Archive for January, 2008

Last night, Prad and I attended a fascinating presentation on the theme of ‘A Scoop in Time: Global Warming and the Press‘. Organized by E2, the event gathered a panel of environmental journalist luminaries, including Felicity Barringer from the New York Times, Chip Giller from Grist, and Peter Waldman, a recent export from the Wall Street Journal and now at Portfolio magazine. This was a timely talk given some of the discussions I have been participating in lately on DotEarth, the New York Times‘ environmental blog led by Andrew Revkin.

My main take away from the discussion were the difficulties facing journalists trying to report on the topic. The first point made by Felicity Barringer was the lack of immediacy of global warming. As Chip Giller put it, the thing oozes over time. Since the press thrives on news, this in itself makes it very hard to break global warming stories. There is also a lack of personal relevance. On the list of priorities in people’s mind, global warming comes way behind the economy, health care and immigration. This makes it hard for environmental writers to compete with writers from other desks, when the editor needs to decide which stories are going to make it in. Peter Waldman brought up the systemic nature of the problem, and the lack of easily identifiable perpetrator, as another source of relative low newsworthiness. All three of these hurdles are inherent to the topic of global warming.

The panelists confirmed some of the earlier research I discussed earlier in this blog, particularly Daniel Gilbert‘s theory, that stresses the need for the threat to have a human face, and be present and immediate, in order for it to trigger a human response. There is also Michael Oppenheimer‘s research on the need to make global warming as personally relevant as possible. According to Chip Giller, part of the reason Grist has been so successful has been their strategy of engaging their readers around friendly topics such as fashion, recycling, or practical green tips. All panelists agreed that the environmentalist movement has failed at rallying the public, largely because of its inability to meet people’s mindsets.

To this, I would like to add Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs. If I am worried about the recession and engulfed by a fear of losing my job, and of having no health care, I am going to naturally gravitate towards stories that address those immediate concerns, not news about ice melting in the Arctic, and possible flooding five, ten years from now. I am going to look for clues in the news that can answer my present needs for personal safety.

Last, Peter Waldman talked at length about the unrepairable damage from extensive misinformation campaigns over the last ten years. That the media are just now starting to come around to agree on the reality of climate change, cannot undo the negative effect misinformation has had on the public conscience and consequently, environmental U.S. policy.

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What a relief to know that I am not alone, in my struggle with green marital bliss! Yesterday, Prad – my husband, otherwise known as Green Guru in a series of earlier posts – half jokingly suggested that I read Green with Worry, an article in the February issue of San Francisco Magazine. Here for your entertainment, are a few excerpts:

‘Lisa Behrens, a Berkeley mother, feels so torn about the extravagance of the nightly baths she needs to help her get to sleep that she’s started reusing her daughter’s bathwater. “It sounds gross, but she’s pretty clean,” Behrens says. Then, when Behrens is done, sometimes she fills up plastic milk containers with the dirty water and dumps it in the garden. Her husband has no idea about any of this. “When I ask him not to drain her tub, he doesn’t ask why.” The truth is, on the spectrum of eco-worry, most of us are probably closer to Behrens’ mate—not blissfully oblivious, exactly, and not in total denial, but not consumed with guilt or fear, either. Ironically, Behrens’ husband is a longtime environmental professional. “I think he knows one plastic soda bottle isn’t going to change the world,” she says.’

‘“It might start with an awareness of what’s going into your baby’s mouth, or the cost of gas, or that your husband is taking half-hour showers,” says Santa Barbara–based therapist Linda Buzzell. Some individuals and couples don’t even understand the true source of their edginess and conflict. “They might come in complaining about their sex lives,” says Point Reyes therapist Lesley Osman, only to discover that the underlying problem is “basic differences in how they approach this stuff.”’

