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The truth about climate change

Liar, liar, globe on fire — why green professionals don’t tell the whole truth about climate change

“The truth about climate change? Well…” How and why environmental professional may not always tell the whole truth about climate change — And how you can inspire immediate climate action.

 

A few weeks ago, I did something I had never done before.

 

I made a video for my friends and family, and for the first time ever, spoke publicly about the actual state of climate change. Then, I shared the video on Facebook.

 

In other words: I told the truth, openly.

 

“The truth about climate change? Well…Shit’s on fire, yo.”

… said no one.

 

I would not classify myself as a lier. In fact, I’m pretty bad at lying, to the point where anyone can tell if I’m not enjoying my food, or my new Christmas sweater.

But for the past many years, whenever I have spoken publically about climate change, I have done so with a filter.

 

The only time I would have an honest conversation about the newest NASA results, carbon readings, or water shortage projections, was when I had one-on-one conversations.

 

The reason? Climate change is fucking scary.

 

Telling the truth about climate change

 

In a face-to-face conversation, I can sit a friend down and explain exactly what direction the world is heading in.

And every day the news gets worse. But I can have the hard conversation while providing real-time emotional support, as well as concrete advice on what the individual can do to act on climate change.

The truth about climate change

Mass-communicating the information leaves me with fewer tools to ensure that the receiving end is ok and feels empowered, not depressed.

 

You may at this point be thinking ‘I’m a bit of an overly sensitive snowflake, who wants to sugar coat life.’

 

I wish.

 

The reason I seldom give unfiltered news about climate change is that repeated neural science experiments have shown us, that when we are faced with information about something big and scary, where we feel like we have no agency, we tend to do one of two things:

 

1)   We dispute the information. The threat seems too big, so instead of plunging headfirst into action, we emotionally safeguard ourselves by merely denying the facts

 

2)   We despair. Though we take in the new data, it’s too big to process, seeing as we still have little agency over the situation. As a result, we get depressed, making it even harder for us to act.

 

 

I’ve written about why this is again, and again, with emphasis on how your words matter.

Recently this knowledge has been incorporated into news outlets. Hurra!

The Guardian recently announced that it would change its approach to climate communication. Up until then, they had, like all other news media, reported on the stories in a fact-centered manner — as is considered the morally correct way.

 

As a climate communicator, you ARE the map

 

Broadcasting climate science news without context is irresponsible and risky.

 

We need to accompany the fact with suggestions on actions. Meaningful action! I’ve seen an article on the potential threat of a 3C warming urge people to “take action by recycling.” Are you kidding me?

 

 

People want to act. But they don’t know how to. We are all overworked and overstimulated by a thousand pop-ups, and likes, and shares. “Just tell me what to do!”

 

Just tell me what to do. Let’s unpack that sentence. It’s an emotional scream — a desperate cry for agency. The world is on fire, how can I stop it?

 

As climate change communicators, we need to be aware of this power, and the responsibility that comes with it.

We are holding the mic on climate change and environmental action, and we chose to say matters.

We have to understand that part of our job is to be a roadmap that readers can use navigate climate change. We are the ones that say, “this one thing is what you can do, right now, to make a difference.”

 

Yes, it’s a lot to ask, and it means we need to stay updated about both climate change, its causes, its effects, and the different actions and organizations out there.

 

Merely stating the facts, that the world is in a dire state, is not enough. We risk being the stick in the wheel if we do not aid our readers through the trauma-inducing state of the world. We risk making the citizens of the world passive, and depressed — depressed warriors don’t win battles.

 

You could argue that the role of journalists is the deliver the news, and it’s the readers’ job to process the information. But we are way beyond that point. Content and news blend together. Pundits, celebrities, and influencers become guides in our attempt the sort though mega bite after mega bite of information.

 

As environmental communicators, we need to do better. We need to tell the truth while offering a way for people to act — a way to gain agency in a world that is increasingly confusing, terrifying, and overwhelming.

 

 

Make your news matter.

 

 

Edit:

I recently saw a great example that I want to leave you with.

