I wrote a newsletter earlier this week listing several calls to climate action in light of the harrowing, yet unsurprising IPCC Climate Assessment that dropped early Monday morning. You can read that newsletter here. In addition to those calls to action, the following books and media recommendations may help you feel less doomed.
The New Climate War
If renowned atmospheric scientist Dr. Michael E Mann says we aren’t doomed, who am I, foodie layperson, to argue?
“Widespread and Severe.’ The Climate Crisis Is Here, But There’s Still Time to Limit the Damage | My commentary for @Time Magazine on the brand new IPCC 6th Assessment climate report just out this morning:https://t.co/9U5aLkxlDd@IPCC_ch #IPCC #AR6— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) August 9, 2021
I highly recommend Mann’s latest book, The New Climate War. Mann may be best known for the iconic hockey stick graph (now a scythe) which shows global surface temperatures gently sloping downward for a thousand years (the handle), followed by a sudden steep uptick beginning around 1900 (the blade pointing upward).
The New Climate War outlines how vested interests—the fossil fuel companies, their sham think tanks, well-funded lobbyists and bought politicians—can no longer deny the reality of climate change and that burning fossil fuels drives it. So, to keep the oil flowing and the money pouring in, they’ve moved onto more devious tactics, “an array of powerful Ds: disinformation, deceit, divisiveness, deflection, delay, despair-mongering, and doomism,” all of which lead to inaction.
Many of my readers who spend time on social media will recognize the tactic of divisiveness. The fossil fuel industry exploits rifts in the climate activist community, such as,
the ongoing debate over the role of personal behavior versus systemic change. (It also includes rifts involving the politics of identity, and matters of gender, age, and race.) When the climate discourse devolves into a shouting match over diet and travel choices, and becomes about personal purity, behavior-shaming, and virtue-signaling, we get a divided community unable to speak with a united voice. We lose. Fossil fuel interests win.Michael E Mann, The New Climate War
Mann refers to this as a “wedge strategy.” He also calls the debate a false dilemma, stating that while collective change will much more quickly bring about the necessary changes to avert catastrophe, we need both individual and collective change.
Throughout the book, Mann debunks myths and disinformation in a calm, measured manner.
All We Can Save
Edited by scientists Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson, the All We Can Save anthology serves as an inspiring call to action. It includes essays, art and poetry of women leading on climate—and making progress. This diverse group of scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, designers and more lay out the strategies for the necessary reshaping of our society. Rather than feeling doomed, you’ll want to roll up your sleeves and get to work after reading this.
You may also want to consider hosting a reading circle to discuss the book within a small group. Community must play a role in addressing the climate crisis and a reading circle offers an ideal vehicle to engage your people. Go here for more info on circles.
And go here to listen to one of my favorite essays in the book, Sarah Miller’s “Hell or High Water,” in which the author, posing as the wealthy wife of a Bay Area tech-bro, browses through several beachfront luxury condos in flood-prone, construction-booming Miami in order to discover what exactly delusional real-estate brokers tell clients about climate change.
Under a White Sky, The Nature of the Future
Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the Pulitzer-winning The Sixth Extinction, has written a new book: Under a White Sky, The Nature of the Future. In it, she discusses the control of the control of nature.
Kolbert uses Asian carp as one example of attempted control of previous control that went horribly wrong. In order to divert the cesspool that the Chicago River had become in the 19th century, engineers reversed the direction of the river, forcing it to flow instead into the Des Plaines River and eventually, down the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico. This redirection involved creating the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which, for the first time, connected the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes Basin.
In the 60s and 70s, around the time of spontaneously combusting US rivers and lakes, Asian carp—which as it turns out, conquer ecosystems—were introduced to clean up these waters. Today the prolific carp are within close proximity to the Great Lakes. If they reach the lakes, they will devastate them. So, engineers have stepped in again by electrifying the canal in order to create a barrier that (hopefully) keeps the fish from jumping—or rather, swimming—the gap. “First you reverse a river. Then you electrify it,” Kolbert writes.
The book ends with a chapter on solar geoengineering, or the more palatable “solar radiation management” (i.e., shooting particles into the atmosphere in order to dim the sun). This won’t prevent heating or address the source of heating, but will ostensibly prevent the building heat from reaching us down below—as long as we continue to spray greater and greater amounts of particles into the sky as the planet heats. What could possibly go wrong?
As with The Sixth Extinction, I couldn’t put this book down. Somehow Kolbert manages to be humorous despite the subject matter.
News: The Guardian
I subscribe to the New York Times and skim the CBC website for news back home but I turn to The Guardian for climate news first thing every morning (and yet remain hopeful). I read the Guardian for climate news not only because I appreciate the excellent, unflinching coverage, but also because most other sites have no climate news.
If the public has no clue how dire the situation has become, how can we possibly respond accordingly? Even the day after the IPCC issued its report, the story no longer remained front-page news on many news sites. How can this be?
The Guardian features a prominent environment tab on its homepage like a grownup.
Podcast: How to Save a Planet
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, one of the editors of the anthology All We Can Save, also co-hosts a fabulous podcast with Alex Blumberg, called How to Save a Planet. At the end of each episode, the hosts provide listeners with several doable calls to action, from the collective down to the more individual. Because I live in California, I’ve embedded the episode on wildfires below. Please give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed.