For a very long time climate scientists have pointed to facts and figures. In the meantime, many of them are personally deeply shocked and affected – and that is more than adequate. The Australian climate researcher and employee of the IPCC Joëlle Gergis writes that she is again and again in tears after her own lectures: “Sometimes the reality of scientific facts manages to thaw the emotionally frozen part of myself that I otherwise need for my work. In these moments, what emerges is pure grief (…) But these days my grief is also turning to rage. Volcanic, explosive rage. Because in the same IPCC report outlining the details of the upcoming apocalypse, climate science has clearly stated that geophysically limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is possible. “
1. Christopher Caldwell, editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard, writes in the New York Times in reference to Greta Thunberg: her radical approach is contrary to democracy. “Children in Greta’s age have not seen much of life yet.” Their world view is unrealistic, “their priorities are out of balance”. To himself and others, Caldwell reserves “simply to disagree or to have other priorities.”
Emotionality is not a mistake here, not a weakness, but urgently necessary for the information to really reach us. Nor is there any neutral position from which we can comment on this – we see this problem in journalism, and in recent months I’ve collected countless examples of it. What we are accustomed to call sober and objective may simply be part of our defense. I would like to explain this with three different examples:
The Guardian’s decision to use the term “climate crisis” instead of “climate change” and “global heating” instead of “global warming” in articles, Caldwell regards as a “politicization of the language”. He negates, consciously or unconsciously, that the term “climate change” is just as political as the term “climate crisis” – it is only in the service of another, appeasing and downplaying policy. Using the climate facts, the term “climate change” is by no means more neutral or objective, but simply less true. We are in the middle of a climate crisis. And the attitude of sobriety and composure obscures this.
2. A counterexample: “No human being would want to live here,” Trump tweets about Baltimore at the end of July 2019 – calling it a “disgusting, rat-and rodent-infested shithole.” When CNN host Victor Blackwell wants to comment on these tweets, he suddenly has to pause, he struggles with tears and is visibly moved. It is a moment in which the audience is also keenly aware of the extent of the brutalization we have already become accustomed to.
Pain, grief, consternation are appropriate and essential responses to increasing inhumanity. A political discussion without this profound human response would be incomplete and ultimately part of the problem.
3. Back to Greta Thunberg – and to her speech to the European Parliament in April 2019:
She calls (again) to panic: “A large number of politicians have told me that panic never leads to anything good. And I agree. Needless to panic would be terrible. But if your house is on fire and you do not want it to burn down, a certain amount of panic is needed. “
In the enumeration of what is already destroyed and lost, Greta Thunberg also fights with tears. “Up to 200 species die each day. Fertile soil erodes. Our big forests are cut down. The air is toxic contaminated. The oceans are acidifying. These are catastrophic trends that are accelerated by our way of life. And we, in the financially favored part of the world, feel entitled to just keep going. “
At this moment, Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old, nervously playing with her fingers, struggling for composure, seeing and naming the incredible loss – and pleading for our help. If the camera goes over the listeners, you see people with tears in their eyes as well, people who shyly wipe their eyes, people who listen like petrified and people who try to capture the moment with their cell phone camera.
They are all struggling for their composure. What if we just stopped that? Only for a moment? You yourself could – which would be more important than reading posts like this one here – listen to the speech at home, pause for a moment and feel your own resonance. What is moving you? Maybe deep sadness. Pain. Shame. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Maybe also anger or the desire for distraction and relief. All that works. In us all. And we have to deal with that, because otherwise we will not come to clear, conscious decisions.