 

A writer at Gizmodo, ended her piece about The Extinction Crisis Keeps Getting More Dire, With 28,000 Species At-Risk, with this:

 

“Not all hope is lost, though. Climate change, at some level, is inevitable at this point. Still, the worst of it can be avoided if humans get their shit together. The same goes for deforestation, hunting, and overfishing. Humans can stop these activities, saving the species that’ll be lost if we keep on this path.”

 

That’s how you do it, folks.

 

 


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If you need help communicating sustainability, send us an email and we’ll have you set up in no time.

 

Why I don’t give a S#!” about Aleppo, and neither should you

The following post gives a quick breakdown of how the horrors in Aleppo are a symptom of a much bigger problem: Climate change. The post argues that even though every fiber of your body may want to fix the situation by attending marches or giving humanitarian aid, there is a better way. A more rational action is to fight climate change and prevent a crisis like this from becoming everyday news.

 

If you’ve read the news within the past 48hours, you know that nothing less of a manslaughter is happening in Aleppo.

Men, women, and children are being gunned down in the streets or burned alive. The latest death toll I’m aware of is 82 souls. But by now who knows how many.

If you can stomach it, here is the news about Aleppo.

Why I don’t give a damn*

I see many of my friends crying out for action on social media. I see them signing up for marched, signing petitions. I see them putting heart, time, and energy into this.

I won’t.

Because I believe other nations should clean up their own mess? —No.

Because I don’t give a damn about people in Syria? —No.

Because I’m a heartless bitch? —In part. I am a rational bitch

I am a rational bitch — I believe in treating the cause, not the symptom.

There have been a few scientific articles published, naming a very specific factor in the Syrian crisis. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a hot topic (pun intended).

Yep, it’s climate change! (Important — Climate change is not the only factor, but a “threat multiplier;” meaning its effects are  greatest in areas that are already environmentally and socially unstable).

You can read the whole thing here, but the super short version is this:

 

  • Climate change –>
  • Drought –>
  • Farmers abandoning farms looking for jobs in the overcrowded cities + Rising food prices –>
  • High food prices + high unemployment rates = Political destabilization –>
  • Riots –>
  • Chaos.

Is it really that simple? No, the above is the short version. There are of course also a number of political factors to take into account. But had it not been for these first effects of climate change, the situation would not have escalated.

Whichever way you turn it, climate change is a is a big looming beast, either creating or worsening a situation.

According to the UN; The World’s Food Supply is Made Insecure by Climate Change.

Things might stay peachy and safe where you live, but guess what, people tend to move away from areas where there is no food.

But wait… There’s more.

As permafrost in Siberia is melting, methane gas, (which makes CO2 look like nothing) is oozing into the atmosphere, at an alarming rate. This article in Science Advances suggests the methane will cause a positive feedback loop.

That’s like getting a positive HIV test. Not a good thing.

So a positive feedback loop will heat up the earth, releasing even more greenhouse gases, heating the earth further, releasing even more gas… You get the picture.

And the results?

We might see a global temperature rise of between 4.47C and 7.36C, in 2100! This will cause runaway greenhouse gas effect and will turn earth into Venus.

 

A runaway greenhouse effect is a process in which a net positive feedback between surface temperature and atmospheric opacity increases the strength of the greenhouse effect on a planet until its oceans boil away. An example of this is believed to have happened in the early history of Venus. – Wikipedia

 

Let’s do the math: Unless you are already retired, this will affect you. Not your children, or your grandchildren, but you.

What to do:

  • Vote! Vote, vote, vote. On a candidate/party with a proven record of working to stop climate change. (Oh, ps. If you are inclined to vote for a party which gives you tax breaks, promises you retirement standard or a low premium on health care just remember: None of these things matter if you are dead, and a zero atmosphere earth will do that to you)
  • Get organized! Find a group of people who are already working on this, and use whatever skills you have to help
  • Talk to people about this. I’ll try to post as much as I can about how to talk with people about climate change, and I’ll gladly answer any question you ask me in the comments, or via e-mail.

 

*Of course I care about the massacre in Syria, and so should you. It hurts to the level where I can hardly breathe. But all of life on earth is a risk — we need to think and act long term.

