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Optimism about climate change is not serving us well

Climate optimism has been a disaster. We need a new language – desperately, Guardian 21st Sept 2017  

The extreme weather of the past months is a game-changer: surely now the world is ready to talk about climate change as a civilisation-collapsing catastrophe. A lot of work has been done since to understand why climate change is so
uniquely paralysing, most prominently by George Marshall, author of the
book Don’t Even Think About It.
Marshall describes climate change as “a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one
has a motive”. Climate change is both too near and too far for us to be
able to internalise: too near because we make it worse with every minute
act of our daily lives; too far because until now it has been something
that affects foreign people in foreign countries, or future versions of
ourselves that we can only conceive of ephemerally.
It is also too massive.
The truth is if we don’t take action on climate change now, the food
shortages, mass migration and political turmoil it will cause could see the
collapse of civilisation in our lifetimes. Which of us can live with that
knowledge? It’s not surprising, then, that some years ago climate
activists switched to a message of optimism.
But the message of optimism
has done is create a giant canyon between the reality of climate change and
most people’s perception of it. An optimistic message has led to
complacency – “people are saying it’s doable so it will probably be
fine” – and championing success stories has convinced people that the
pathetic, threadbare action taken by governments so far is sufficient.
I’ve lost count of the sheer number of politically engaged, conscientious
people I’ve met who have simply no idea how high the stakes are. Could
the language of emergency work? It has never been tried with as much
meteorological evidence as we have now, and we’ve never had a target as
clear and unanimous as the one agreed in Paris.
The one thing I know is
that the events of the last few months have changed the game, and this is
the moment to start debating a new way to talk about climate change. It may
be that if the time for a mass movement is not now, there won’t be one.

September 23, 2017 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change

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