Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Climate Change Communications

It is interesting to note that in this present day, we are still weary of talking about a changing climate. With hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists devoting a lifetime of study to looking at how humans have impacted the natural world, you would think this would not be such a taboo subject. In a recent New York Times article, Zoos and Aquariums Struggle With Ways To Discuss Climate Change, we read that, while some zoos across the country are tackling such topics as human-induced climate change, many don't because of the backlash they feel they will receive from their customers and visitors.

We live in a day and age where natural lands and opportunities to connect with nature are being pushed to the wayside in exchange for ever-increasing access to large box stores, suburban environments, and replicas of the city life that has been so romanticized throughout film. With this, zoos, parks, and other public owned green spaces need to be at the forefront of the climate change movement. As I have seen through my research into state park sustainability, parks and zoos may be the only interaction that people ever have with nature and every opportunity needs to be taken to make sure that we, as scientists and enthusiasts, can impact the world in the biggest ways.

95% of scientists now agree that climate change is real and is caused by human influences, such as automobile emissions, agriculture, and more. Who are we to argue against this science because we do not want to put the blame on ourselves? Buy into the "Climate Gate Scandal" from a few years ago all you want, but the science is still out there. It is sad that zoos are afraid of what their customers will say, so they shy away from presenting these messages.

I spent the summer in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park as the Climate Change Intern and have recently started my Ph.D. in Geography at Kent State University. Do you honestly believe that, in a public-urban park such as Cuyahoga, I did not come across any climate change skeptics? I did...but I didn't back down. It's a matter of knowing your facts, understanding both sides of the issues, and being able to present a decent argument (although constantly doing it respectfully) about why climate change is real and what we can do about it. The science is there blaring in front of our faces, yet our public institutions are too scared to accurately present it.

Let's not be stupid. Besides, even if I'm wrong (which I don't think I am), does the thought of healthier air and water, safer neighborhoods, and healthier foods sound better? That's all we are arguing for in sustainability. Using our resources in a manner that our future generations can have them (or my caveat, have the resources or have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop viable alternatives). I do not shy away though from anything that may be seemingly controversial. If I did, you wouldn't see me in the field I am today.

It's time for a wake up call, a call to action, and a return to sound science where we can see that the climate is changing, we are to blame, and we are the solution. Don't forget, I'm a scientist, but first and foremost a man of God. We are called to be stewards of our environment and protect His creation.....and that starts with the atmosphere and our climate.

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