No one knows anything, so everyone should just do their thing
David Roberts wrote: "What I take from the social science of climate-change communications is that no one knows much of anything about what kinds of messages and messengers have what kinds of long-term effects on behavior. At the very least, these remain deeply subjective judgments."
Given that, it seems the wise course of action on climate communications is to encourage diversity, experimentation, even experimentationw in novels and movies, and most of all, a spirit of charity and the assumption of good faith toward others who are attempting to tell the same story in different ways.
It is a very big story. Not everyone needs to present it as a scientist would; not everyone needs to understand it as a scientist would understand it. There are as many ways to approach it as there are people, room for fear and hope and wonder and suspense and sadness and curiosity and all the rest of human experience. One of those ways to approach this is through the publication of cli-fi novels and the release of cli-fi movies.
On climate comms, I think people are better off trusting the ancient art of Knowing Your Audience.If you're a novelist, write that cli-fi novel. If you're a movie producer, make that cl-fi movie. Do what you’re good at; speak to people you think you might be able to reach. David Wallace-Wells was good at reaching millions of casual magazine readers. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is out talking to evangelicals and conservatives. Her fellow climate scientist Michael Mann is delivering facts to Bill Maher’s audience (no mean feat). Bill McKibben is writing evocative, terrifying essays. Al Gore is doing his 24 Hours of Reality thing. Reporters at E&E and the New York Times climate desk are staying on top of breaking news. Analysts at places like Carbon Brief are bringing the numbers and charts. Young activists are connecting climate change to economic justice and urbanism.
John Abraham, a scienist, wrote a very good oped at the Guardian on this:
The climate-o-sphere is full of people telling this big story in a bunch of different ways, emphasizing different things, bringing different levels of fear, hope, or dispassion to the task. Let's also pay attention to the rise of cli-fi novels and movies as tools to further the discussion.
Will any of it resonate? Will it, in part or collectively, inspire any democratic action? Hell if I know. Hell if you know. It’s a big story, though, and we need lots more people telling it with cli-fi novels and movies, too.
So, yes, scientific accuracy is important. But we should also remember that humans are complicated and diverse and need all sorts of cli-fi narratives, images, facts, tropes, and other forms of group reinforcement to really get something this big. It’s a lot to take in, especially if, like most people, you don’t think like a scientist.
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