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How to talk about a world on fire

How to talk about a world on fire without scaring your audience — Key tips on environmental communication.

In charge of environmental communication? Be careful you don’t paralyze your audience with constant bad news. I know, it’s hard when the world is burning. Here’s how you do it.

 

Question: What do the following areas have in common?

Answer: They are all on fire.

 

Waking up to the news that yet another country or region is on fire, can do strange things to your sense of normality.

I honestly had a moment a few days ago, where I thought, “Wait, Indonesia is burning? But that was last year’s news”.

 

With so many disasters happening, it’s hard to keep track of what is what, especially if you haven’t even had your morning coffee yet.

 

But it also means that we have a tendency of zoning out, and becoming indifferent. Basically, your brain is going, “Dude, what do you mean more fires?! I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the Amazon one. You know what? I’m just not going to care.”

 

That’s when we find ourselves shrugging over the news of yet another wildfire.

It’s totally normal.

 

So how can we as climate communicators get the news out there, without sparking apathy?

We start by understanding the inner workings of the brain.

Knowing that too much negative news can cause us to shut down is vital for any communicator.

 

The first way around this is context.

 

Communicating the bigger picture with context

 

In the case of, say the Indonesian fires, you need to communicate that this is a different fire than the one that has been on the news lately. You need to give a little information about why there’s a fire. Are they triggered by the same political situation as the fires in Brazil, or are there different reasons?

 

How does it relate to climate change? Many forest fires are both caused by, and causes of, climate change. And that fact can be a bit counterintuitive if you don’t have a background in the environmental field.

Why?

Because we are used to cause and effect. A leads to B. X + Y = Z.

But climate change is a case of many factors interplaying. While the term positive feedback loop is becoming more and more known, it’s still not a household concept.

This means you need to tell your audience how this story relates to the other news about global wildfires.

You also need to make your news tangible.

 

Making it tangible — have useful reference points.

 

And though I personally hate comparing everything to Olympic sized swimming pools, it’s a useful benchmark. Finding a measure of comparison where the reader has a “feeling” of the size, rather than an intellectual idea (how big is 10,000 sq miles?), allows the reader to understand your message with ease.

Why?

Because, they don’t have to dig out their mental abacus to get an idea about how big something is.

 

You have now made it easy for your audience to integrate this new information into their existing knowledge pool. Great.

Now it’s time to not turn them into nihilists. (And if you work in environmental communication, chances are you’ll need to focus on this.)

 

As I said earlier, the brain can go into a gridlock if it’s given too much negative information. You need to mix in a spoonful of sugar, to make the medicine go down.

 

The easiest way to understand what this feels like is by remembering an awful day you had recently.

 

 

Your alarm didn’t go off, one of your kids spilled their breakfast all over the floor, your stock fell, it was unbearably warm, and on top of that, a politician did something you worry will sling the global economy into another recession.

 

Feel your heart racing a little bit faster? Maybe your finger’s tense up as you scroll down this post, now reminded of all the other things you have to take care of. Buy a new phone, clean up the house, make sure you have enough money in your bank to withstand a potential economic blow. Oh, maybe there’s even a bill coming up.

 

By now, I’ve lost you.

 

You’re no longer thinking about communication, but about all the things you need to take care of, and all the potential threats out there.

 

One thought leads to another, and another, because it’s never just one thing that makes us worry or makes us tense. It’s all the things, combined.

 

Here’s the good news: It’s going to be all right.

 

All the things are real and scary, but they also have real solutions. Doable solutions.

It’s a question of taking one thing at the time, and if you are overwhelmed, filter out the news that seems too big, until you have the mental capacity and tools to start working on them.

Now, the point of this little masochistic exercise was not to get you to hyperventilate for my amusement.

 

 

It was to remind you of what your audience is facing. Every. Day.

We all have stuff that’s stressing us. Some of it we are in control us, and some seem beyond us.

 

But our most significant stressors that the things where we feel we have no agency. And if you don’t believe me, go back to your stressor list and rate the elements on it. I’ll bet you a slice of lemon cheesecake, that you are more stressed about the things that feel out of your control.

