A deer standing in the middle of the road while you approach it at 65 mph in a one-ton SUV seems to prove that many animals aren’t very smart at all. Especially when you get closer and closer, honk your horn, and they continue to stare at you fixed-eyed and unmoved by the danger you present to them. Of course, deer are not stupid. Hunters can attest to their extremely keen sense of smell, hearing, and the slightest disturbance to their environment. So why the incredible deer/car collision rate (18,000 deer per year in Connecticut)? Adaptation. Deer had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to wolves and bears and only a little over a century to adapt to vehicles. Something humungous coming noisy and blazing-eyed straight towards them is, for all practical purposes, invisible.
That’s how we are reacting to Climate Change—a species watching a disaster coming straight us and doing little to react. Humans aren’t stupid. We’ve put men on the Moon. We’ve produced a Jane Goodall. But Climate Change, without an immediate shift in our collective consciousness, remains invisible to us. Climate Change isn’t sexy, it doesn’t do tricks for us, it’s not talked about much, it’s slow and boring, it doesn’t appear on our news, and unless you’re focusing on the science it’s almost imperceptible.
Almost. In fact there are many pressing consequences of Climate Change right in our Rochester, NY region if you’re paying attention or getting your facts from science. This, from a list gained from numerous climate studies and posted on RochesterEnvironment.com: ‘Real changes in our region because of Climate Change’: Annual temperature increases, increase in intensive precipitation events, bird population shifts, reduced snowpack, earlier ice break up, increase in lake effect snowfall, increased plant frost damage, plant growth and decomposition affected, species shifting locations, streamflow changes, amphibians responding to Climate Change, invasive species thriving, wildlife affected by Climate Change, increase in heat-related illnesses, increase in incidents of ground-level ozone, livestock affected more by heat stress, timing of seasons is off, Northeast extreme weather increasing, more extreme weather driving up liability claims, NYS coastal sea level rising, Climate Change causing plants to shift, and forest pests increasing.
We thrived during the 10,000 years of the Holocene with a relatively stable climate, a climate we couldn’t have imagined that we could influence any more than we could move the moon in the sky. Since the Industrial Revolution, where our greenhouse gas emissions skyrocketed, things have changed. We’ve flipped the thermostat to ‘very hot’ without our even noticing that we did. However, ignorance of the laws (of physics) is no excuse. We must adapt quickly to a warmer world and stop further warming, or we’ll be unprepared for what’s coming at us.
This brings me to my point: How do we inform humanity about the all-inclusive existential danger that Climate Change presents our species on a level and a speed that will matter? In an incredibly pithy and cogent argument by a local philosopher and a prominent climate scientist, they explain the present status of the problem.
Limiting global warming to 2°C: the philosophy and the science Industrial civilization must become technologically, economically, politically, and morally sustainable to hold the earth’s temperature below 2°C (3.6°F) higher than its preindustrial average. The problem is not insurmountable. It is possible, then, that we’ll benefit in the long run from having to deal with human-caused global warming, by being forced to mature politically and ethically. As of yet, however, the world has largely failed to move beyond moral, political, and economic parochialism. Our continued failure will supplant the promise of sustainability with a legacy of collapse. (October 21, 2014) The Conversation
How do we get this message and the sense of urgency across to a species, however smart, that can’t see the thing barreling down on it?
Dr. Hansen, foremost NASA climate scientist, explained the situation to Congress in 1988, but that didn’t do it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formed a worldwide organization to collect scientific information and inform the world, but that hasn’t lowered worldwide greenhouse gases. We’ve had over 20 climate talks, we’ve march 400,000 strong through the streets of New York City (700,000 worldwide), there are books galore, films, a very popular Showtime series “ Years of Living Dangerously” that brings top stars and amazing technology to bear on this issue; there are a zillion climate studies, there is voluntary program created by our state (see Climate Smart Communities) to help communities to adapt—but few have opted-in. Politics have failed us. Leaders have failed us. Business has failed us. And most alarmingly, our information system, mainstream media, where we collectively inform ourselves of important stuff, has failed us. What’s left?
You. Become the media!
When one reviews all the local news every day, it is astounding at the discrepancy of how much and how thoroughly Climate Change is reported globally and how meager this news is locally. If we only depended on local media to accurately portray the world we actually live in, a warming world, we Rochesterians are essentially blind on every aspect of this worldwide crisis.
We need new ideas on how to get the deer in us to stop glazing at the headlights and focus on the problem that’s going to run us over.
Check out this amazing new media format that ‘gives you a voice, putting your stories happening now before climate scientists and journalists.” CLIMATE AT YOUR DOORSTEP, from The Daily Climate. Go around the dysfunctional media and link up directly with the folks doing the science and reach the public with the information they need to know.
One of the most creative opportunities in our region is a new kind of film festival to do just what I’ve been talking about. In the Rochester area create your own environmental message and win a prize:
Fast Forward Film Festival Showcasing New Environmental Perspectives. Presented by WXXI/Little Theatre, George Eastman House, RIT, and the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute. The Fast Forward Film Festival invites residents in the greater Rochester area to submit independent short films (5 minutes or less) that inspire a deeper connection to the environment. As an incubator for innovative thinking and artistic expression, FFFF encourages films that tap into the local experience, compel audiences to engage with the community, and raise environmental awareness. An acclaimed jury will review the films and select winners who will receive a $1,000 cash prize for each of these categories: (1) most inspiring, compelling, and engaging, (2) most unique perspective, (3) strongest call to action. Submission deadline is February 27, 2015. Read more at: www.fastforwardroc.org"
The FFF is an amazing opportunity to think outside the box on messaging Climate Change. What might some folks do for this film? Try something wild. Mimic something that’s gone viral on the Internet and tailor it to Climate Change messaging. Connect with your friends and crowdsource ideas. Demonstrate the Climate Change has gotten personal. Zen it: How, in just five minutes, do you get everyone to pay attention to this worldwide crisis quick enough and on a level that will matter? Sure it’s a challenge, but even the exercise, thinking about the most important crisis of our age, will produce something better than denial.