzie and I, along with our friends J Mase III and Rev. Nancy Wilson, will band together to lead a workshop next month at the Creating Change Conference. Our topic: A Queer Response to Climate Change, which is absolutely perfect for one of the largest LGBTQ activists conferences in the world. While many LGBTQ people are engaged in human rights work, when it comes to climate change, most act like they live on another planet. But then how so often people communicate global warming as something so distant and disconnected to daily life.

    (Note: I have two questions for you to consider below.)

    In preparation for our workshop, Keisha sent us a guide to communicating climate change. Here are the main points with two I highlighted.

    Major points:

    1. Understand how identity shapes engagement + appeal to the audience’s desire to be among the ‘good’.
    2. Channel the power of groups and networks (pre-existing or new)
    3. Emphasize solutions and benefits
    4. Link discussion to things that affect people in their closest sphere – home life especially.
    5. Link climate change to other issues the audience cares about
    6. Use images and stories to make the subject real.
    7. Use familiar language for new climate science.
    8. Acknowledge uncertainty but don’t be shy about what is known.
    9. Be careful with skepticism and focus on solutions.
    10. Set a few, clear, doable targets for behavioral change.

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    Keisha McKenzie, PhD

    Linking climate change to other issues the audience cares about.  Now at Creating Change this includes looking at the intersections of race, class, gender, privilege, ethnicity, and immigration issues with climate change. Many participants of Creating Change are engaged or at least aware of these intersections. Understanding that climate change is a women’s rights issues and an environmental racism issue, one that directly will have and does have an impact on those people in our collective who already experience hyper-discrimination, will likely resonate with people already concerned about these issues and more within LGBTQ communities.

    Linking the discussion to things that affect people in their closet sphere–home life especially–Now this is particularly challenging. Many of the climate change memes contain images of melting ice, stranded polar bears, and generic parched deserts that could be anywhere from Arizona to Australia.  While these might stir some people already engaged with climate change, the average person is not directly affected by these tragedies, so ultimately are unmoved by the images. It would be easy to berate us humans for being so self-centered and unconcerned for suffering people and creatures in distant places, but I believe it is important to suspend such harsh judgments and simply accept the reality–most people are mostly concerned with what is nearest and dearest to them. In fact, this may be essential for personal survival.

    For many white, middle-class people, the effects of climate change feel distant, like they take place on another planet. Many people of color know about the pollution inequity that exists in the US  where people of color experience more pollution and diseases related to pollution like asthma than white people. Their environment is choked with toxins and wastes dumps while lacking in access to affordable fresh vegetables and to nature in nearby parks. As Brentin Mock often reminds his readers, there are many people of color concerned about the environment.

    Still I can see that most people in the US are not engaged in learning about climate change or feel they can get close to the topic. Many feel overwhelmed and figure it is such a far off event (as if climate change hasn’t already occurred) and mostly affects people and species far from home.

    The one point I make that gets more attention than any other whenever I talk about climate change is this:

    I know things are bad on the planet. I feel bad for that poor polar bear stuck on an ice flow. I really do, but when I hear that the rising temperature is responsible for the rapid spread of coffee leaf rust, threatening global coffee production…well! The possibility of a world without coffee? Now that is alarming.

     

    Farmer and small landowner Elias shows a coffee leaf badly affected by “la roya” or leaf rust, a disease that has badly affected coffee production throughout Guatemala, and which no-one really knows how to get rid of. Source: Ciapannaphoto

    Farmer and small landowner Elias shows a coffee leaf badly affected by “la roya” or leaf rust, a disease that has badly affected coffee production throughout Guatemala, and which no-one really knows how to get rid of. Source: Ciapannaphoto

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    Espresso in Little Odessa, NYC

     

     

     

     

     

    How about you?

    What are some of the ways that you link climate change to your closest sphere, especially your home life?

    What has been effective for you when talking about climate? Please leave a comment.

     

    Art credit: Last Conversation Piece by Juan Muñoz at Hirschhorn Museums and Sculpture Garden

    It’s the Messenger, Stupid! Communicating Climate

    In his book, Don’t Even Talk About It; Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall presents chapter after chapter about how NOT to talk about global warming. Right now countless climate change communicators toil like wordsmith alchemists seeking to devise the perfect formula for talking about climate change,but over and over Marshall reminds the reader–it is the messenger not the message that gets results. People listen to speakers with whom they identify.