‘Typical eco-worriers turn the blame inward—at our loved ones and ourselves. Take me, for example. At home, I refuse to buy chocolate candy, since traditional cocoa bean farming is environmentally destructive. “You’ve taken the joy out of Almond Joy,” my husband, Steve, mopes. He and my 10-year-old son, Sam, have also been complaining that their shirts, which I’ve begun air-drying, are scratchy. “This may be good for the environment,” says Steve—who, for some reason, isn’t constantly in a blind panic that the world is ending—“but I feel like you’re making us wear hairshirts.” “Hmph,” I think. “That’s the least they can do for the planet. Considering that Steve is a Diet Coke–drinking, “qui sera, sera” sort of guy, he takes it pretty well. He hardly grumbled when I replaced our plastic containers with glass, or when my efforts to save energy by turning off major appliances at night meant our TiVo didn’t record a month’s worth of shows. The couch has been more of a strain on our relationship, but I’m sure we’ll get through it. There’s a hole in our family room where a sofa used to be. Every time Sam, who has asthma, sat on it, he began to cough and wheeze. I Googled toxic and couch and found out more than even I wanted to: about the foam made from carcinogenic petrochemicals; the glues, paints, and Scotchgard with ingredients that also cause cancer; and neuro- and endocrine disruptors, whatever those are. After a few months of living with Sam’s reactions and my growing dismay, I called the store downtown, which took the couch back. We have no place to sit and watch television, but maybe that’s better. We won’t be using all that carbon with our terrible big-screen TV.’

‘For Elaine Hayes, an East Bay mother of two, trying to be so good all the time has left her not just joyless, but paralyzed and mentally exhausted. She and her husband, John, built a “green” house in 2006, but their eco-vigilance hardly stops there. There’s the question of what to have for dinner: Her husband is a vegan, and Elaine tries to avoid red meat, but at the fish counter, she says, “I cannot keep up with what fish is OK to eat, between the safe farming practices and the mercury.” She checks every label for GMO, soy, lecithin, and any added corn, soy, or canola oil. “This is on top of all the other things we check for: organic ingredients, no corn syrup, trans fats, high sugar content, overly processed wheat instead of whole grain, eggs laid from free and happy hens, chickens who were free-range and well fed during their short little lives.” She washes every plastic bag. “But then I wonder about the germs that don’t get washed out, and if I am sickening my family. I have secretly been known to rip holes in the bags, just to have an excuse to throw them out.” Sometimes she even runs the dishwasher when it’s not totally full. “I just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and I feel guilty and defiant at the same time. How sick is that, and who am I really defying?” Meanwhile, Hayes still hasn’t been able to create the home office she wants. “My desk is a mess, with piles of things I would like to put on a bulletin board, but the glues in regular bulletin boards are too toxic. I also am sitting on a crappy, really uncomfortable chair at my desk, which deters me from doing any long-term projects, because I need to find a nontoxic, environmentally friendly desk chair.” Underneath the lethargy, Hayes’s resentment is palpable—not directed at the corporate evildoers who pour their poisons into innocent, unsuspecting furniture, but at her husband. As hard as Hayes tries to limit her footprint on the planet, he wants her to tread even more softly. “He represents the whole movement in his dogmatic practices. He’ll silently change all the bulbs in the house, so when I go to turn on the light, which used to give a beautiful and pleasant glow, I am accosted by fluorescent lights’ weak and hideous green glow. It is enough to make me scream.” It also makes her feel more guilty—as if she needed that. “I feel like a spoiled, indulgent, and superficial energy hog because I just want my incandescent bulb.”

At this point in the vignettes, I have to slip in this video of Laurie David, the producer of Al Gore‘s documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘:

In case you don’t know it already, there has been some changes in the David household, since this video was filmed last year. Yes, that’s right, Laurie and David split up. It’s hard to tell whether Laurie’s eco-activism on the home front had anything to do with the breakup. When asked about his post-divorce life, Larry David did say: “I went home and turned all the lights on!”

To prevent such an unfortunate turn of events, maybe we would all do well to listen to Tokuda:

‘When she recently remarried, Tokuda and her groom went so far as to pledge tolerance and forgiveness for any enviro-obsessed behavior. “When I met John, he didn’t recycle,” Tokuda says. In the ceremony, she vowed “to love you even if you don’t recycle plastic bottles.” John, in turn, vowed “to love you even if you go in the garbage and pull out plastic bottles.”’

Does this sound familiar to any of you? How do you navigate green differences with your mate?

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Forwarded to me, by Jeff Huggins, this email, that was sent to him by a relative, who got it from someone else:

Global Warming and the Courts

Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pushed itself into the debate on climate change, ruling that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must take into account the “risks of global warming” when it sets mileage standards for trucks, minivans and SUVs. In doing so, however, “Justice Betty Fletcher and her colleagues on the bench demonstrated they have little expertise in climate science,” writes atmospheric physicist and Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer.