SO! What does this mean for communicating the forest fires in Indonesia?

We’re getting back to the spoonful of sugar, to make the medicine go down. And no, you should not be sugar-coating climate change.

 

You have to give your audience agency.

Audience agency in environmental communication

 

Help them act. Give them the option of feeling empowered. Tell them what steps they can take, right now, to act on this.

 

 

It might not make them act, but simply having the option will stop the brain from getting paralyzed.

 

Having agency helps your audience take in the news, even when the news is:

 

THE WORLD IS ON FIRE!

 

 

Always, always, ALWAYS, offer concrete solutions to what the individual can do.

 

That’s it.

So the next time you have environmental news to share, include doable next steps, that your audience can take.

 

 


 

If you found this information useful, give it a share.

And remember, you can always reach out if you want to learn more about environmental communication. Or add me on  LinkedIn.

 

 

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.

 

 


If you want to know more about environmental communication add me on LinkedIn, or sign up for our newsletter.

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

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ wired for stubborness

Communicating with climate change deniers — how to change minds when change is hard

Communicating with climate change deniers is not a walk in the park. Beliefs are tied to the neurological sense of self, and when you challenge that belief with facts, you challenge that sense of self.

Therefore, you need to understand the denier in front of you, and tailor your communication to circumvent neurological stubbornness. This post gives you concrete steps to do that.

 

Back in March 2017, I was asked to give a presentation about behavioral change, and why we have such a hard time changing our mind. This post is the laydown of that talk.


Why are there still climate deniers?

With the dire news of yet again surpassing a threshold of CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere, I want to talk a little bit about why there are still climate deniers out there, and how you should approach them.

 

With all the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, it seems mindboggling that anyone would refuse to believe in it. Some of those people are your neighbors, some are your family members, and some are presidents. You might find yourself thinking, why are people so stupid, the evidence is right there?

 

Turns to we’re not stupid, just human, and there are different reasons why some people don’t seem to get down with climate facts.

Let’s dig in.

 

Social bubbles and no-fact land

Two of the causes are social bubbles and the post-factual world.

I won’tCommunicate with climate change deniers - Somethinggreen.org go deep into this, but in short; you howl with the wolfs in your pack.

The same thing goes for posting on the internet. You only see posts from people, who are posting the same general themes and content as you.

 

Why? Because Facebook and other social platforms make a profit by keeping you online longer, and you will keep scrolling if the updates in your feed if it excites you. Hence, your feed has been tailored by algorithms to show you only things you will like, keeping you scrolling for hours on end.

This also means that you don’t see posts from people you disagree with. Your view of the world isn’t challenged on a regular basis. Instead, you are daily getting confirmation, in the form of likes and comments, that you are right, smart, funny and generally awesome. This has an effect on your sense of ‘being right’, as well as your ego.

 

The more posts you see from people who are similar to you, the more you feel like your worldview is the one true view.

 

If you have many climate deniers in your social circle, you will see a lot of climate denial posts. Even if you start out with a little skepticism in regards to climate science, the more climate skeptic links you click on, the more climate change denial you will see in your feed.

 

From equations to crystal healing in a week

You can test this out for yourself by only clinking on certain themes of links for about a week.

 

I accidentally proved this point recently, and it took me down the peculiar algorithm rabbit hole of Facebook.

A friend had lost a bet and, as his punishment, had to attend an event about the remote healing of horses — meaning how a stranger can make your sick horse feel better, from miles away, using the power of thought… Right.

 

I found it hilarious that he had lost the bet and clicked on the event to see just how outrageous it was. Schadenfroh much?

A week later, my Facebook feed informed me that the same friend was attending an event about angels, because he had lost another bet – and again, I clicked on the event to see what he had to endure this time.

 

Then, social media karma kicked in…

 

I  started getting ads for crystal healing, angel events, aura readings and so on. I am now struggling with getting rid of these ads in my feed, as I really don’t have a need for chakra healing in my life. I’m pretty sure my solar plexus just need more coffee.

