Posted by: ecodestination | June 2, 2009

People don’t care about global warming? Change your rhetoric

Message from Tuvalu

Message from Tuvalu

Have you asked yourself this—why people don’t care?

I  have.

Most often, I can only think that it is an issue of greed, selfishness, ignorance or—especially—outright denial (and greed).

We know that people in the South Pacific, such as the islands of Tuvalu, and other low-lying areas are living on land that is sinking (flooding really). Imagine sea water coming up to your knees, your hips…

Food can no longer grow, water is polluted, sewage systems are screwed, hygiene hazards are rampant, and ultimately people must be evacuated lest they die by drowning or other troubles. Elsewhere, droughts turn rich pasture turns into dead, barren land.

A woman climate refugee

A woman climate refugee

Already, 300,000 die yearly due to global warming (the vast majority of whom are women, by the way).

It is expected that millions of refugees will need places to go as global warming advances and water takes over the areas of Bangladesh, Calcutta, New York, Florida, and on and on.

So, this is enough to make people care, right? To get a Nalgene bottle and refill it daily instead of wasting myriad resources on purchasing pricy bottled water, to recycle instead of tossing cans in the garbage, to appreciate things more and be less wasteful, to become conscientious.

You’d think so.

So why isn’t it?


Some people think it’s all in the language. The New York Times article claims that environmentalists worry the term “global warming” repels conservatives and others because they associate it with hippies and cutting spending.

The firm conducting the study suggested discussing “our deteriorating atmosphere” to make it, um, more universally relevant. I know, pathetic.

Women, in charge of fetching water in Ethiopia, must walk farther to reach water due to droughts

Women, in charge of fetching water in Ethiopia, must walk farther to reach water due to droughts

Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

Whatever. Language? If this is truly the case, it’s so funny I forgot to laugh—and chose to ram my head into the wall instead.

“We know why it’s lowest. When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.” – ecoAmerica

Oh no! Liberals!

Plus, screw global warming—it will only affect them.

Did I mention “ram my head into the wall”?

So we can’t say global warming, energy efficiency or the environment. Are you kidding me? Ridiculous.

Listen, if your problem is that anything that sounds liberal spooks you, you’ve got more problems than one—particularly when the issue at hand is as imminent as global warming. Swallow and digest it.

Even the rich in first-world countries cannot escape climate change

Even the rich in first-world countries cannot escape climate change

Make it personal

Perhaps (and this is my opinion) the point is making the issue clearly and directly relevant to everyone.

Whether it’s threatening that your favorite Caribbean hotel where you spend your ritzy summers will shut down due to flooding or that your beloved ski resort will shut down due to a lack of snow, that is, no matter what kind of selfish jerk you are, the answer lies in making the issue relevant to you.

It makes sense. Not everyone is the underdog type who cares about others because of justice. Most people need to be directly affected by something to even blink. And it really seems that it is most people who need to be shaken up out of their catatonic state.

Droughts also mean less food - borrowed from

Droughts also mean less food - borrowed from

Changes to make to drive others to change

(FYI: My thoughts are in parentheses.)

Instead of global warming, try climate change (hey, it wasn’t my idea).

Substitute energy efficiency with the purportedly more positive saving money for a more prosperous future.

Drop the environment in favor of the air we breathe, the water our children drink—which right here is an example of making the situation directly relevant to people. Put them in the picture.

Remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology – NYT

Switch environmentalists with conservationists (ooh, that feels sleazy).

Forget scientific arguments and stress common sense. (Listen, you need both.)

Use moral arguments—people need to feel guilty to get off their asses, it’s true.

A modest example:

As a conservationist, I urge you to consider saving money for a more prosperous future by turning off the tap when you brush your teeth to conserve water, leaving more for our children and their children to drink. It is our responsibility as Americans/Germans/Brazilians/etc. Think of your family and your friends. Climate change is something we can all collaborate to control through simple common sense.

Yeah, but let me tell you why I don’t like it. Because people should already be concerned and on the go. Because “climate change” sounds less severe than “global warming” (which, already, doesn’t sound critical enough). Because our priorities should lie on mitigating global warming instead of changing our rhetoric to make asshats care.

FYI, here’s a related article I just found while browsing for pictures:  Eco-semantics

Here you go. Now go call yourself a conservationist.



  1. I agree. It is truly amzing the excuses peoplewill come up with to not care about what is going on. People litter because “it gives the convicts something to do picking it up along the roads”. And I’ve had Christians tell me “The world will be destroyed any way so why bother?” Are you for real people? When I first went off grid with my family of five. we were told it was too expensive, not reliable, total waste of time. Eleven years later, we have everything a “normal” house has, we NEVER have storm outages anymore and we do nothing but save money! Now when we talk about it, people are generally more open minded and intrested how easy it really is. If we could have gotten everyone to have that mentality a few years ago, things would have never got this bad. People need to startopening their eyes NOW, or there will be no tomorrow.

    • That is way way cool! Congratulations!!
      I’ve mostly lived in apartments and still live on the grid. Meh.
      You rock on and spread the love and education to fellow home owners though.
      Rock on Melissa!

  2. hi….

  3. Hello,
    I am writing on behalf of Metis Arts, an English theatre company currently preparing for a performance around preparing for worst case scenarios in response to climate change. We are very interested in using your image of the girl from Tuvalu with the banner as part of a news reel, one of our scenarios is about Britain accepting refugees from Tuvalu. We have a limited budget so cannot offer money for the image but wondered if it would be possible to use this beautiful image for the production?
    Do you think this would be possible?
    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Many thanks,
    Evie Manning, Metis Arts

  4. We really take the environment and its changes into consideration when we are planning our trips to places like Bercelo Maya Colonial and Tropical Beach. Afterall, if they go away……where will we go to get away?

    • I don’t know what you mean — that place isn’t eco at all.

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