According to Singer, drawing upon research documented in the forthcoming report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, the computer models used to determine the human impact on climate change are deeply flawed, and have been wholly inaccurate and unreliable in predicting such phenomena as the cooling of the tropical troposphere. Furthermore, “greenhouse warming has been significantly overestimated” and “might amount to no more than one-half of 1 degree Celsius by 2100, well within the climate’s normal range of ups and downs.” Singer argues that the “variability of solar emissions and solar magnetic fields” provides a more plausible explanation for climate changes than human carbon emissions. Finally, it is doubtful that even a massively invasive and costly government program will have much of a measurable impact on global temperature. Singer concludes that “the Justice Department should appeal the 9th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court. . . . This time around, the White House should be better prepared to argue its case. Science is on its side.”

Courts Confront Climate Change“ by S. Fred Singer. (Washington Times, 1/24/08.)

Also see the transcript and DVD from An Evening with Michael Crichton “States of Fear: Science or Politics?”

Buy Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate by S. Fred Singer.

How is that for Not So Green Exposure? For a second, I considered providing the links for the sources in the email. For a second only.

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I have become a good green girl. Whenever possible, I combine my errands, so as to minimize car trips. A visit to the hairdresser yesterday, became the perfect opportunity to stop by Bloomingdale‘s next door, to replenish my supply of Clinique makeup. I rarely go to the mall now, and when I do, it is no longer a source of temptations and excitement, as was the case not too long ago. I have watched The Story of Stuff, and I am a conscious consumer.

I was on a mission, and went straight to the Clinique counter. I was going to buy some foundation and blush. The blush, I really needed, was down to the last bit. The foundation, I still had half of a bottle. I debated for a second, then decided against buying more. And bought just the blush. Preempting the sales lady with a “And no bag please”. Dropped the small box into my purse, and started walking out. I felt weird, leaving just like that. I was in the mall, after all. Wasn’t I supposed to shop? I felt the pressure, the slight pull. No, the desire had left me. I was going to walk straight back to my car.

That is, until I caught a whiff of . . . a smell so pleasant and so intoxicating. It made me want to linger. My nose could not get enough of the stuff. Had I not been thinking about what was going on, I would have stopped and turned left, into the nearby Abercrombie store. I had smelled the scent many times before, whenever I had gone shopping in the store. The Abercrombie people have it down to a science. I’ve got to admit. They nearly got me, once more.

I drove home mad. Mad, for having nearly been tricked. Another case of Not So Green Exposure, I thought. This one, so subtle though, that it was all the more potent and dangerous. I started to question the notion of freedom in a consumerist world. As much as I like to fancy myself as a free individual, the truth is my environment won’t let me. I remembered an interview, last year, on NPR Marketplace, between Kay Ryssdal and Benjamin Barber, when the two discussed Barber’s book, ‘Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole‘. Benjamin Barber, a political theorist, professor at the University of Maryland, blogger at Strong Democracy Blog and the Huffington Post, and principal member of the Democracy Collaborative, is one of the leading thinkers on capitalism and democracy.

This morning, Benjamin Barber wrote a very thought-provoking article in the Huffington Post. I urge you to read it. His question to presidential candidates is right on:

‘how do you suggest we get out of recession without getting into trouble? Without encouraging all those bad habits of too much spending, too little savings, too much foreign energy dependency and too much borrowing that have gotten us into our economic morass to begin with? How do we create a prosperous economy that does not depend on Americans buying not only more than they can afford, but far more than they need or want!?

Whoever can answer that question — or even understand it! — gets my vote.’

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When you think about it, marketing is really simple: to offer products and services that solve people’s real problems. If it is so straight forward, then, why is it that the market place keeps getting flooded with new products without any real benefits to the consumers? I call that phenomenon, marketers’ amnesia. Nowhere is marketers’ amnesia more in display than with the so called ‘green market’ . Here to remind us once more of that important marketing premise, are some excerpts from a recent article from Steven Bishop, Sustainability Domain Lead at IDEO, in the Harvard Business Review.

It seems so logical on the face of it. A company wishing to go green should focus on the green consumer, right? Not so. Marketing to the green consumer has proved difficult, even downright dangerous, for companies large and small. Here’s why.

Established companies fear alienating their base of mainstream consumers by appealing to the green consumer, and rightly so. The majority of consumers seek to satisfy their personal needs before considering those of the planet. Green for green’s sake products often don’t meet the basic needs that most people require from their products. Take hemp clothing, for example. If green for green’s sake products could go mainstream, we’d all be wearing hemp sweaters and be happy about it.

Small, streamlined green brands that truly appeal to the environmentalist consumer can’t reach the mainstream. Those companies get stuck in a green ghetto—virtuous, but limited in scope.