 

So yeah, You reap what you click, and this is the price I pay for succumbing to clicking on punishment-events on Facebook, instead of doing something productive.

 

If you want to dig deeper, here’s more on the subject of social bubbles.

Why fact when I can feel?

In recent years, there’s been a rise in the notion, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

I honestly think that’s a good thing, but…

Unfortunately, this sorta merged into: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that opinion matters as much as facts. We see this in political debates where a scientist will comment on a situation, and an opposing argument will be laid out, by someone who just feels differently.
This is where I get frustrated because it does not.

 

“But Mona, sometimes it turns out that the science was wrong, so obviously the facts can’t be trusted”.

 

It’s a compelling argument, but it also amplifies the social bubble effect, where everything tends to be binary. Either you’re right and I’m wrong, or vice versa. The world becomes black and white where we move further and further away from having an adult debate …and then we default to our opinions.

It’s true that every now and then, facts are disputed because we learne more about the world — like the fact that led paint isn’t good for you — but doesn’t mean feelings and opinions have the same legitimacy as our current knowledge base.

Bringing emotions to a scientific debate is like bringing a rubber chicken to a gunfight — everybody ends up looking silly.

 

The world we live in now is very different from the world we knew just a few years back. The Post-factual world, as it has been named, allows opinions and emotions to have the same argumentative weight in public discussions.

This link touches on the post-factual world, where opinions get as much (or more) airtime than facts, because it sells.

 

So what happens when we get new information, telling us that we’re wrong?

If it turns out the facts are not in our favor, we say:
‘Oh, we learned a new thing. Let’s see how this changes our worldview’.

…Except we don’t. Because we are humans, and our complex neurological brain soup hasn’t caught up with our current social structures and clickbait laded lives.

And on top of all of this, climate change is a complex problem, without any quick-fix solutions. And this makes it even harder for deniers to trust in science.

 

At the root for both of these causes lie a bigger reason as to why there are still so many climate deniers out there.


Why you can’t change your mind: I am my opinion.

We’ve all had debates with people who where non-movable, and it makes Thanksgiving a night of hell. No matter how much evidence you present them with, they just become more and more stubborn. Why is that?

It’s long been recognized in the fields of sociology and psychology, that the more you identify with your opinion, or stance — meaning the more you feel it’s a part of your personality — the harder it is for you to change your mind about it.

This is especially true if it also relates to your social/family life, as a spiritual community for instance (think Scientology or other cults).

It turns out the reason for this isn’t just psychological, it’s biological.

 

These days there is a lot of brain research happening and it’s connections to our emotions, mood, mental disorders, and decision-making processes. And the results will blow your mind.

 

One study conducted by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, is especially interesting for anyone working with behavioral change.

The team put people inside fMRI scanners and gave the participants information about different topics. Some of the information was designed to go against the current belief systems of the participant.

 

”In this study, we performed functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 40 individuals with strong political views as they encountered arguments against their beliefs … Inside the fMRI scanner, participants saw a series of statements they previously indicated strongly believing, followed by several challenging counterarguments.

After participants read all five counterarguments, the original statement was shown again and they reported their post-challenge belief strength. The difference between pre-scan and post-challenge ratings was used as a measure of belief change.”

 

So in short, they measured how the brain reacted to new information, that contradicted the existing worldview.

And the results are in: BRAAAAINS…

I’ll get into what this means below the picture, but enjoy the pretty brains.

 

Figure 1: Brain activation during challenges to political vs. non-political beliefs. From: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.

 

As you see there are two different color schemes on this image.

(If you can’t see that, you’re probably colorblind, and should buy a pair of the new, ultra-cool EnChroma color blindness glasses)

The colors are not for aesthetics. The blue and green’ish colors are the areas in the brain that light up when the participants are given the non-political information. The red and yellow’ish colors are the areas with the political information.

 

These two types of information make the Christmas lights in the brain illuminate different areas. Why??

The non-political info lights up the frontal lobe. That’s the part of the brain responsible for making rational choices.

