Here’s my approach to environmental journalism in this age of consequential complexity and click-seeking news as noise
I lived in American Samoa for a while in the mid ‘80s, a stunningly beautiful island. I remember one day snorkeling along a rocky portion of beach and coming to a very small sandy section, only to find a bunch of plastic water bottles and disposable baby diapers washed up onto the sand. I learned then what your experiences show, which is that it is largely the people living in material security who focus on environmental issues.
This is clearly shown in a large global 2014 UN developmental priorities survey, where in poor countries energy security ranks far above climate change as a major concern--- climate change ranks dead last. In rich countries where people are living in energy security, climate change ranks as a major concern.
Scientists, policy makers, journalists use the word “we” a lot when discussing solutions to climate change--- we need to decarbonize, “ we have to find a way… to make the world a little better than we found it”, “what do we want to be when we grow up?” My point is that this inclusive sounding “we” is really the discourse of the energy secure stratum of the global population.
Passion vs. Detachment? The word that occurs to me is Balance.
It is the day after Thanksgiving 2022 and I am reading your story of how you evolved into the person as journalist and I am appreciating the reflection on the past decades of your life on the climate beat, especially the challenges of working under The Old Grey Lady. You shared about learning the Portuguese/Brazilian term "saudade" and I resonate with that. Just last night I read an article in The Big Think about the Swedish word, "lagom" which is definitely a concept that needs to be put into our human reality. I think I want to be Goldilocks when I grow up. Give me a few more weeks during these American consumer holidays to adapt. And as you have referenced Emerson, we need to fall forward without falling down. Thanks for exposing the uncertainty and risks we face in our world. Here is the article about lagom. https://bigthink.com/thinking/swedish-philosophy-lagom-just-enough/
Thank you for sharing this and to Jennifer Browdy’s comment as well.
I have been thinking a great deal about these choices. How do we change behaviors to draw down emissions? What does a public health education campaign entail to convey how, why and what has to do done? What can we say to reach the values that spark people to change?
Most importantly how do we address regulatory capture to make the change?
I appreciate your memoir of what experiences led you to you current path.
The recent 2021 World Health Organization AQI guidelines gives us a pathway to draw down emissions through interim targets based on health data. We formed a group to implement these standards while developing a public health campaign. We hope to enlist the help of journalism students and health scientists along with environmental justice community members. This has not been done here in the US. We are at the beginning. Hopefully, we are about to step outside our understanding of what worked and create a way to drawdown emissions that will save lives. Ultimately we need to turn off the slow drip of poison that has a very large cumulative impact.
This is a wonderful example of what I call "purposeful memoir," Andy, and you are describing a journey similar to what I have been on, in regards to how best to contribute to a positive future. Science is important, but science must be informed by ethics, philosophy, spirituality--a deeper understanding of why we are here and what our right relationship could be with each other and our world. I am so glad you are turning in this direction in your influential reporting and writing. Do you have a purposeful memoir in the works, too?
Have you been following the work of Jem Bendell, Rupert Read, Joanna Macy? I am about to launch a new course at the Bard Open Society University Network borrowing Read's "thrutopia" idea and encouraging students to collaboratively write a research-informed "thrutopia"--because I think we are quite saturated with dystopian visions of the future, and we will not be able to create what we cannot first imagine. Imagination is key to a thriving future! Or, as Einstein put it, you can't solve a problem from within the same paradigm that created it.
Cheering you on,
Jennifer Browdy, PhD