Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Taking a Lesson from Martin Luther: The Need for a Climate Change 'Narrative'

The New York Times blogger and environmental writer Andrew Revkin had an interesting piece yesterday about the need to create a coherent narrative framework for discussion of climate change. What he suggests is that the matter should be viewed "a challenge of generations, with today’s efforts focused on what’s feasible now, on rebuilding a culture of innovation in which energy matters and setting the stage for grander de-carbonization efforts down the line."

He'll get no argument from me there. What strikes me, though, is the way he concentrate on the need for "narrative:" the piece is actually titled "Is There an Effective Climate 'Narrative'?"

One of the cultural aspects that is found in every society is the habit of telling stories. Sometimes they are explanations of how the world came to be. Other times they pass on valuable information, as in cautionary tales about hunting, planting and the like, or comment on the ways that a group's members do, or do not, follow the group's rules.

Many others are designed to rally support for the group and the group's projects. That's called propaganda in some quarters, and it's obviously this kind of narrative that Revkin thinks we need. But should we shy away from creating an atmosphere designed to further serious consideration of real problems just because doing so will require pulling out all persuasive stops?

No. It's time to take a lesson from Martin Luther who wrote hymns because, he asked, "why should the Devil have all the good tunes?"

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