The result is that most companies are stuck somewhere in the middle—and that turns out to be a very dangerous place indeed. We’ve all watched a company take a traditional product and tout its green virtues. When the approach doesn’t work all that well, they simply take out a bigger megaphone. Hence the green-washing epidemic we have today.

So while the traditional marketing answer to the question, Should we market to the green consumer? has been yes, the better answer is this: Instead of focusing on a green niche, focus on green behaviors that everyone can aspire to.

When we helped Shimano, an international manufacturer of bike parts, create a new bike platform, we didn’t focus on cycling enthusiasts—the biggest segment in this market—or on the green niche. Instead we focused on a growth strategy with a “green outcome”—more people riding bikes and enjoying it. As a result, we turned our attention to the 161 million Americans who don’t ride at all.

Our work with Shimano yielded two insights: 1) everyone fondly remembers biking as a kid; 2) highly technical sports bikes and lycra-clad salespeople in bike stores put off would-be everyday riders. So Shimano pitched a concept bike to manufacturers that was intuitive and inviting. Mechanical components were hidden, handlebars were stripped of complex controls, and pedals, were well, just pedals.

They called it the “Coasting” bike. Nothing to learn, just jump on and go, like when you were a kid. That’s what gets people riding.

So where’s the environmental story here? Well, there isn’t an explicit one. Shimano is addressing a human problem, not an environmental one. By seeking the truth about what really matters to people and creating a great experience for them, the company is appealing to a mass market increasingly aware of our impact on the planet. Coasting bikes tell the green story implicitly by inviting people to engage in new, positive behaviors—like reducing greenhouse gases by pedaling—instead of driving.

For a company that wants to go green, then, the green consumer niche is almost irrelevant. I’m reminded of HBS professor Ted Levitt‘s old marketing axiom that people who buy drills don’t need drills; they need holes. Consumers—whether they are green or mainstream—don’t simply want green products, they want solutions to their day-to-day problems that also make sense for our environment.

The bottom line: Marketing needs to define what sustainability means for their company and then decide how to express those values in their offerings. Companies should stop trying to appeal to green consumers by building green myths into the products they have and start creating something real—products that tell their environmental story for them.

Bottom line is, green marketers, beware of marketing amnesia. To help, I suggest you print a copy of Ted Levitt‘s classic article, Marketing Myopia, and that you read it again every time you think of launching a new product.

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Found this morning in my mailbox, a mail from Science Debate 2008, a citizen-led initiative launched in December 2207, and now 10,000 members strong, including some of the most prestigious names in science, technology, and business:

Dear Marguerite,

We are pleased to announce that the world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has become an official cosponsor of Science Debate 2008. You can read more about it here.

Please expect more major announcements very soon.

In case you missed it, you can hear one of our organizers, Shawn Lawrence Otto, talk with Ira Flatow on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.

Click here to listen:

Thank you for your help – the ONLY reason we are making this progress is because of your support. Check out the amazing lists of signers here and here, and please – forward this to your friends and colleagues and ask them to join this important initiative.

Finally, we need some help. We have been personally volunteering full time for this effort, and throwing in our own personal funds, and we need to pay for more web hosting, travel, communications, and event organizing. Please consider making an online donation here.

Thank you!

The team at ScienceDebate2008.com

This is a very important initiative. I am hoping you will join me in supporting Science Debate 2008. Just one click!

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On Tuesday, Whole Foods announced it would stop offering plastic grocery bags, giving customers instead a choice between recycled paper or re-usable bags. I am not sure I am completely satisfied with the recycled paper portion of their solution, but still, it’s progress, and one piece of news that will make the folks at Algalita happy. I have written extensively before about the important work done by Algalita researchers.

I just heard from Bill Francis, Secretary of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, about the beginning of their new research expedition in the Pacific Ocean. ‘This is the first day of a four week research trip, that can be tracked on Algalita‘s website. The voyage of the ORV Alguita, captained by Charles Moore, and crew of volunteers and members of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation is documented daily via the ‘2008 Gyre Voyage’ blog. The voyage will include sampling, documentation of contamination, and an update of the database, which will help document the continuing change in our oceans from plastic intrusion.’ To give you a taste of Captain Moore’s current expedition, here is their first diary entry:

First day at sea

And were off!

We left Hilo last night, January 20, at dusk, just a few hours shy of nightfall. A full moon cast a bright, silver sheen over the gently rolling swells, making the first night watch a stunningly beautiful spectacle.