The political information, on the other hand, light up in the areas of the brain associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

Let’s recap: Your political convictions are, on a neurological level, associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

This is really important because it means that there is a deep biological, neural link between you and your political opinion. You can’t talk reason to this part of the brain, meaning…

 

Your audience is emotional and neurologically attached to their belifssystem. When you tell them they are wrong, you are challenging the very foundation of their existence.

 

If you are working with climate communication, I would suggest that you get the above tattooed on your wrist, because it makes a world of a difference in your work.

No matter how many facts you pour onto someone, you will not change their mind – in fact, as a self-preservation method they might refute your facts and become even more stubborn in their belief. This is the backfire effect.

There is, sort to speak, a neurological stubbornness in all of us, which can make mind-changing a daunting task.

 

A shortcut to mind-changing

 

Changing your mind is hard.

Does this mean that your effort is in vain, or that it will only pay off in the far future? Luckily, no. The before mentioned study found that:

 

Post-challenge belief strength was reduced for both political and non-political statements, indicating that the counterevidence did, at least temporarily, affect reported belief strength.

However, the change was significantly greater for non-political beliefs. Follow-up questionnaires completed weeks later showed that reduced belief strength persisted for the non-political beliefs.

 

What this little gem also say is, your effort is not in vain. There is some change, even if temporary, and even if your receiver won’t admit to it — I have a coworker like that.

We see the gradual change all around us. Whether it’s the global community slowly accepting anthropogenic climate change, or your spouse admitting, after 5 freaking years, that you were right about ‘that thing’.

 

More importantly:
It’s easier to change your beliefs about non-political issues than political ones, as these are not as strongly tied up to your sense of self. This also means…

 

 You can and should use non-political issues as an entrance to mind changing.

 

There are a number of small shortcuts you can use when conveying environmental information.

 

Okay, this post is already like 1 trillion words long, but don’t fret!

In the follow-up post, I’ll give you a hands-on example of how I personally circumvent the neurological resistance to information when I give talks. There will be spaceships!

—-

If you have an audience that needs a good brain-tickle, don’t be afraid to reach out! Something Green does content writing for web pages, newsletters, Social Media and more.

 

 

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.

Confession of an environmental planner – the 3 biggest lies of climate change

You’ve been lied to. We all have.

I’ve been working with environmental management since 2007’ish. Almost a decade now.

A lot has changed, thankfully. Though it might seem gloomy, we are making progress as a whole.

Throughout the years, however, there are key subjects that keep resurfacing in my work with climate change communication.

There are lies that echo in communities working with climate change. Again, and again.

Writing, late one night, I felt I was suffocating. I felt like the untold truths about how we approached climate change, were clawing at me like a wild beast, and that my only escape was to talk about them honestly.

The following is a confession, and an explanation as to why we continue these lies. I hope it’s also the first step to breaking the cycle.

The 1st lie – We know about all of the dangers of climate change

We don’t. No one has the right answer. We like to believe, that the dangers of climate change have been mapped our by scientist, and if we simply follow their advice, we’ll pull through.

But scientists do not have the complete answer, because the climate on this little globe, is far more complex and delicate than we imagined.
It seems almost every week a new climate record is broken. Warmest month in recorded history, most severe drought, strongest hurricane, etc.

Scientists are continuously altering their models and climate predictions because the effects of climate change are happening faster than anyone anticipated.

Why do we keep insisting that the consequences of global climate change are known?

Short answer: The truth is fucking scary.

We are facing a monster, and we don’t even know how big or how dangerous it is. Worse, we don’t want to know, that we don’t know.

Our brainsLies climate change confession substitution , though capable of dreaming up books and symphonies, does not cope well with uncertainty. Dealing with uncertainty requires a lot of energy.

Hence, when a big, scary uncertainty shows up, we tend to either simplify it to something we can deal with, or reject the idea altogether.

So our brain switches to autopilot and tells us not to listen.

Furthermore, scientists are reluctant to stand up and say they are 100% certain because that’s not the scientific way. There is almost always a small margin of error.

