climate change, close to home

We have to make the climate message more social, because – as I said – if you only talk about glaziers and arctic ice or polar bears or Bangladesh or Pacific Islands – it’s way far for me. But if it’s something that happens in my network with something that people that I care about. Then suddenly it feels much more near and more personal, and more– Urgent too, because it’s here and now in a way.

—Per Espen Stoknes, on the You Are Not So Smart podcast

Last week on The Commons, we covered flooding in Bangladesh, a distant land far, far away. While the news in Bangladesh is terrible, Stoknes is right, it’s just not close enough to home. The opposite is also true – I’m feeling particularly disturbed about the floods happening so close to home and affecting people I know. Maybe these psychologists are onto something.

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hearts over charts

This week I heard an insightful podcast interview with psychologist Per Espen Stoknes, author of the book “What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming”.

In the book and the podcast, the author lays out what he calls the climate paradox – the more we know about climate change the less convinced we are that it’s real and the less action we take to fix the problem.

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hope over despair

It’s easy to read the news on climate change and think we’re totally f*cked. Especially if, like me, you live in the Midwest, where even believing it’s happening seems to put you in some conspiratorial minority.

We may be totally f*cked—that might even be highly likely—but what happens if we flip the script of despair and focus on the opportunities of this moment?

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introduction to carbon offsets

This week I’m flying to DC for the Peoples’ Climate March. I’m super excited, but one little detail of my trip has me puzzled… Flying massively increases my carbon footprint. How do I justify flying halfway across the United States in order to protest about climate change?

After poking around I was relieved to find that others have had this dilemma, and one suggested solution is to purchase carbon offsets. Then I could wipe my hands of the trip guilt, so to speak, right? Well, not so fast…

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how to talk to climate change deniers

Last week on The Commons, we talked about all the reasons people disagree with scientists on climate change. This disagreement is a big problem because it prevents us from making sound decisions and taking action. And by us I mean individuals, of course, but also our society. Our elected officials and corporations make decisions based on what they think we want, and if don’t bother with science, neither will they.

So the next step is to figure out how to talk to the “other side” in order to bring them around. Before we begin, let’s get a few things out of the way up front.

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why we disagree with scientists

There’s a reason scientists are marching on Washington on April 22nd. They’re sick of us. We aren’t listening to them – our opinions still differ from theirs and the politicians we elect don’t make policies based on their recommendations.

No issue is more significant of this struggle than climate change. According to many polls, including a Pew poll from 2016, only 48% of the American public believe climate change is due to human activity despite consensus among climate scientists. When asked about the findings of these scientists, only 27% of the public acknowledges the consensus.

The gap is huge between what we believe and what the scientific method as shown to be true.


As it turns out, many reasons…

  1. First, this shit is complex
  2. We have a faulty view of science
  3. Our brains can’t handle a problem like climate change
  4. So believe what our tribes believe
  5. Most influentially, what our political tribe believes
  6. Some of our tribes have a negative stereotype of environmentalists, and we don’t want to be one

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Should I be enjoying this weather?

I’m the guy who spent the last week trying to figure out if I was allowed to enjoy these unseasonably warm temperatures. I mean 75 and sunny, for multiple days, in February? This must be wrong…but it feels so right!

Turns out, Jay-Z feels the same way:

In all seriousness, yes, a vanishing winter (caused by human activity) is super fucked up and yes, it’s also okay to enjoy great weather. Preventing yourself from enjoying the present moment doesn’t make climate change go away. Being sad is not a solution.

This moral question really gets at the complexity of this struggle. An article on the Atlantic digs into this a little more and I explore the highlights below:

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