Our first planned sampling spot lay just off the southernmost point in the United States; Kamilo Beach. Kamilo beach is also the most polluted beach in the United States, a considerably less glamorous yet no less interesting selling point for this crew. Just a few days before our departure, we’d braved the 2-hour, treacherous drive out to Kamilo to see for ourselves.

What we saw there must be seen to be believed. A picturesque, volcanic coastline, far from any visible development, clear blue waters and spectacular beaches – entirely covered in plastic debris. (Photos of Kamilo here. Can you find it on the map using the coordinates on the GPS in one of the pictures?)It is precisely spots like this that exemplify the need for a better understanding of how far reaching the marine debris issue really is. And a powerful visual reminder as to why were embarking on this month long journey…..
It’s moving on the plastic front
Somewhere around midnight, we witnessed an active lava flow erupting from the slopes of Mauna Loa, rousted from our rocky slumber by the Captain. The view was well worth the wakeup call – a fiery red glow emanating from the coastline.

By sunrise, the wind was blowing 35 knots, too powerful to begin sampling, so we continued on, taking a highly productive detour to try our luck at scouting out some sashimi. As the photo here suggests, mission accomplished: Jeff with the first of 6 small Ahi, known as Shibi, filleted in less than 5 minutes. And consumed tonight for dinner.

Satisfied with our haul, we began fishing for plastic. We out set the Manta Trawl to collect samples off the leeward side of the Island, an area one would expect to find little in the way of plastic debris due to the wind currents. We found however clear evidence of small plastic particles, along with a host of fish eggs and Copepods. There is truly no “pristine’….

Later in the afternoon, we prepped for our first dive, a chance to test out our equipment and refresh our scuba skills during calm seas. The area was relatively barren of life, save for countless Jellies and Salps of various shapes and sizes. Joel, Jeff, and Marcus practiced working the underwater video equipment, Anna had a much needed “brush up” dive, and Charles spotted the most interesting creature of us all, a large ctenophore.

We’re now on track again, westward bound. In about 4 days, we should reach one of our main study areas, an area yet to be sampled for plastic debris. Though just one day into our journey, the reality of finding trash in such remote areas of the ocean underscores the message: There simply is no “away” in a throwaway culture.Aloha from the Captain and Crew of ORV Alguita.

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“In addition to changing the light bulbs, it is far more important to change the laws and to change the treaty obligations that nations have,”
From Davos, Gore Says “Changing Light Bulbs” Not Enough
“Whoever is elected is going to have a different position and a better position. But let’s be clear: whoever the leaders are, this issue is going to be dealt with responsibly and effectively only when there is a sufficient degree of urgency on the part of the people themselves.”
These two statements from Al Gore were made in the context of world market turmoil and the impact it has had on the content of the Davos discussions, shifting the attention away from global warming. 

In an earlier article, I shared Michael’s Oppenheimer‘s concern for that very issue, what Elke Weber calls the limited worry pool. The real danger is that world leaders and their people get distracted from the urgency of the climate fight, by an ongoing flow of crisis, as is the case currently with the financial markets. Tomorrow it could be a war, or a terrorist attack, . . .

This reminds me of this family I saw years ago as a therapist. One of the children had been killed by the boyfriend’s mother, and she had gone on with her life trying not to burden the other siblings with her grief. The big issue in the family was the message she had sent to the other children, that she did not seem to value the life of their dead sibling, and hence their own lives. Every week the family came, and presented with yet another crisis, that ‘could not be ignored’. In the mean time, nothing changed and the family became increasingly at risk of disintegration. Not until I realized what was really going on, and I stopped reacting to each weekly crisis did we start the real work. Same thing with global warming. World leaders need to realize that there will always be a new crisis. However, the one crisis that supersedes all others is global warming. Nature cannot wait. Markets will return to normal. Wars will end. The damage that’s being caused to our living ecosystem is on its way to being irreversible.

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Following yesterday’s discussion, I thought it would be appropriate to share excerpts from  ‘Everything’s Cool‘, the recently released documentary from award-winning co-directors and co-producers, Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand:

The answer is: not.


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It hit me yesterday, as I was staring at the running water. I was brushing my teeth, and immediately, my green conscience stepped in. You cannot let it run. Got’ta turn off the faucet right away. And then, at once, annoyance. Why? I wondered. Why was I feeling so bothered? This was a familiar feeling. The same emotion that pops up whenever I grab the car keys and start feeling guilty, or when I forget the green bag at Whole Foods, or I stare at the power strip, and realize I better turn it off.

