How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate: Let Science Do the Talking the Next Time Someone Tries to Tell You the Climate Isn’t Changing, Global Warming Is Actually a Good Thing, or Climate Change Is Natural, Not Man-Made … and Other Arguments It’s Time to End for Good, may be the longest book title on record, but it also has to be one of the funniest books on a deadly serious topic that’s ever been published.
There is a lot to genuinely love about this book, not the least of which is the ammunition it provides for you to use against climate change deniers. And what’s not to love about a book that’s a quick read in these busy times … particularly one that is chock full of really useful information, presented in a humorous way? And for teachers, it’s absolutely golden. More on that later.
In clear, clean, clever, and concise prose, authors Seth B. Darling and Douglas L. Sisterson burn through five major categories of climate change denial (“Misdirection,” “We don’t need to worry,” “Climate change isn’t happening,” “It’s not our fault,” and, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”), in 15 chapters, Darling and Sisterson take on and definitively vanquish all those arguments against climate change we’ve heard in the media and probably around the dining room table … arguments like “Who says climate change is a bad thing? Or, feels pretty cold, where’s your global warming? Or, it’s just a natural cycle.” They lay out the science that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the climate is changing at an alarming rate, that it threatens everything from our health to our livelihoods, not to mention our real estate, if we happen to live close to the oceans or in the path of increasingly more frequent instances of extreme weather, and that we human beings are unquestionably the cause of the disruption. And, yes, while global warming, climate change, and climate disruption are fast reaching the point of no return, the authors present options we still have some time left to pursue if we are to save the only planet we have. There is no Planet B.
The narrative voice is authentic. Reading it is a little like having a chat with your big brother, who just happens to be a scientist, so you can both take on Uncle Festus at Thanksgiving dinner. Their writing is clever. They create a fictional stand-in for climate change deniers, name him Brad, and proceed to tear down each of his arguments against climate change and against human responsibility for it by presenting the scientific evidence that proves both climate disruption and the human role in bringing it about. The book is a great example of using claims and evidence.
Their reasoning is persuasive. Here’s a taste:
“But even if we were to pretend for a moment (for Brad’s sake) that there’s uncertainty on the big points (which there’s not), the fact is that we make decisions based on incomplete information all the time. And the ramifications of not acting in this case could be catastrophic. Are we 100 percent sure it’ll be catastrophic? No. Are you 100 percent sure your house won’t burn to the ground? No. You have home insurance. We probably don’t expect to die young, but we buy life insurance. And the likelihood of climate change wreaking untold havoc is far higher than the likelihood of either of those things happening to you. Consider mitigation of climate change like a global insurance policy, and it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s the best way to avoid the worst effects of our warming planet.” (p. 14)
The writing is smart and funny. For example: “As we’ve mentioned a number of times in this book, the effects of climate change often show up first and/or most strongly in the polar regions, so it should come as no surprise that skeptics go after these effects in their attempts to show that the planet isn’t warming after all. However, like the critters in a sick Whac-A-Mole game, the facts just keep popping back up despite their best efforts.”
How to Change Minds is a call to action and the facilitator’s guide to taking it. But it is more. Rather than leaving the reader daunted by the enormity of the challenge we face, Darling and Sisterson leave us with a clear path forward and plenty of incentives to follow it. In the epilogue, they quote Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, a former Saudi oil minister, who said (in 1973), “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” The authors continue, “The stone age ended because better technologies came along. Just as bronze replaced stone, alternative energy technologies can replace fossil fuels.”
And for teachers there’s an added bonus. How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate is a primer in what scientists do and how they think … how the thinking of scientists differs markedly from nonscientific thinking (think Fox News), which relies on cherry picking of data to avoid facing inconvenient truths and to defend the indefensible. It’s also a book that seventh through twelfth grade students could realistically read, and it addresses the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas in powerful ways. If you are building units around ESS3C – Human Impacts on Earth Systems, ESS3D – Global Climate Change, for example, or PS2C – Stability & Instability, or ETS2B – Influence of Science, Engineering & Technology on Society & the Natural World, you’ve come to the right place for information and inspiration.
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