As someone who has “come out” concerned for the climate, I am thrilled whenever a friend emails me or posts on my Facebook wall a news story about climate change. How cheering to have friends, who may not have the same convictions about this issue yet who still take the time to think of me when they see a climate story. Not surprisingly many of these stories are about climate skeptics, including a recent one about how state officials in one state, one that is predicted to get overwhelmed by sea level rise, has taken the extraordinary measure to counsel state employees to refrain from using the words Climate Change, Global Warming, and Sustainability in their work.
I have a funny reaction to stories about climate deniers/skeptics. I don’t view them as actual climate change stories, and I do not believe they deepen our understanding of the current crisis or do anything to bridge the gap between those who are concerned with climate change and those who are not. Here at Climate Stew we never post news stories about climate skeptics. Instead we try to provide a models for how to engage in a positive way.
Over the past three months I have begun to speak out to audiences about these denier stories. I urge people to no longer forward them to each other, in fact, I suggest we ignore these stories altogether. The media pushes these stories on us believing this is what we want to hear. I believe they do not have a useful effect. Below is my response to a dear friend who posted the story of the state that forbid their workers from mentioning climate change. While I see it is a worthwhile story to report, how it gets presented and re-presented turns it into a non-story and makes it a distraction. Here is my response to the story when it was posted on my FB wall.
Thanks for thinking of me whenever you see a climate-related story. That always cheers me! With my work over at www.climatestew.com I am always looking for climate-related stories. You know I love you and value you so much in how supportive you are to me in my new work in looking at creative responses to climate change. What I am about to write may sound harsh, but this article touches on a point that has been on my mind a lot these past three months.
I find these types of “climate stories” to be obnoxious–not simply State leaders’ action to ban people from saying the words Climate Change, Global Warming, and Sustainability–that no doubt is obnoxious. But I find the story itself and the place it has among many of my friends to be obnoxious. At its core I read this story and hear the message, “Look at those idiots who refuse to face reality. When will they join the rest of us informed, engaged citizens?”
We live in an age of vast denial. There are many types of climate deniers; most of us are in denial about the severity of this crisis and the work that we need to do to change the political world, and the ways we get and conserve energy. Sure we recycle, change a lightbulb or 20, eat less meat, and post stories about yet another Conservative who refuses to read the handwriting that is clearly visible on the wall. But for many of us those acts absolve us of any further responsibility.
So here is my challenge–Please consider no longer reading stories and sharing stories about climate deniers. We only have so many hours in a day. Instead let’s educate ourselves and each other about how climate change is occurring right now, who it affects, and what people are doing or can do or must do to address it.
And in doing that, let’s also try to probe deeper into the reasons why people cannot fact this dreadful reality, much like it is so hard to face the facts of a sick and dying parent, or the end of a marriage, or the destruction of a dream we held dear. Instead of further dividing the nation and detaching from deniers, how can we relate to them? Most all of us have lived in denial. How can we build a bridge instead of another wall?