In itself, this is not a problem, but people are built to avoid uncertainties. We hate it. It forces our energy demanding part of the brain to activate, which is a drag. Your brain likes energy conservation. That’s why sitting on the couch feels nicer than going for a run, even though you know running is better for you.

‘You fancy scientist don’t know S***t’

Let’s say we are faced with two people. They are in a debate. The first one of them starts saying, ‘There is a lot of statistical evidence supporting this theory, and only a small margin of error, which can be accounted for in the regression of…’ zzzzz…

You’ve stopped paying attention, haven’t you? That’s because your brain had to work. Let’s look at the other person in the debate and hear his argument:

‘You’re not even sure of what you’re saying! You only have a theory, you don’t have proof. It could be a lot of other things. It could be a natural fluctuation. Why should I get worried if this is nothing? You scientist, all high and mighty, always think you know things, but then 5 years later you turn out to be wrong so why should I trust you?’

Science_monajensen

It’s a natural instinct to not trust scientist – unfortunately, it’s a really bad instinct

Sound familiar? The brain prefers confidence over doubt, and science seems like doubt if you don’t work in science.

Theories, uncertainties, and margins aren’t things our brain want to deal with. So unless we put energy into understanding what climate change is, we are likely to disregard it.

And we have seen many people disregard it. It’s just easier. The cognitive energy we have to apply to both understanding climate change and reacting to it is overwhelming for many people.

It’s easier to accept that it isn’t happening … for some people at least.

The 2nd lie – Do it for the children

We’re not doing it for the children. We shouldn’t be. We should be doing it for ourselves.

The effects of climate change are happening as we speak. It’s not going to be something we will see 50 or 100 years from now. We are in it. Droughts, melting glaciers, coral bleaching, floods, storms.

You’ve seen the news, you know we’re already experiencing the first of the effects. We are consuming far more natural resources than the globe is producing, and we cannot sustain the current population growth and resource demand.

We are running out of things to make more things.

Even if we combat climate change, we’re still going to end up with a scarcity problem unless we address our global overconsumption.

It’s easy to say do it for the children because then you still sound like you care and want to make a wholehearted effort. Instead, saying that you are doing it for you, and for your future self, makes the problem more immediate and urgent. This scares the brain.

People don’t really give a damn about the children

If you think this is going to affect your great-grandchildren, then you’ve delayed the need for action because mentally, it’s much less energy-consuming to think of the problem in terms of future strangers. That’s what out distant relatives are to us, future strangers. We have difficulty relating to them.

How do you react when I tell you, that the people living at the time of Shakespeare had the same general thoughts, feelings and behavioral patterns as you?

You are not that different from the people living 500 years ago

You are not that different from the people living 500 years ago.

Your instinct is not to believe it. People from the past are less knowledgeable, right? They could not possibly be having the same thoughts or emotions, could they? They were less developed than you and I, right?

Nope. We have more technology now, and of course, we know more about the world, but our IQ and the way we interact with others is the same. But we can’t relate to people in the distant past or distant future.

We had no evolutionary need to, because either they would be dead, or we would.
And the same thing happens with our future relatives. We can’t relate. Their lives and problems have nothing to do with me -even if I am the source of their problems.

This is why we should stop doing it for the kids.

The 3rd lie – We can solve it

Climate change is not 1 problem that we need to address and there is no quick fix.

It’s all complex, intertwined, interconnected problems. One is making the other worse. You have to allocate time and energy to understand it, and the hard truth is the most brilliant minds in the world don’t have the full scope. It is of the utmost importance, to invest that time and energy into understanding the broader dimensions of the problem.

We need to take the time and energy to really learn about these intertwined issues. In order to unravel them and solve them.

Thinking long and hard.

Unfortunately, not many people do this. Time is a scares resource, and in our busy lives who takes the time and energy to really dig into a subject? As a consequence, the way to direct attention to the subject is:

‘3 simple ways to…’

‘Scared of climate change? Do these easy things to avoid…’

‘What to vote? 5 questions to ask yourself before next election.’

An English teacher had the brilliant idea to mask classic poems as click-bait. I think my favorite is, “5 Ways To Complicate Your Decision-Making Process” by Robert Frost.

