By Gabriel Jones-Thomson
Climate Change: Rising temperatures, melting ice caps, rising sea levels. Droughts. Floods. Extreme weather patterns. Death and destruction. Doomsday. Sound familiar? It should, for this is the manner in which climate change has been and continues to be communicated–by TV pundits, scientists, politicians, and environmental activists–and to put it bluntly, it doesn’t work.
The climate change argument, however accurate it may be, clearly attempts to ‘scare’ individuals into demanding action, to make whatever minimal steps possible to reduce their own carbon footprint, and most of all to convince them that climate change is happening now and necessitates an immediate response, ‘or else.’ Such scare tactics, rather than encouraging citizens to action, does exactly the opposite: turning away possible allies and provoking a debate concerning its scientific validity, and who can blame them. The ‘scare’ tactics utilized have a brutal underlying implication, carrying an accusatory finger that points itself at every human who hears it, saying: These melting ice caps, these rising sea levels, floods, droughts, and extreme weather, the health of the earth for the future generations, it’s all your fault. After all, everyone contributes to climate change each day, from the bus or car ride to the food that we chose to consume, and as a result the destruction caused by climate change engages emotions of guilt, in addition to the already present fear and helplessness perpetuated by the scare tactics. Ask any psychologist, and they will tell you that if you want to motivate a population, petrifying them with messages of doom, an exponentially worsening situation which they as individuals can do practically nothing to change, and implying their guilt and responsibility in the current situation, is not going to cut it.
Based on my experiences, climate change needs to be advocated not as a global disaster, but as a moral issue, and an issue of social justice. In future articles I hope to discuss the correlation between climate change and immigration, its disproportionate effect on impoverished and low-income peoples both at home and abroad, and the importance that the environmental movement actively work to incorporate minorities, such as people of color, into its ranks to shed its accurate stereotype of white middle-class. All justice groups, be it social, environmental, social, economic or others, are all just different folds in the same cloth. Only now are organizations starting to realize the connections between them, and that only by unifying these groups together will we be able to accomplish serious change.