Communicating Climate Change: What Can I Do Next?

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We asked the speakers at the 2015 Dorothy Schwartz Forum on Art, Science & the Humanities: Communicating Climate Change to share their thoughts on steps we could all take or resources to help us engage with the topic. Here’s what they said.

Andrew Pershing

  1. Skeptical Science; a great source for information on the science behind climate change.
  2. Gwynn Guilford, “The enigma behind America’s freak 20-year lobster boom;” a great piece on how warming waters and fisheries changes resulted in the current lobster boom.
  3. Rebecca Kessler “Fast-Warming Gulf of Maine Offers Hint of Future for Oceans;” another piece on warming in the Gulf of Maine.
  4. Katherine Mills et al., “Fisheries Management in a Changing Climate: Lessons from the 2012 Ocean Heat Wave in the Northwest Atlantic;” a readable academic article on the 2012 heat wave and its impact on Maine’s lobster fishery.

Andrew works at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Thomas Tracy

  1. Learn

Continue to explore and discuss the latest scientific assessments of climate change: e.g., read the IPCC 2014 Synthesis Report and view the “movie version,” i.e., their 15 min video introduction.

  1. Lobby

Advocate for a revenue neutral tax on carbon or a cap-and-trade system.

  1. Live

Pause and notice beauty; take joy in the world around us; cultivate the eye of compassion for all members of the web of life to which we belong. That’s how we appreciate what is at stake in this effort and find the energy to persist in it.

Michel Droge

Mostly it’s about awareness, connection, and care.

What can artists do?

If we as artists are taking the time to connect with what is happening around us in a meaningful way and then finding ways to communicate how that reality feels and what it means on a soul level, then that’s one thing we do. We raise consciousness. We encourage our friends, families, communities, collectors, public to do the same. We lead the way to new thinking , experimentation and we birth new ideas from this conscious connection and time spent with truths. And we make space to feel it, to understand it, and to find new ways to deal with that reality.

And what can the public do?

Make communities. Connect with the environment by taking care of themselves and their land. Make gardens, help the bees, notice what’s hard right now to notice. Read about what’s happening that we can’t yet see. Talk about it. Try to do something better than we do now. Don’t buy things that make things worse. Be grateful. Try to share. Find something you connect with and that is somehow good for more than just yourself and do that thing, whatever it is. Maybe just making stuff beautiful helps. It connects us back to where we stand. And it takes time to do careful and caring things.

I ask my students to walk, draw, and explore. If you take the time to draw something then you have to really see it, and to really see something is an act of love. I ask my students to love where they live, to learn what is going on, to feel their connection. If we connect, then we care, and if we care, then we can act more easily. We can choose things more naturally that will help—instead of destroy.

If we raise our consciousness and we connect with our environment and we care about how our actions affect the greater world, then some change can happen…and even if and when everything falls apart…we will be aware, connected, prepared, and community centered and we will be better at taking care of each other and the land and the animals. And that will make it all easier, richer, and kinder… no matter what. There’s more everyday we can do.

Michel Droge’s work can be found at https://micheldroge.wordpress.com/.

Jan Piribeck

There are infinite possibilities in terms of forging partnerships and collaborations between individuals, organizations and institutions to enhance communication about climate change. My recommendation regarding next steps is to encourage artists, scientists and humanities scholars to:

  1. Be proactive in learning about the research and creative work that is going on within our cultural and scientific communities in Maine;
  2. Reach out to those with whom there is an affinity and have conversations; and
  3. Consider matching resources and applying for funding to support projects that “communicate climate change.”

Learn more about Professor Piribeck’s project “Envisioning Change: Sea Level Rise in Casco Bay.” 

Jennifer DePrizio

To continue practicing Visual Thinking Strategies, one great resource is a weekly feature on the New York Times website, “What’s Going On in This Picture.

Susanne Moser

  1. Pay very close attention to the people you elect to Congress (House and Senate) and the White House, and then do go vote and take at least one other friend who might otherwise not go.
  2. Break the public climate silence, and share how you feel about it, ask others how they feel about it, invite them into dialogue. Don’t get into science debates, but invite people into a dialogue in which the goal is to learn from each other and find common ground. (#3 might then follow, if you and your friends agree on that…)
  3. Purchase or borrow the book called Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living and commit to reading it as a family or with your friends or with a group you are already part of (in church, at work, some other social purpose). Learn about what makes the biggest difference in your lifestyle, discuss it, and support each other in taking steps (one at a time!) to lowering your own footprint. You can try it going alone, but it’s easier, more fun, and more impactful if you do it together.

Susanne Moser’s work can be found at http://www.susannemoser.com/.

Maine Fishermen’s Oral History Initiative

This 2014 oral history project of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, funded in part by the MHC, explored the changes along the Maine coast as seen and told by fishermen. It’s a wonderful use of the humanities to highlight fundamental shifts in our environment.