Why do we do it? Substitution

For every complex problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong -H. L. Mencken

So instead we substitute the hard questions, and the tough subject, with easy ones. That way, we only receive answers that can be digested in 5 minutes or less.

This is also why we keep reading these clickbait articles.

Do these 10 things to make you happy!

This easy trick helped me lose 5 pounds in one week! And so on..

The comedian Jim Gaffigan put it nicely… ‘It’s all McDonald. It’s fast literary garbage with little nutrition and only serves you the purpose of feeling full, temporarily ending your craving, and avoiding starvation. It has little to no nutritional value.’

… and it makes me feel like a whore

I find myself using it. Not because I like it, not because I think it’s the right thing to do, but because I know it works. It’s something I can do to get your attention. And it makes me feel like a whore.

There are things about your immediate future that you need to be aware of if you want to enjoy your retirement. There are things you need to think about, and make choices about, and act on, even though it’s time-consuming, and requires energy.

This is your future, friend. You need to act on it

This is your future, friend. You need to act on it

You’ve done things like this before. You’ve taken out a mortgage, got an insurance, maybe even had a kid. You thought long and hard about your life and the consequences of certain actions.

Climate change is one of those things. It will affect you. Not your kids, not some distant stranger in the future. You.

 

Your money, your health, your comfort level in life, your retirement.

If you are still reading, you are more than halfway there. I congratulate you. For whatever reason, you have the willpower, and mental capability to do this.

Just like figuring out your retirement plan, it’s gonna feel complicated as hell, but I promise you,  you’re gonna get there.

This is where you start. Open your eyes, accept that this is scary ass hell, and then buckle up, cause we’ve got work to do.

How do you measure the importance of a political issue? If it airs on Netflix.

Ladies and gents, I present to you the global acceptance of climate change and the policies needed to avoid local and global energy crises. Now brought to you in prime time.

 

There is a telling moment at the end of the first episode of Occupied, the highly entertaining new Norwegian TV political thriller, now available in the United States on Netflix (with subtitles!).

One of the main characters, sitting in a cafe with his family, looks bleakly through the glass at the shoppers in the mall outside, knowing they are oblivious to how fragile their world has just become.

 

This is how Slate starts the chilling and exciting review of the new political thriller Occupie. The show tackles the issue of climate change and global energy policy, set in a not so distant future. (Read a full review here)

 

Why does it matter?

By January 19th, 2016, Netflix had 75 million subscribers worldwide. 40 million of them located in the US. Like it or not, the United States of America still has a lot of influence on global climate policy.

In 2015, a warbling 40% of the American public didn’t see climate change as a threat.

Currently, none of their Republican presidential candidates believe climate change to be a serious issue. And let’s not get started on the senate.

To air a Norwegian show about climate policy, in a country where half of the population think it’s overrated, is not just a small an insignificant action. It is a reflection of the world and the issues we deal with in this world. The time is right for this. And the American public needs to wake up to this new world and new reality, and demand more from their politicians.

 

Watching the world change through our TV

children-tv-Monajensen

The entertainment sector is helping, in the way that it is both a strong indicator of hot topics and a driver of discussions. Follow the hot topics, find the power and money. Airing a show like this just 2 years ago would have been unthinkable, but in the wake of the COP21 agreement, it makes perfect sense.

Steps like this will bring the discussion of climate change and energy policy from the universities and political areas, into the living rooms and kitchens. And this is where the real change happens.

Airing Occupied on Netflix will pave the way for a national debate in the US. These debates will influence the political arena, as voters go where they feel heard. A change in the political arena will then, eventually, lead to a change in policy. Just think about LGBT rights and minimum wages as a few recent examples of policy changes in the US – for giggles, google the top shows on Netflix in the years leading up to it.

 

The big difference here is, the rest of the world would benefit from not continuously banging our head against the US wall of climate ignorance.

 

Yes, I said it. 40% people, the numbers speak for themselves.

Global climate policy needs the US on board if it is to run smoothly, and the US needs to get on board before China and Russia completely steal the climate spotlight. I would love to elaborate on this, but for now, I am fresh out of time.