I’m very conflicted about posting this, as I realize it has shit storm potential. Please understand that my reason for writing this is not to belittle the atrocious things happening in Syria. My reason is to raise awareness about an even bigger issue. One that will in the future only result in more horrific events like the one happening in Aleppo. We have the work at the root of the illness, not just the symptoms.

If we want to avoid more situations like Aleppo, we need to act on not just Syria, but global climate change.

You have global DNA – and it can impact climate change action

This video is circling the internet today and it resonated vastly with a thought I was having this morning. You can no longer isolate yourself in your own country, shut the blinds on the global community and not care.

Every week, several times a week, there a devastating news abut the impacts of climate change. And there are good news. But what the heartbreaking and the hope giving news have in common is, that it is global news. The loss is global, and the gain is global.

 

We all need to see beyond language and borders if we are to decide what role humanity has on this planet.

 

Rotation is the new recycling

Look out recycling, there’s a new kid in town. One that’s more energy efficient, cheaper, and consumption lowering. Furthermore, if you live in a big city, chances are you can save a lot of money and time because of it.

 

In short, rotating your belongings means selling or gifting them. In recycling, you often downgrade the quality of the materials your working with, due to the treatment process, whereas you preserve the item exactly as it is when you rotate it.

For instance, when you recycle a plastic bottle, it is turned into another plastic product, but with a lower quality of plastic. If you rotate (sell or gift) a plastic box, it’s still going to be used as a plastic box, with the same quality of plastic.

The past 5 years have seen a widespread increase in sharing services. AirBNB, Über, and even Craigslist are among the many internet based platforms you can use to pay for services in a peer to peer regime.

You can sublet your apartment without the hassle of knowing someone, who knows someone. You can sign subscription on dresses, enabling you to wear a new stunning dress at every party. You can even have 2nd hand baby clothing mailed directly to you, washed and cleaned, in a leasing service.

The sharing economy is rising in every fiend of commerce

There are a growing number of services and facebook groups that offer 1:1 second hand sale, swap, or give away. You simple upload a picture of what ever you are selling or giving away, and then people respond, and come pick it up.Sharing economy

No more flea markets, no more trips to the recycling center. Someone else is picking up the tings you no longer need.

If you’re at the other end of the table, and are in need of one particular thing, then you can use these services to find people who just happen to be giving it away for free. The only thing you need to do is pick it up.

If you’ve ever moved to a new city, or a new country, you know how you often start your new life going: ‘Fuck, I need this thing!’ And then you need to spend a lot of time, and/or money getting it. Nowadays, all you need is an internet connection and some patience. If you aren’t extremely picky, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for, at a reasonable price, or free.

Why is it a good thing?

 

Environmentally, rotation is godsend. Whenever you help a product escape the gloomy faith of the trashcan, you are doing the environment a solid.

Table_rotation_monajensen

Take a table for instance. To make the table, you need wood.

Seeing as the wood may not have been grown under sustainable conditions, there’s a good chance of soil erosion and loss in biodiversity, being some of the costs of growing the tree that produced that wood.

 

The trees are cut down and transported using diesel driven machinery. Not good for the environment. Then shipping. Then maybe painting or the use of other chemicals to process the material.

Then packaging, usually cardboard, or bubble wrap. The manufacturing of both of these materials use a good dosage of chemicals and water.

Transportation_monajensenThen more shipment to stores and showrooms.

And then you buy it. You also need to take it home. More transportation.

If you then decide to discard you table, and not rotate or recycle it, it goes to either land field, adding to the production of atmospheric methane gas, or it get’s incinerated. The ladder is more environmentally friendly, as most modern incineration plants have quite good combustion and air filters, and use the excess heat for district heating.

Do the environment a solid – rotate your stuff

If you instead of discarding decide to sell, or gift that table, you are eliminating all the formerly mentioned steps and pollutants, with the small exception of the transportation between you and the receiver of the table.

 

Isn’t it bad for the economy?

money_monajensen

This is a valid question, and has often been the main point when arguing against recycling and peer to peer sales. Isn’t it bad for the economy if I stop buying tables? Not necessarily.

