How Do We Talk About Climate Change?

Genevieve GuentherAccording to Genevieve Guenther, the founder and director of the organization End Climate Silence, the media has a history of maintaining silence on climate by not mentioning the connection to climate change when extreme weather events occur. This omission can cause the general public to think of these extraordinary events as isolated acts of God rather than the result of climate change.

She recommends that—although it can be uncomfortable to think about and discuss climate change—we begin to overcome our discomfort by talking with each other about our reactions: our fears for our future, our outrage against those getting in the way of solutions, and our desire to preserve our world for future generations.  She believes that normalizing discussion about climate change in these ways is one of the most impactful things we can do in our daily lives.

Guenther is currently working on a book, due out in 2022, on the role of language in the politics of climate change.

For example, per an article on her work in The New Yorker, she takes issue with the ubiquitous “we,” as in, “We could have stopped climate change in the nineteen-eighties.” “You think this little pronoun is so innocent, but it actually obscures the political reality of the whole problem,” she said, bringing up the vast differences in the carbon emissions of rich and poor countries, and the role of the fossil-fuel industry in blocking solutions. She has written that, instead of thinking of climate change as something that “we are doing,” most people should think of it as “something we are being prevented from undoing.”

For further information on Genevieve Guenther’s work to end climate silence, see this article in this article in The New Yorker, and also her website.