The Elephant in the Room?

Ok, enough. 

Maybe that’s the first thought that runs through your head when you read yet another article with dramatic headlines on how the climate is rapidly undergoing ecologically devastating or economically ruinous changes. We’re seeing it everywhere. Britain is experiencing the worst drought since 1976. The Northeast United States had the hottest weather in March in at least 118 years- it broke 15,292 national records. Mongolia, Thailand, Kenya, the Horn of Africa….name me a place, and I’ll tell you about unprecedented droughts, floods, or extreme weather events that have been increasingly linked to changes in climate.

So why aren’t we doing more about it, and why haven’t we seen greater political mobility? Daniel Gilbert made a speech for Harvard Thinks Big , in which he argued that we’re not yet rioting on the street because global warming lacks 4 key qualities. He claims it isn’t intentional, immoral, imminent, or instantaneous enough to lead to the kind of global cooperation this free-rider problem demands. “It’s a threat to our tomorrow, but it’s not a threat to our evening.”

Maybe we need to think more closely about how we communicate on climate change. Renowned economist Ted Nordhaus argues in his book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility that environmental advocates are the problem, not the solution. The facts can be really depressing and not necessarily the push the layman needs to get off his coach and take action. As Nordhaus muses, what if Martin Luther King Jr. had written his speech from the perspective of “I have a nightmare” rather than “I have a dream”?

I don’t have the answer to what approach can be most effective in getting the message across that climate change has crashed our party. But we need to start getting serious because to get back “on track”, we can’t afford to party like it’s the end of the world…or on the other extreme, like it’s 1730, pre-Industrial Revolution.

So what do you think is the best way to clarion call this message and make it stick? Here are two short ads/clips taking two very different approaches to the message on environmental stewardship, one humorous, and one with a more serious streak. How could we get YOU to reconsider your lifestyle choices and your efforts as an active, involved citizen?

Daniel Gilbert speaks at Harvard Thinks Big:



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