So there you go, a very short post, about climate change and “prime time TV”.

I for one will be looking forward to Occupied.

 

Oh, and Netflix, though I am highly frustrated with your pricing scheme, and the fact that I can’t watch same shows in Denmark, as in the US, I will say this to you: Well played, well played.

 

 

Environmental Economics 101 – Mitigation or Climate Change Prevention?

I’ve been putting of writing about environmental economics for some time, simply because the subject is somewhat complicated, and I haven’t yet found a way to make it tangible. But last night, a friend of mine send my an article, that gave me an idea for a post about green-econ. Is so simple, even my dead dog could understand it.

It will only revolve around one question:

Which is cheaper, Mitigation or Climate Change Prevention?

Climate mitigation is in short, adapting to the consequences of climate change.

Examples of this include; storm drains, damns, water protection, drought prevention and so on.

Climate change prevention is in short, preventing climate change, either by cutting the use of fossil fuels, which is most commonly discussed, or by extracting CO2 and other green house gasses from the atmosphere. The lather is often regarded as unfit for large-scale project, and an unrealistic technology.

So, mitigation fights the consequences of climate change and climate change prevention fights the actual climate change, eliminating the need for mitigation.

 

The above seems like a no brainer. Fight the problem at the root, right?

 

Unfortunately, most policymakers don’t see it that way. The here and now cost of climate change prevention, is far greater than mitigation, and their budgets don’t stretch 20, 50, or 100 years into the future.

 

I could find an endless list of links of policy makers stating, that it would be far cheaper to spend money on mitigation, than prevention. Instead, I’m going to give you an example, of why they are wrong.

 

These days the municipality of Copenhagen are implementing the most ambitious climate mitigation plan, even seen in our nation. Massive storm drains and runoff patches are being build, green areas planted, and sewage pipes expanded to cope with the added pressure.

 

The plan is even so ambitious, the solutions are being sold to New York.

The above is no doubt impressive, but as we already established, you have to attack the problem at the root.

 

A 2 degree increase in global mean temperature will still result in massive flooding. In my home city of Copenhagen, this means 225.000 people will loose their homes – about half the current population of the City. ScienceNordic made this video about the effects of just a 2 degree temperature rise, will have in Denmark’s capital:

All the storm drains in the world, would not prevent a flooding of this magnitude. The price of relocating the 225.000 people alone exceeds the price of mitigation. Then you have to add lost businesses and income, the cost of social benefits to cover unemployment and decease, the need for new infrastructure…. The list goes on and on.

 

I am not going to find loads of spreadsheet, and examples and use them to convince you, that preventing climate change, is a better investment than climate mitigation. Many, many others have done that.

I am just going to remind you, why it is we have to act. COP21 is happening right this moment. You can still write you local politician, or send a tweet at them, urging them to find a binding agreement in Paris.

It will cost you only 5 minutes of your time, but it might prevent 627 million world citizens from loosing their homes.

 

 

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

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! -Climate change denial, and how to overcome it

In this post, we’re gonna focus on overcoming climate change denial. This means we’re gonna talk about why addressing climate change feel overwhelming, and what you can do about it.

Now we’ve established I’m a +30 cinephile, let’s dig deeper into the truth about climate change, and why we would rather not know.

Before you read further, ask yourself this: Are you willing to give this post a fair change?

 

When the content gets hard to deal with, are you gonna close the tab and go back to puppies and facebook, or are you gonna keep reading?

 

You might as well be honest with yourself because I’m going to be honest with you. More than that, I’m going to shed light on that little voice inside us all, that starts crying when it all gets too real and too overwhelming. The voice that says ‘It can’t be this bad. I’m sure they’ve got it wrong. I’ll go back to reddit now, and look at people who dress like Disney characters’.

If you’re still here you’re already further than most

The truth is we have a dire situation on our hands. Newest data suggests, that we have now surpassed the safe level of atmospheric CO2, averaging at 397.7 ppm in 2014, with a peak 404 ppm in the spring of 2014. The agreed safe level is 400 ppm.

