How we talk and what we see determines how we act
The climate has been changing since the Earth coalesced. It will continue to do so until it’s subsumed by the sun billions of years from now. The recent concern is that human beings have accelerated the rate of change—10 to 100 times faster than in the past 65 million years— to the point where the quality of life, perhaps even life itself, is being threatened.
In his 2001 book, The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery, Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission of the Federal Government reported, “The Earth’s average temperature is around 60º F. A rise of a single degree will decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of species, and most probably billions of people.” A 2017 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters estimates that Earth’s climate will be 1.5º F higher as early as 2026. By 2050, the physical world and lifestyles worldwide will be dramatically different. The ways in which it will be different is the challenge of this and the next three generations.”
A Statista report in September of 2020 noted that “The past years were the warmest years on record, where warming was driven largely by increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
How We Talk
In Climate: A New Story, Charles Eisenstein advises against “reductionistic war thinking,” and talking about destroying problems, even if the problem is climate change. The language of war and destruction, he says, “is an extension of the culture of death, domination and control that has led us to the verge of collapse.”
Instead, he invites us to adopt a framework of love which gives us permission to trust what is innate to us, namely “our love of life and our desire to save it.” His observation brought to mind the many ways we talk about issues—the war on drugs, fighting wildfires, battling cancer, defeating ISIS and so on. The language we’ve been using, largely adopted from the media’s propensity toward sensational and confrontational news stories, ads and soundbites has contributed to polarization. Instead, the changing climate could be a challenge that unites us.
High thoughts must have high language.
Aristophanes (Greek philosopher)
Simon Sinek Says We Got Global Warming Wrong. Michael Touchton explains Sinek’s criticism, that global warming has a marketing problem. “We’ve confused people with poor messaging and we’ve assumed that people’s better nature would lead them to act selflessly. Wrong.”
People need to be convinced, inspired, sold and left to feel like they’ve decided to act out of their own free will and self-interest.” Instead of talking about saving the planet 50 years out, he proposes that we talk about ourselves and loved ones being in danger. “We need to communicate exactly what the problem is in a way that people will immediately understand and emotionally feel. People get cancer… There is a cancer in our climate. And if we don’t act, there will be death.
What And How We See
Regarding significant issues like the rapidly changing climate, polarization is built-in by virtue of duality—opposing views. Rather than framing the matter in the language of competition, which encourages people to take sides and respond forcefully, sometimes violently, Eisenstein advises a shift in the frame to the language of love. “No matter the issue,” he says, “what’s required are shifts in perception and attitude toward—
- I have a strong point of view, but I will keep an open mind, willing to be convinced of a greater good for all.
- We are not in a war, battle or contest. We will work together to find the best decision, ideally not one that is right for me and wrong for you.
- Both our views deserve to be heard with equal respect and serious consideration.
- Both our views need to be supported by facts and debated with sound reasoning.
- Because we are in this together, an enlightened change of mind is highly respected.
- Lacking facts, our guideline for decision-making will be the optimization of benefit and minimization of harm to allâ€”people, environment, society, world.
- Before deciding, we will investigate and openly share the positive and negative consequences of our perspectives in consideration of people, environment, flora, fauna, society and planet.
- Once a vote is taken or an impartial judge decides, we will accept the outcome gracefully and move on.
- Maintaining a friendly and respectful working relationship is more important than having things go my way.”
Researching online for my screenplay, Love—Period!—about a musician who rises to prominence on concert stages worldwide because of his love of Earth and commitment to conservation—I appreciated the many celebrities who are articulating their concerns and personal lifestyle changes relative to climate change. Also, it’s encouraging that ordinary people, all over the world, are doing what they can to be part of the solution. There’s is not the language of war or the perception of a distant catastrophe, its the language of caring, personal responsibility and collaboration. Doing what can be done right now.
All living systems heal in true relationship. We need a deep revolution in how we relate to the rest of life—not as dominators of nature, but as partners in an evolutionary process that is much greater than ourselves. Only love can give us the kind of courage and willingness to offer ourselves to the more beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible.
Charles Eisenstein, Author, Climate: A New Story
Our language and nervous system combine to constantly construct our environment.
Francisco Varela, Chilean biologist, philosopher, neuroscientist
Photography Monographs. The pages can be turned in each book.