2018/12/05: The whole “fighting climate change” frame rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get things done. But that’s not always the case, as the linguist Deborah Tannen wrote in The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words back in 1998. Military and sports metaphors train us to see everything in terms of conflict — this side versus that side — and that perspective limits our collective imagination about what we can do to fix complex problems.
Coming from a pacifist background, and obsessed with linguistics, I’ve grown uneasy with the way war shapes our words. The thought struck me earlier this year: By pitting one group against another, do war metaphors undermine our ability to address the complex problem of climate change, the biggest global crisis we face? Are there other ways to frame our predicament and convey the sense of urgency that’s needed — without dividing us into Hatfields and McCoys?
My gut feeling was that talking about climate change as a battle between rivals will ensure our ultimate defeat. But the reality might be more complicated than that.
Hundreds of other studies have shown that the best way to get people to stop demonizing each other is to introduce them to the actual human beings they disagree with.
Instead of turning differences into fights, I could frame the climate discussion in positive terms — discussing how a shift to renewable energy creates jobs, for example.