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There’s Another Story to Tell About Climate Change. And It Starts With Water

In this time of reckless US action, it’s crucial to shift the narrative beyond despair over fossil fuels and look at water as a primary tool of climate control

It’s easy for all concerned about air, water and nature to descend into despair as we watch brazen rollbacks of environmental legislation in the US. Just last week, developments included an executive order to rewrite US carbon emissions rules, jeopardising the country’s ability to uphold its Paris climate talk commitment; the end of a moratorium on new coal leases; and the green-lighting of a pesticide claimed to cause harm to children. But as apathy is not an option, let’s try to think beyond the usual strategies. For one, we can recognise that the way we talk about our environmental challenges has interfered with our ability to truly grapple with them: that we limit ourselves by creating too simple a story. Specifically, the story we tell about climate.

Now I’m not speaking of climate-change denial. For at this juncture, with wild temperature swings and record-breaking weather becoming the norm, outright denial amounts to a kind of temper tantrum, a primitive railing against the inconvenience and indignity of elemental change. Rather, I mean the way that we understand climate change, the story we tell ourselves.

In a popular TED talk, Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie introduced the concept of the “single story”: the tendency to uncritically embrace received wisdom. While she referenced social and ethnic narratives, the “single story”, and its inherent risks of limiting perspective, applies to other beliefs as well. By shifting to a more complex, multifaceted story we can envision solutions that better reflect the realities of climate and how the natural world processes heat.

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