Green Reads – Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement

Editor’s Note: Here we have a book review contributed by Katy Cooper. Katy is a consultant and writer on preventing non-communicable diseases, focusing particularly on the lifestyle factors of poor diet, physical inactivity and smoking, and on the impact of the environment on health. You can read a more extensive version of this review on Katy’s blog at http://www.katycooper.co.uk

Even in Britain where we talk incessantly about the weather, broader climate change is rarely a topic of conversation. It may make the news occasionally, but it is far from a mainstream concern – despite being, as The Lancet put it in 2009, “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. In the timely, thought-provoking and cogently argued Talking Climate, Adam Corner and Jamie Clarke set out how climate change can be brought not only into conversation but into our way of life, breaking the “social silence” that surrounds it and – one hopes – setting us on our individual paths to a sustainable future.

The book lays down five principles to begin to bridge the gap from established science to everyday reality – establishing a process to engage the public at this crucial time for the planet.

First, learn from previous campaigns – which have, largely, failed to make anything other than a fleeting impact. Next, “being right is not the same as being persuasive”, and climate change must connect with people’s existing, established values. This is not a right- or left-wing issue: Mrs Thatcher, herself a scientist, was entirely convinced by the evidence for climate change, and framed action as being about responsibility, leadership and safeguarding our world.

We also need to tell new narratives (stories) that speak to actual experience – our visual and verbal language (whether an image of a polar bears or talking about ‘2 degrees’) has fallen short.

Just nudging us into recycling or providing us with short-term economic incentives isn’t going to make the difference. Instead, something intrinsic needs to click: we need “climate citizenship” (and taking responsibility for the future) to be part of our individual identity. Finally, the new narratives must be supported by new and different voices (trusted messengers) – whether sports teams, Mumsnet, trade unions or religious leaders.

Talking Climate is particularly prescient in the context of the ongoing seismic political shifts in countries such as the UK and USA – shifts that themselves speak to deeply held, intrinsic values but which, all too often, distort the evidence. The challenge here is to counter this post-truth trend, creating an even more convincing alternative that speaks to values and uses narratives that ring true, even in a context in which expertise is downplayed or simply ignored.

But the one thing that we cannot and must not do is remain silent.

***

beb80a_b2878b36c3e04a278e671f5aa140bd0c~mv2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Corner and Jamie Clarke, Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement (2017), is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Green Reads: Bad Science

contributed by Raymond Borg

bad scienceBen Goldacre is a British medical doctor and author who advocates for the proper use of science by journalists, politicians, drug companies, and alternative therapists.  In his 2008 book Bad Science, he presents examples of poor scientific practices with an ironic, humorous tone in order to teach proper research, analysis, and interpretation. Though this book does not refer directly to sustainable practices, it contains vital tools—not just for scientists, but for anyone living in our contemporary society.

Dr. Goldacre’s book is designed to illustrate how deeply flawed our society’s perception of science is and who is responsible for distorting this understanding. The book addresses the fallibility of everything from homeopathy to major pharmaceutical companies, showing that the same trickeries are used by people from both extremes of the medical spectrum, and everyone in between. Dr. Goldacre doesn’t spare anyone from the hot seat. He uses specific examples of glaring scientific malpractice to scrutinize entire industries and individuals alike.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading the chapter on the placebo effect. I had previously thought that this was when an individual experienced white noise effects from a sugar pill. After reading the chapter, I’ve learned that the effect is much more powerful and mysterious. The placebo effect is a phenomenon in which the simple process of receiving help or medications, along with an individual’s preconceived notions, can have a profound effect on their psychological and physiological state. The placebo studies summarized in Bad Science were eye-opening, and I found the very real impact of the mind-body connection to be incredibly interesting.

At times it was hard for me to tell if Dr. Goldacre was being serious or sarcastic. He would discredit individuals past the point of humiliation, and then say that he respected them. Also, I would have appreciated some examples of “Good Science” within the book.  Reading it made me skeptical of absolutely everything, which makes it hard to perform research. Skepticism is good to an extent, but it would have been nice to give the readers a solid foundation of good practices that they can take into their work and everyday life.

I recommend Bad Science to everyone, not just people working in scientific disciplines. It equips readers with the tools necessary to see through the highly refined smoke and mirrors of industries and charlatans that are trying to profit from ignorance.

Bad Science is available online at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1rj835d