If no drastic measures are taken NOW, we are facing a temperature increase of about 4.5 Degrees Celsius.

This will make many nations look like Water World by the year 2100.

It will also likely result in a big decrease in fish population in the oceans. In combination with our current overfishing, this might result in the death of the ocean. Yes death, as in no more fish in the sea, and hence no more sushi for your chopsticks.

 

If the world does not act in regards to climate change, we are facing droughts, famines, the greatest migration problem ever seen, deforestation, desertification. All in all, a world that sucks.

Overcoming Climate change denial - we're gonna die

See, I told you I was a cinephile


Why isn’t anybody acting?

You already knew that the world is in a bad state. None of the above was news to you, right? So, is there nothing left to do? Should we just give up? No, there are plenty of ways to act.

If we’ve been hearing these warnings for many years now, why are we still on collision-course?

Why are there still heads of state skeptical of climate change? What’s don’t the majority of Americans worry about climate change? And why on earth is the government of my home nation systematically cutting and worsening our climate initiatives?

A part of the problem is, we’ve created this big a complex world, but our hardware, our brain, is monkey_Brain_MonaJensenstill set on ‘monkey’.

The psychical structure and functions of our brains haven’t changed for thousands of years.

As an unfortunate consequence of this, we relate to the world around us as if we still only had to attend to food, shelter, and coitus.

Thinking about what our actions today will bring us 50 years down the road, is just not a natural process for us. Which means..:

 We have to work for it.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of our brains system 1 and 2. Or the reptile- and the cognitive parts of our brain. In short, we have a lazy brain that wants to conserve energy. It does this, by not working too hard, and converting as many actions as it can, into habits we don’t need to think about – like walking.

You’re pretty skilled at walking. You don’t need to think about that too much. The same with driving a car, brushing your teeth, and talking with your mother-in-law.

All these things we do out of habit. They required a lot of energy and focus from us the first times we did them, and then, with practice and repetition, they become mindless habits.

You gotta work (that lazy brain), bitch

Climate change is not something we can do on autopilot. Grasping the full scope, and furthermore, accepting that we haven’t gained knowledge of the full scope yet, is a job for the cognitive brain. We have to invest energy. This is why it feels so overwhelming.

“What? There’s more? I don’t think I can take it!”

Yes, there is haWork_bitchrd work ahead.

The world’s ecosystems are in a dire state. 2015 has so far had the biggest hurricane ever recorded, the worst droughts ever recorded, and the worst forest fires ever recorded. 50% of the cases of extreme weather of 2014 were attributed to climate change.

 

You wouldn’t be reading this post if you didn’t already know that something is wrong, and you want it to stop being wrong. It not impossible, but it will require work.

Are you still reading? Well done, not only are you among the top percentage of people determined not to stick their head in the sand, and you also building your skill of using your cognitive brain with more ease.

Face the state of your life with determination. You can’t change your situation before you accept it.

What was that thing about it-security?

I fall into the same trap of a lazy brain. I have some really smart people in my network, who know a lot about IT- and data security. They tell me about IT-dangers, and what to do about it.

Every time I feel I have almost gotten up to speed and have a basic level of security, a new threat comes along and I have to learn everything all over again.

Then I think to myself: ‘Oh come on!! Just tell me what to do, already!!security_and_environmental_science

I just want to know, what program I need to install in order to make sure I’m ok in terms of IT security.

But as anyone with the faintest knowledge about IT knows, it’s so much more complex than that.

Just like fighting climate change and working for environmental preservation, is so much more than turning the water off, or buying a Prius.

If you’re not an environmentalist, it’s an immensely complex situation, and the more you learn about it, the more complex it gets. Just like I find IT security a much bigger subject the more I learn about it.

 

Making the complex manageable

Finally gaining this insight was a blessing and a curse. It became obvious that my post needed to be centered on making sense of the immense, and turning the mass of numbers and facts into something you could actually do.

 

This is also the reason for my environmental planner‘s ABCs. Which takes us full circle back to what you can do when facing the truth about climate change. I will cover this in the next blog post.