By not spending you money on furniture, or expensive hotels, you are freeing your money to be spent in other ways. You will now maybe buy one item of quality clothing, instead of 3 easily discarded items. Or you invest that money in investment pools, stocks, or bonds.

You could put that money into a college fund for you, or your children, now investing in both the educational system, and you country as a whole in the way, that you are adding to the amount of well educated citizens who, by the way, also make more money.

In short, the money saved by using these services does not end up in a mattress. They still end up in the economic system, but have usually been used to enhance the quality of your life.

A counter argument is often; well, if I don’t buy cheap clothing produced by child labor in India, the Children of Indian won’t have a job, ergo their quality of life will decrease. Though there is some legitimacy to this point, feeding the system of child labor through cheap clothing is treating the symptom, not the cause.

The argument is a mental loophole, used to justify your current purchasing habits. If it where to be true, you would not need to change your habits. This makes your brain happy, because habit changing is hard.

If you really want to do something to support children in 3rd world countries, there are plenty of programs you can donate money to. Or you can use your saved money to go to law school and become a human rights lawyer.

Getting back on track: Spend your money on happiness

Rotation, swapping, and battering are no longer reserved for students or low income families. It is, slowly but effectively, becoming a common practice.

 

Happy-life_sharing_economy_monajensenI highly encourage you to embrace it. And then spend the money you save on enhacing the quality of life for you, or your loved once.

Live out dreams, go travel, or just buy that really high quality food that you love so much, but never buy.

 

Rotate your stuff, do the environment a solid, and enhance the quality of life.

 

End note: A big thanks to Majken, who was the source of inspiration for this post!

 

 

 

Action climate change _ SomethingGreen.org

What to do when facing the apocalyptic doom – Acting on Climate Change

In the previous blog post, I wrote about, why people still have a hard time grasping the reality of climate change. This post covers what you can do to take action, once you’ve accepted that climate change is a real thing.

 

First of all, consult your local Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, and Don’t panic. Panicking never helped anybody.

If your house is one big mess after a new years party, what do you do? You take an aspirin, breath, and you say to yourself: ‘Ok, it’s bad, but I can do it, I just need to decide where to start.’ And once you’ve decided, you start.

Action climate change - SomethingGreen.org

At some point doing this, you might feel like giving up. ‘Oh my, this is worse than I expected! And look, someone spilled wine on the walls, how did that happen??

 

You feel like giving up again, like the problem is only getting bigger the more you work at it. But it’s not really getting bigger, is it?

 

The problem is the same, you just gain more knowledge about it.

 

And even though you may now also need to gain knowledge about how to get wine of walls, you are handling the problem. You are acting; you are chipping away at the situation even though the problem seems excruciatingly large.

 

Actionables! –What can you do, right now?

So what can you do?

Facebook algorithms don’t reach far. You only see what your peers see, and the only people who are blessed with your updates, are people like you. This means that sharing things on Facebook, has a very limited reach, meaning a limited effect.

 

Power_in_number_monajensen

 

 

Instead, sign petitions, and join talks and demonstrations. Go to globalclimatemarch.org to find a climate march near you.

 

 

The most effective thing you can do is get political. If it means signing partitions, then do that. If it’s sending emails to your local politicians do that.

Oh, and Danes, the e-mail address for the Danish parliament is stm@stm.dk, should you feel like sending them an email or 10.000.

 

Attend social mixers about the subject. It’s a great way to meet new and interesting people.

I recommend you start by finding the people, who are already chipping away at the problem, and then team up with them. Hell, you can even make a game out of it. There’s power in numbers, and just like cleaning up after a new years party is easier if you 5 people instead of 1, taking on an environmental cause (or social cause for that matter), is easier if you’re a group.

These are simple things you can do to act on climate change, and environmental issues.

 

As I send you off into the world of environmental doom, remember this:

  • Don’t panic
  • Aim your firepower in the most effective direction by joining forces with others and/or getting political
  • You’ve got this

Please tell me in the comments, what you do to chip away at an environmental problem. I want to learn more about the many different creative ways people take action.

Dont_panic_monajensen