Thank you all for participating last month in the discussion about what to call the current environmental situation. Is it Global Warming? Climate Change? Or is it Climate Chaos, a phrase which seems to be more common in Britain and Canada than it is in the US?
Several of you suggested that "Climate Change" is more accurate--since some areas may actually get colder even as the earth warms over all, and because there are some theories that global warming could trigger an ice age by disrupting the Gulf Stream or by some other process. This labeling also means people are less likely to get stuck by the daily or seasonal weather conditions (ie, a very cold day or even a cold winter) Instead it might encourage them to think about climate in a larger way.
People tend to disagree a bit when they puzzle out which term sounds more serious. Some people feel that when people hear "climate change," it doesn't sound threatening at all and certainly not anthropogenic. If we don't see this as a problem, and we don't think we can have any affect, will we take the issue seriously? Others feel that "global warming" might sound too pleasant--especially on those days we're freezing our buns off.
Almost universally, people said in the comments to the original post that "climate chaos" was confrontational and alarmist. While some thought the term was literally wrong, even those who thought we might be facing chaos believed that too many people would take that kind of labeling as a "sky is falling" craziness and ignore the problem.
I love Heather's suggestion to call it MEWEKUOIWDGOOBADSAI: "Mother-Earth-will-eventually-kill-us-off-if-we-don't-get-off-our-butts-and-do something-about-it," but I'm not sure it will catch on with the mainstream crowd...
Amber calls attention to a post which proposes the term climaticide. Johnny Rook suggests the term because:
1) It accurately describes what we humans are doing to our current climate, which is, quite simply, killing it. 2) It’s a catchy, easy to remember term (IMHO) 3) It avoids the ambiguity of other expressions such as global warming, which many people find confusing ("It’s not getting warmer where I live. Hell, we got a lot of snow here in the Pacific Northwest this winter. It’s June now and it’s still cold") and climate change, which doesn’t sound sufficiently scary or urgent (”Not all change is bad, you know? "Maybe they’ll be able to grow watermelons in Helsinki…") expressing instead a plainly obvious evil. (The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the suffix -cide “as denoting an act of killing”) and 4) It’s a perfectly apt descriptor not only of the process but also of the perpetrators: we are the climaticides, the killers of our climate. (Second COED definition of -cide: "denoting a person or substance that kills").
He acknowledges that we're not killing the actual climate--just the climate to which we and many other species have evolved to inhabit.
Crunchy Chicken suggested in a post on her blog that we face an "environmental apocalypse," citing this terrifying article to back up the claim.
Belinda, who has a great post about this issue on her own blog, suggests that "climate crisis" might be a good choice. As she wrote in the comments last month, this phrase "is still reasonably uncompromising about the severity of the problem but seems to trigger a more able to/must fix reaction."
I personally agree with Belinda and have used the terms "climate crisis" and "environmental crisis" as my standard over the last couple of years.
Two comments to my original post made me think in a new direction.
Carmen points out that we sometimes get so hung up on how (or even if) the climate is changing that we sometimes forget to mention all the other environmental components as we face an increasingly toxic world. Perhaps using terms like "environmental degradation" or "environmental crisis" can get to this issue.
Jenni suggested that we might need to be talking about "energy security" rather than climate issues. Although she did not elaborate, I think their are several reasons why this might be exactly the right move, at least sometimes. Many Americans are primed to hear this message. It gets past the political divide that separates the environmentalists and the deniers. It in fact gets us to change our lives in ways that have both immediate consequences as well as longer-range environmental ramifications. In addition, Peak Energy may hit us hard and fast. Are you reading, Jenni? I'd love to hear more about your family's thoughts about this issue in the comments.
What do you think? Has anyone persuaded you one way or another? Is your thinking changing over time as more information about the environment and about climate issues comes out?