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    Almost all of us do it. We read the news sources, watch the political shows, follow the people who represent how we see ourselves in the world. As a result we shut out so many other voices that just annoy us. It’s human nature. What it means though is that no matter how clever climate activist get in their talk, they rarely reach those people who look at them and think, “We are nothing alike.” So we need to draw from our stories, our shared human experiences, and find points of connections. We also need new messengers to come forward to contribute to the conversation.

    Here is some good news, as reported in this week’s Climate Stew (and beyond): There is a NEW climate change communicator out there who is bound to connect with loads of people who previously never seriously considered climate change as THEIR issue. Introducing the newest climate caped crusader–Pope Francis!

    Transcript
    News: Pope to issue strong statement on climate change.
    From the Climate Stew news desks comes this special report. A new superhero has taken flight in the fight against global warming. Imbued with special powers, the ability to speak multiple languages, and sporting a fabulous cape, this hero is making waves in the Pacific Islands and beyond. Is it an albatross? Is it a stealth bomber? Or is it? Really? That guy?

    It’s the Pope. Pope Francis. Seems he is sticking his papal nose into lots of issues—Cuba, the gays, and now Climate Change. The Vatican announced that later this year the Pope will issue an encyclical, a big fancy papal statement that will communicate to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics that the Pope wants the church to board the climate action train.

    A moral stance could just be a hit (Image: Tony Gentile/Reuters)

    A moral stance could just be a hit (Image: Tony Gentile/Reuters)

    Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences in Vatican City, has been meeting with others for several months to help shape the Pope’s message. When asked about the Pope’s feelings concerning climate change, Sánchez Sorondo said: El es “muy preocupado por el cambio climático…la solución es la ética, porque la falta de ésta es la causa de la crisis económica y la que se esconde tras los graves problemas del mundo” uh, can anyone translate Italian for us? Is Tony Buffusio here?

    Tony: Sure Peterson, he’s actually speaking Spanish in a weird vatican accent. He says that, “the Pope is very concerned about climate change … that the solution is ethics, because the lack of ethics is the cause of the economic crisis, the force behind the serious problems of the world.”

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    Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences

    Peterson: Ah, so he is looking at climate change as a moral issue, one that affects the poor, appealing to the church’s long history of taking responsibility for helping others.

    Tony: Yeah, which is smart on his part, because my grandma, who’s super Catholic, could care less about the climate changing as long as she has her air conditioning, but when it comes to poor people, she gets all mother Theresa on us.

    Peterson: Which I have no idea what that t looks like, but thanks.

    While it is unclear what sort of impact the Pope’s official papal climate change statement will have on Catholics and other believers, climate change communicators like George Marshall often point out that when talking about global warming most people do not listen to the message but to a messenger with whom they identify. Perhaps this caped crusader with his very own Pope mobile can stir up some climate action.

    microphone photo credit: Win the Room

    A Gay Comic Comes Out for Climate Action

    The Guardian newspaper has a section called Witness where users can sign in and respond to stories. They periodically have assignments for users to complete. This week they asked folks to write about 2014.

    Share your story in 100 words or less and the most interesting contributions will be published in the Observer New Review and on the Guardian site. As the year draws to a close, we’d like to find out if 2014 has been a memorable year for you. Have you got a new love, new job, new family, new house? Had a breakthrough moment? What have you done differently in 2014 or changed your perspective about? Maybe you or a family member have been caught up in a news event, or the place you live is undergoing momentous change. Tell us about your year in 100 words or less.

    So I made my contribution:
    A Gay Comic Comes Out for Climate Action

    I’ll admit it. I am not terribly concerned about the plight of a polar bear on a distant ice flow, but the possibility that because of climate change coffee is becoming an endangered species, well that is alarming. In 2014 I took nine months off from my usual touring schedule as a comic & gay Bible scholar to research climate change & strategies for talking about global warming without scaring the snot out of everyone. I asked, “What is a Queer Response to Climate Change?” & “What’s Faith Got to Do with It?” Strangely I walked away with hope & determination.

    What about you? How was 2014? Memorable? How so?