Communicating climate change – both tricky and urgent
I decided to jump into the comments stream on this Guardian-hosted event on the best ways to communicate climate solutions, as below. The format was somewhat of a shocker, requiring a read-through of multiple comments coming in at all angles, and yet produced various pointers to useful resources on the subject. It’s clear we are still stumbling along with global, real-time, communication events but that doesn’t mean they are worthless, quite the opposite.
So this was my contribution:
My experiences of communicating climate change – both as a journalist and as a university lecturer – is that it’s damn difficult. Just yesterday my students were saying – yeah, yeah, we know all that but what can we do?
I showed them the excellent TED talk by photographer James Balog – its time-lapse shots of melting glaciers are very arresting
I think it’s also important to bring things back to the personal, which in this case meant me, to help people map climate change onto their own lives. That is not for some personal glory trip but to try to make the abstract real.
So with me, I reported for Reuters at Kyoto in 1997, reported as an independent journalist on the personal experience of joining direct-action protests in Copenhagen in 2009 and wrote a book on the failures of journalism to tackle complex global issues such as climate change in Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies. The work represents a trajectory covering 30 years of thinking about climate change and how to tackle it. I also recently turned vegetarian, in part for the sorts of arguments presented in the documentary Cowspiracy. They loved that part, a classroom full of French 100% meat-eaters.
Some of them seemed to get it, many probably thought me plain barking mad, but what the hell, these things take time.
Other people’s responses, which include ridicule, disbelief and also aggressive counter argument and worse, are part of what we all have to deal with as communicators of climate change.
We must factor our capacities to deal with those reactions into our work.