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How to speak about climate challenge
I am puzzled, along with everyone I know. How to speak in a time of crisis? That is not so hard if it seems we are discussing a crisis we are going through and expect to come out the other side. But if the crisis is probably extinction? To speak pessimism is to scare. To speak optimism is to lie.
Two approaches that seem tolerable and ethical. The first is scenarios: to examine parallel paths into the future, comparing them. But the problem doesn’t go away because we find that the examination in the scenarios process leads to some scenarios that are not plausible and hence rejected and some plausible seem plausible because objections are not yet fully considered. It is much easier to show that a scenario does not survive facts, but much harder to show that a scenario is going to happen.
The second ethical approach s to develop a single narrative of what is happening without drawing conclusions. “The food system in Burunai1 is collapsing”. But not moving on to conclusions like “Therefore the population dies.” Outs are possible. The problem is the speaker is very likely holding back thoughts already thought of how bad the loss of the food system will be with impossibly large migrations and no substitute crops. Is the speaker lying? I don’t think so but the speaker will feel corrupted by the process.
Another approach is philosophy. “The major task of philosophy is to learn how to die well.”
You were going to die anyway, only the timing is in doubt. The loss of a life is inevitable. So maybe we should just opt out, find some shade, play your guitar, write a poem, and try to make sense of what is happening. Venus became a dead planet through temperature. Part of the process. of planet formation, sphericalizing, until uninhabitable. “This issue confronts us. Do the best and accept the inevitable.”
But maybe staying engaged we might find a few more tolerable days and this is worthwhile. It is what we have been doing anyway before covid and climate. My own preference, so far is to tell it exactly as facts and reason tell us. No solution proposed scales to the size of the problem. The mass of co22, population, especially when we include other species. the weight of trash, all slowly accumulated, are beyond the reach, so far, of our technologies and our politics.
My belief is that hard facts are needed more than soft hopes. And we need radical imagination and radical actions.
already in the atmosphere produced by several billion vehicles over nearly 200 years. It would require a similar effort to take it out