Calling all Humanospherians: We need new lingo for our slow crawl toward crisis.
Humanoclasm? Geocrash? Globapocalypso?
It’s a hot time in much of the Western United States, which means we will see more stories about global warming. President Barack Obama, last week, proposed a plan to reduce our nation’s industrial carbon emissions as part of an effort aimed at fighting climate change, aka global warming.
“The question is not whether we need to act,” Obama said last week. “The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
Eh, the problem here isn’t lack of courage. And this transient heat wave likely won’t do much more than other past heat waves have done to prompt popular urgency and action.
The problem is partly how we talk about this threat.
A focus on ‘global warming’ seems to have lost rhetorical power, especially given some new, confusing scientific findings that appear to indicate planetary warming has slowed even as atmospheric carbon emissions have hit new records. It isn’t just about warming anyway.
The term ‘climate change’ is also hardly sufficiently scary. It’s boring, actually. In Seattle, I suspect many of us kind of like the changes we’ve been seeing over the last few years. (Some of us Northwest long-timers believe we are getting a lot less of that chronic gray drizzle this region is so infamous for and more tropics-like rainfall, with a nice quick downpour followed by what we call ‘sun breaks.’)
What’s needed is a more encompassing and motivating term since what’s really happening is about something much bigger and more potentially frightening – altering the chemistry of the air we breathe, turning the oceans acid, cutting millions of people off from access to water, massively disrupting our already strained ‘system’ of producing food….
My Seattle buddy, polymath and Humanosphere contributor Joe Brewer (whos is also part of /TheRules campaign) has helped launch an effort to address this problem by crowd-sourcing a new meme for climate change.
I support Joe in his effort, but want to put out a much simpler call for new lingo (since I am still not sure what a ‘meme’ is ….). The point is this phenomenon is not just about rising temperatures – or the increase in stormy weather and fires worldwide that some experts believe is driven by a changing climate or global warming.
No, this is much bigger. I propose we stop calling this climate change or global warming and try to come up with something that truly captures what is going on.
It needs to capture the damage caused by humans that will hurt ourselves and generations to come. It needs to be personal. Making a granola-head argument about hugging trees and loving the planet doesn’t cut it anymore. Activists have fought the good fight for decades and progress is slow. Why not emphasize the personal costs?
We need a catchy way to say we-are-screwed-if-we-keep-doing-what-we-are-currently-doing-and-our-grandchildren-are-really-screwed-thanks-to-us.
Human beings are clever creatures, but still somewhat limited when it comes to reacting to slow-moving, incremental threats to our survival. We like to think we’re rational and blessed with the ability to plan for the future as opposed to a planet full of critters that largely just react to stimuli.
Yet we are still animals, primates to be exact, and most of our neurological system evolved to process tasks at hand – helping us decide whether to run from a lion, assault another angry chimp, have sex or eat that thing. Most of our brain is not set up for words or number but for imagery. We’re only partly rational and interested in what we call thinking.
We’ve launched a few trial balloons, but they are not quite there.
EarthFucked is not quite appropriate and Humanoclasm sounds like a garage band. How about we put our heads together? Share your ideas in the comments section here or tweet your ideas using #climatechanged. We will gather the best ideas and let you vote on your favorite some time next week.
Tom and Tom