During that moment, in front of the sink, I made the connection with Steven Running’s theory of ‘Climate Grief’. And realized the professor was probably right. I am grieving life as I knew it, before I heard of global warming. Care-free times marked by abundance, convenience, and the freedom to do as I pleased. Those times are over, and I have a hard time adjusting. Here, from Dr. Running’s web site, are excerpts from his paper on ‘5 Stages of Climate Grief’:

I recently took a fresh look at the widely recognized concepts on the “5 stages of grief” that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined back in the 1970s to summarize how people deal differentially with shocking news, such as being informed that they have terminal cancer. It seems that these stages of grief provide a very good analogy to how people are now reacting to the global warming topic, so I have formulated my “5 Stages of Climate Grief” as follows.

The first stage DENIAL, are the people that simply do not believe the science that the earth is warming, or secondarily that humans are the cause. Despite seeing a 50 year record of global atmospheric CO2 rising every year since 1957, and global air temperatures of the last dozen years in a row being the warmest in a millennium, they dismiss these trends as natural variability. These people see no reason to disturb the status quo. Most people rightfully started at this stage, until presented with convincing evidence. That convincing scientific evidence recently summarized in the 4th IPCC report has, according to opinion polls, dramatically reduced the number of people in Stage 1.

Many people jump directly from DENIAL to Stage 4, but for others, the next Stage 2, is ANGER, and is manifested by wild comments like “I refuse to live in a tree house in the dark and eat nuts and berries”. Because of my public speeches, I receive my share of hate mail, including being labeled a “bloviating idiot”, from individuals that clearly are incensed at the thought of substantially altering their lifestyle. My local newspaper has frequent letters to the editor from people angry to the point of irrational statements hinting darkly about the potential end of modern civilization.

Stage 3 is BARGAINING. When they reach this stage many people (such as self-righteous radio talk show hosts) who used to be very public deniers of global warming begin making statements that warming won’t be all that bad, it might make a place like Montana “more comfortable”. It is true that the building heating requirements for my hometown Missoula have decreased by about 9% since 1950 due to milder winters. At this stage people grasp for the positive news about climate change, such as longer growing seasons, and scrupulously ignore the negative news, more intense droughts and wildfires, and no glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2030. Most importantly, at this stage people are still not willing to change lifestyle, or explore energy solutions that are less carbon intensive. They seem willing to ride out this grand global experiment and cope with whatever happens.

Many people at my lectures have now moved to Stage 4, DEPRESSION. They consider the acceleration of annual greenhouse gas emissions, the unprecedented speed of warming, and the necessity for international cooperation for a solution, and see the task ahead to be impossible. On my tougher days I confess to sinking back to Stage 4 myself.

The final stage ACCEPTANCE, are people that acknowledge the scientific facts calmly, and are now exploring solutions to drive down greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, and find non-carbon intensive energy sources. Two factors are important in moving the public from DEPRESSION to this ACCEPTANCE stage. First are viable alternatives to show that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is possible without the end of modern civilization. It is very heartening to see wind turbines, LED lighting, thin film solar and hybrid cars on the market right now, not some vague future hope. Second is visionary national leadership, a “Marshall Plan” level of national focus and commitment, so everyone is contributing, and the lifestyle changes needed are broadly shared, in fact becoming a new norm. Progress on that front has not been good so far. An obvious flaw in this analogy is that many people are simply ignoring the global warming issue, a detachment they cannot achieve when they are personally facing cancer.

It is both welcome and important that some leaders of the business community, from DuPont, General Electric and WalMart down to the smallest entrepreneurial startups are now strongly pursuing goals of de-carbonized energy, improved efficiency and conservation. Large social changes always unavoidably breed pain for some and new opportunity for others, depending much on how rapidly people react to new realities. We really need most of our political, business and intellectual leaders to reach Stage 5 ACCEPTANCE in order to move forward, as a nation, and as a global citizenry. There is no guarantee that we can successfully stop global warming, but doing nothing given our present knowledge is unconscionable. How otherwise can we look into our grandchildren’s eyes?

Steven Running’s contribution to the understanding of the psychology of climate change needs to be brought to the attention of a wider audience, as it may help rally some of the deniers and skeptics. My only criticism deals with his presentation of grief as a linear process. While that makes for good logic, I don’t believe it represents reality. I, for example move back and forth between anger, depression, and acceptance, and often times, may experience all three feelings concurrently.

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