This dilemma might be familiar to you. You might recognise it in yourself or in someone, or others, around you.
This week I had a very interesting chat with my friend Frank (not his real name) off the back of my “What can I do?” My answer to global climate crises overwhelm post. He told me, frankly, that he was not doing everything he can – barely doing a thing, in fact – to fight the greatest threat to our existence.
We drilled down as to why. He’s a super intelligent guy, conscious and kind, and has a desire for truth. He explained it was because he “didn’t know what or who to believe”. Yep, he still had doubts on the science (how real is the threat?) and as to who is the authority on what could be done (should I bother even trying, Sarah, if there are competing messages?).
So he did nothing.
He has, in short, fallen prey to the New Denialism being pushed by conservative governments and the Murdoch press whose tactic for 30 years was to protect their economic/oil interests by claiming the “science was inconclusive” (absolutely false, even back in 1980, but their mammothly well-funded campaigns sure worked!). In the past 12 months, this tactic has been failing, and so it’s been replaced with the line that, well, “oops, the planet is stuffed, so you’ll have to adapt and get resilient”. Anyone in Australia will recognise this language, as of the past week, in our Prime Minister and his Government. Of course it means they can keep avoiding mitigation. And put the guilt, onus for action etc on us.
We drilled again. So, Frank, do you have doubts because you haven’t learned enough about the issue, the politics, the truth? He agreed it was. In part due to the overwhelm.
There’s a simple fix to that, I said. Read and learn.
For me, learning more and more, beats the overwhelm, guilt, shame and powerlessness that prevents action, plus it makes me feel better, because doing something makes us feel part of a movement forward.
I set a program. Frank is this kind of guy.
- Read responsible, impartial reports and informed opinion and commentary on the topic daily.
- Dedicate 30 minute a day to reading and learning on the topic, as you might exercise or meditation (Frank meditates twice a day)
- Then progress. Dedicate 60 minutes a day and so on. As I say, action begets more action. Start where you are. And accelerate.
I sent him this reading list…
A fun, let’s-get-awake-together climate crisis learning list for those of us who want to do everything we can
- The Guardian (Guardian Australia is the best source for the Australian bushfires crisis by a dry country mile.
- The New York Times especially their Climate Desk , op-ed pages and the Australian edition.
- New York and New Yorker magazines. Both run a lot of climate features by leading thinkers.
- Vox, especially David Robert’s columns.
- MotherJones. They have a great “recharge” newsletter that delivers the “good” climate news from around the globe.
- The Conversation, which is written exclusively by academics (I’ve provided the link to their environment section). A reader on Instagram shared this helpful info: “They also produce digestible 3 minute reads which are written in general language and not scientific jargon. Many of the universities now also do a similar thing where evidence is produced into plain language and short summaries. University of Melbourne’s one is called ‘Pursuit.’ If people are really interested in the pure academia, they should use Google Scholar and type in their search terms + systematic review, or meta analysis. It is technical, but often the conclusion at then end of the abstract can give you easily digestible findings. This process is where independent scientists actually review (and rate) evidence. It’s a powerful and transparent way to see synthesized evidence compiled and assessed.”
- The Monthly
- HEATED, a newsletter by the great climate journalist Emily Atkin. Here is a summary of what the newsletter has accomplished. in the last few months.
- Sean Doherty, former editor of Tracks surf magazine, on Instagram
- Years of Living on Instagram.
- In addition:I have my radio dialled into ABC Radio National (or an equivalent national public broadcaster eg NPR in the US). I have it on in the background all morning.
- I also share important, powerful and succinct reads on my Facebook page regularly. I know many of you use this is a curated feed for learning.
- Finally, if you’re wanting to fact check anything, or want to get background information, The Climate Council is where you need to head. You might prefer to follow them on Instagram – they have great tiles and “explainers” in their stories. As a head’s up it’s an independent non-profit organisation originally set up by the Liberal government (originally called the Climate Commission) to provide independent climate change information to the Australian public and media. There are fake news items spreading that it’s some sort of rich, corrupt lobby group funded by Tim Flannery (he’s one of the commissioners and is a scientists and leading climate commentator). It ain’t.