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Reframing the Here and Now: How to Fight Back on the Climate Front


Reframing the Here and Now: How to Fight Back on the Climate Front

Kumar Venkat

Climate change programs are up for elimination with the proposed 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan. While environmentalists are protesting this, we are not seeing a grassroots uprising to fight this in the way that Obamacare repeal was fought and defeated.


Of course the environmental organizations already have plans to fight back. In the streets there will be the People's Climate March in DC and satellite marches all over the country. Lawsuits be will coming thick and fast. Much of what Trump did requires the EPA to come up with alternatives and there will be public comments taken and public hearings held. The urgency surrounding climate change is that it is an existential threat and also, adaptation efforts which may be unsuccessful in the long run will cost astronomical sums of money. In some areas of the country where sea level is becoming an increasing threat the urgency is growing locally and efforts to adapt are already underway in many places. I would not count on the world leaders influencing Trump since he wants to basically distance himself from other parts of the world, particularly where the majority of people are not white, and create a white nationalist society that is largely insular. And whether he loses sleep at night worrying that the climate scientists are right is anyone's guess. In any case, he seems intent on bulldozing ahead toward what is obviously a disaster on a global scale that could wind up ending modern civilization.


We're constantly being told to soft pedal communication on climate catastrophe, put it in other terms, not to say the words "environmental" or
"Earth" or ... not to mention climate change, global warming... etc. etc. We're told over and over to talk about clean energy, not climate; try to sell nucklehead reactors or supposedly non-dirty coal or cap and something corporate profit generators--to reach conservatives and not scare people.

The problem is, none of this works any better than simply telling the truth about climate catastrophe. The Obama administration version didn't work. I've read and tried out the advice from dozens of articles about how to communicate about climate cataclysm and while some had useful tips, none of them taken as a whole were any better than simply telling the truth--explaining climate change, the solutions, the political situation. The solutions we're told to use to convince conservatives are no better. Coal is dirty. Period. Cap and trade or cap and dividend alone won't work anywhere near--_nowhere remotely close to being near--fast enough to save civilization. Trying to build enough nukes will not only fail but distract from and slow the development of the real solutions (efficiency, clean safe renewable energy, forestry and agriculture changes, changes in housing, transport and land use)--probably so much we'll fail completely to save civilization. The only way to succeed is to replace fossil fuels with efficiency and clean safe renewable energy, and transform land use as fast as humanly possible through a US WWII-like climate mobilization.

The problem is being completely misdiagnosed. People are apparently compelled to blame environmentalists for the fact that the rest of society is insane and denies the primacy of ecology over all other ways of thinking. For most of human history, we could exist without conscious awareness of our place in the ecological community of both our local and global ecosystems. The technology we possess now makes that impossible. Every person has to be educated intellectually and emotionally about basic and human ecology from childhood on, and as part of that, massive adult education about the whole truth of the climate crisis has to happen. Especially in the US.

The best way to educate and convince people is in some kind of community, either theirs or an ad hoc one, supporting people in processing the emotions that come up about what they're learning.


The President has given no hint, not the slightest, that he loses any sleep wondering if climate change could possibly be true. His dominant characteristic is an absolute lack of willingness to admit he coukd possibky be wrong. Even if rising oceans reach the penthouse levels of Mar-da-Lago, he'll find some excuse to explain why he didn't think he should have taken some sort of preventive action


I've come to realize that I feel like a fool when I'm doing my small part to recycle, consume less and save energy. Why? Because we're bombing our environment to hell. I just no longer see how our individual actions can make up for 26,000+ bombings a year in the Middle East alone, plus "war games" in our waters and forests, and nuclear tests being conducted all over the world. On paper, with no car, I have a zero carbon footprint. In reality, since I live in the nation that exports and utilizes the most weapons in the world, and they are all carbon, nuclear or at the very least, lead-based (bullets), my carbon footprint is horrific. I still do what I do but it feels ridiculous. If even the Green and Socialist parties do not insist on ending the "top secret" designation of our war industry - which is what has stopped scientists from being able to assess just how much damage it's doing - I just feel like a fool, trying to compensate for that, plus out-of-control development that pours concrete over our green areas, plus mining, plus fracking, plus drilling, plus consumer-addiction. At this point, it feels that the only way to save our planet's environment is with a worldwide anti-war movement that is stronger here than anywhere else in the world.


It's very easy to say that we need to reframe the climate change discussion, but that raises several key issues and challenges:

  1. Beware assuming that everyone is looking for the same climate message. In reality there are hundreds of different audiences that are looking for different messages in order to be motivated to act. So the "catastrophe" message is the right message for some, "green jobs" for another.
  2. While it's great to say we need to make climate change a near-term, backyard, economically relevant problem in order to get people to act, people have been saying that for years. The problem is that that's VERY difficult to do with climate change. In the near-term climate change is hard to distinguish from natural variability. Climate change in your backyard is probably much less significant than in other places on the planet. And as long as the economic externality isn't internalized via carbon pricing, climate-friendly decision-making is at an inherent disadvantage.

I'm not at all suggesting that we don't need to figure out how to deliver this and other messages to receptive audiences, and that is in fact the whole point of the Climate Web But we also need to think a lot more systemically about how to make progress on a problem like climate change, which can be thought of as 1,000,000 jigsaw puzzle.