Welcome to Day 3 of the University Press Week blog tour. Today’s theme is How to Be an Environmental Steward. We asked some of our authors to answer the question,“What is one thing that more people need to understand about the current global climate crisis?”
Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology at Duke University and co-author of Sea-Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores
Much of the CO2 we are putting in the air now will be with us for many years. If we don’t control and lower CO2 emissions within the next 2 decades, climate change will be become a runaway event causing massive global migration, wars over water and migration patterns, critical sea level rise impacts and important, perhaps devastating changes in food sources. The time for action is now.
Shawna Ross, Assistant Professor of Modern British Literature and the Digital Humanities at Texas A&M University and author of “Teaching in Stormy Weather” (Pedagogy, vol. 19, issue 3)
“Climate change” is a loose and baggy monster of a word, as Henry James might put it. It should not be understood as a single phenomenon, but as a multifaceted problem that manifests in ways that differ profoundly depending on where you are on the globe. We all experience climate change in a local way, and our efforts to combat it must include careful attention to these local conditions.
Teena Gabrielson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wyoming and author of “The Visual Politics of Environmental Justice” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)
In a visually saturated global culture, images are powerful means of communication. Today, there is growing awareness that those hit first and hardest by the escalating climate emergency disproportionately come from the world’s most marginalized communities. To envision a more just and green future and create a more inclusive climate justice movement, we need a better understanding of the visual politics that shape the depiction of environmental injustice and visual strategies that disrupt and resist ways of seeing entrenched in dominant power hierarchies.
Cymene Howe, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and author of Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene
We need to understand that it is imperative to immediately transition away from fossil fuels and create a new, global energy infrastructure for a sustainable future. This is an incredible opportunity because we can learn from our past mistakes—where hydrocarbon extraction has led to both environmental destruction and social inequalities. We now have a chance to do it right. What if we were to see new energy sources—such as solar, wind and biofuels—as not only fuels but as the foundation for new political forms that are committed to environmental justice rather than the petrologics of endless growth and resource exploitation?
Nicole Welk-Joerger, PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Restoring Eden in the Amish Anthropocene” (Environmental Humanities vol. 11, issue 1)
As we approach this global dilemma, many of us place unreasonably high expectations on farmers and farm workers. They need to adapt to our changing tastes and continue to provide us with cheap and convenient food, all while mitigating their own contributions to the climate crisis. Our chance for a sustainable future relies on the recognition that food production and consumption are only one part of a much larger, interdependent system of questionable practices. The transportation and energy industries need to feel the same weight of blame and the necessity to adapt that many of the world’s farmers currently experience.
Dominic Boyer, Professor of Anthropoogy at Rice University and author of Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene.
There is no way to bend our current ecocidal trajectory through individual actions. If you want to fly less or recycle more, those are great choices, but they won’t impact climate change. Individual consumption is simply the wrong scale of intervention. And the petrocultural powers that be want you to feel guilty and complicit. The fact is that all that matters where we are now in the neo-Pliocene is coordinated governmental initiatives aimed at developing the infrastructure of a post-growth global civilization committed to values of sustainability, peace and justice. If you want to help, my advice would be to take your guilt and fear and redirect those emotions toward principled passionate work to develop responsible and effective government. Maybe that’s government of a liberal-democratic nature or maybe it’s in the form of a non-state collective. If you can’t find political leadership worthy of your support, become that leader yourself. The world will thank you for it.
Candis Callison is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism and in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts.
How we define and think about climate change has changed immensely in the last 30 years, and we’re currently in the midst of a window of time (until 2030) defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to act (i.e. change infrastructure to decrease emissions) in order to limit long term impacts and the increase in global temperature. This is what defines climate change as a global crisis, but that shouldn’t also foreclose on questions about what kind of crisis it is, for whom, and who has a seat at the table where decisions about how to act (and when) are being made. Many Indigenous communities, globally are already dealing with climate change impacts, yet diverse Indigenous knowledges, experiences, and histories that could offer profound insight into the climate crisis are often not at the table where decisions are being made—limiting the frameworks within which the climate crisis is considered and addressed.