Let’s get creative with our climate communication

Climate Communication
Treesong created this Climate Communication art using the a climate warming stripe graphic. The original climate warming stripe graphic was created by Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) and used in accordance with the Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

The end of one calendar year and the start of another is often a great time to reflect on the course of our lives and the state of the world. This is particularly true when it comes to the climate crisis.

What happened with climate change in 2023? What might happen in 2024? What can we do about it?

Climate Change in 2023

2023 was a big year for the climate crisis and climate justice movements. Inside Climate News’ 2023 in Climate News post provides a good overview of some of the highlights.

The harmful consequences of the climate crisis get worse each year, with disproportionate harm for the people who did the least to cause it: people with low or no income, BIPOC communities, people in the developing world, and the youth who are inheriting a world rendered dramatically less habitable by climate change. Each year, the fossil fuel industry, its think tanks, and its captured political and economic institutions are spending billions of dollars to ensure that the world stays on a high-emissions trajectory for the foreseeable future.

The movement for climate justice grows stronger with each passing year too. People organizing for climate justice have pushed for solutions through a variety of direct action campaigns, nonviolent demonstrations, court cases, legislation, and hands-on projects in their communities and regions.

Climate Change in 2024

2024 promises to be a big year for climate too. Grist published 24 Climate Predictions for 2024 to give us a taste of what’s coming. Another year of rising emissions will bring with it escalating climate consequences, made worse in late 2023 and early 2024 by the El Nino climate pattern. The fossil fuel industry will surely do anything within its power to continue making record profits in 2024, regardless of the climate consequences.

Hopefully the efforts of grassroots organizers to shut down the fossil fuel industry and take action for climate justice will also continue to escalate, with older groups redoubling their efforts and newer groups like Climate Defiance bringing new energy and urgency to the movement.

What We Can Do

With all of that going on, what can everyday people without much money or power do to respond to the climate crisis and support climate justice?

It’s hard to know where to start, especially if you’re not involved in any advocacy organizations with a climate justice focus. And the longer our economic and political institutions go without taking decisive action in pursuit of climate justice, the harder it becomes for all of us to make that just transition together.

How do we enact a radical transformation of the majority of our energy infrastructure in a handful of years? How do we adapt in such a short timespan to the catastrophic impacts that are already locked in? How do we stop the bad actors who are trying to keep us locked in to catastrophic energy infrastructure in the name of private profit? How do we support a just transition and foster climate justice in our communities and our world?

The answers to these questions remain unclear. However, one of the first and most important steps is climate communication.

Climate Communication

What is climate communication? Climate communication is any form of reading, writing, speaking, or other communication with a significant focus on the climate crisis and climate justice.

Two of the most obvious examples of climate communication are news stories and op-eds about the climate crisis, and climate advocacy (or climate denial) by activist groups and think tanks. But climate communication can be so much more than that!

Humans communicate in so many different ways. Casual conversations with family and friends. Meetings and presentations in schools, workplaces, and faith communities. Lessons in classrooms and other learning settings. Posts on social media and other online communication venues. Books, TV shows, music, art, and other forms of creative self-expression with an audience.

All of these forms of communication are opportunities for climate communication. All of these forms of communication are potential opportunities for the people involved to share ideas, analysis, thoughts, feelings, and potential action steps related to the climate crisis and climate justice.

This is why climate communication is so important.

Communication alone isn’t enough. We need decisive action in opposition to big polluters like the fossil fuel industry and in support of a just transition to cleaner and more equitable energy systems and infrastructure.

But climate communication is where most if not all climate action begins. Even if you already know a fair amount about the climate crisis, figuring out what exactly you personally want to do about it can take time and research. It may involve reading books or news articles, listening to podcasts, taking an online or in-person course, talking to people in your life, assessing how your unique skills and interests relate to the many possible courses of climate action. And if you find a form of climate action that works well for you, you may be eager to tell other people about it — which is another form of climate communication.

This is why everyone who is concerned or alarmed about the climate crisis can benefit from embracing more active, creative, and effective approaches to climate communication. What this looks like will vary greatly based on your interests, skill sets, personal and professional connections, resources, location, and other considerations.

For some people, this may mean reading books and articles with climate themes and discussing them with people you know. For others, it may mean doing climate communication professionally or working with other volunteers to support various climate organizations and campaigns. For others still, it may involve some uncommon or unique form of creative communication or self-expression that I can’t even imagine.

Only you can decide what forms and styles of climate communication are right for you.

My Climate Communication

How do I communicate about the climate crisis and climate justice? Just about every way I can think of!

For the majority of my career as an author, public speaker, and radio show host, I’ve had a single-minded focus on the climate crisis and climate justice. My various climate communication projects offer a good overview of a wide variety of approaches to climate communication:

  • Radio Shows and Podcasts
    • Your Community Spirit. I’ve co-hosted this radio show on WDBX 91.1 FM for over twenty years. We talk about the latest climate and environmental news, weekly and monthly holidays, and local community events, all with our unique brand of goofy and irreverent climate humor. This show also existed as a podcast for a while, but I stopped updating the podcast years ago. I hope to revive the podcast in early to mid 2024.
    • The Climate Review. I’m working on a new radio show and podcast tentatively called The Climate Review. This show will feature book reviews, reading lists, author interviews, news stories, and commentary related to climate change books. I plan to launch it in early 2024.
  • Writing
    • Fiction. So far, I’ve published four climate fiction books. Three of them are novels: Change, Order, and Goodbye Miami. The fourth, Cli-Fi Plus, is a short story anthology. I’m currently working on two novels, Burning and Welcome to Solardale. You can find all of my published works, along with bonus short stories and chapters from my works-in-progress, on my Ko-fi page.
    • Nonfiction. I haven’t published any nonfiction books yet. I have a few ideas. In the meantime, you can find my published nonfiction in the form of occasional essays like this one on my blog.
    • Poetry. So far, I’ve published one climate poetry anthology. All The Climate Feels is a poetic exploration of the climate crisis, climate justice, and how it feels to be alive in times of profound change. This poetry collection helps the reader explore their “climate feels” and reflect on the role of the climate crisis in their lives and the world beyond their doorstep. I plan to release an audiobook version of All The Climate Feels in early 2024.
  • Music
    • I didn’t used to consider myself a musician. The climate crisis has inspired me to explore my musical side by learning about and dabbling in climate data sonification, which takes actual climate data and converts it into music or forms of sound. So far, I’ve published two simple instrumental songs that are now available on many streaming platforms. I plan to produce many more songs in 2024, both as standalone instrumental pieces and to use as musical accompaniment for my climate poetry.
  • Websites
    • I recently created a new website called Climate Change Books. Climate Change Books helps you find climate fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that’s right for you. We offer reading lists and reviews help you find the best climate change books. 10% of our proceeds are donated to climate justice organizations. One of my major climate communication goals for 2024 is to keeping adding content to this site on a regular basis, both so that my readers can find great climate change books and so that I can promote the work of fellow climate authors.
  • Community Involvement
    • I’ve been involved in many local community organizations over the years. I currently serve as the chair of the Carbondale Sustainability Commission, an official commission of the City of Carbondale, Illinois. If you live in Carbondale and have any sustainability concerns you’d like to bring to our attention, let me know! This includes all aspects of sustainability, including environmental justice and climate justice.
  • Newsletter
    • If you want to stay up to date on all of my climate communication efforts, please subscribe to my free email newsletter. I send about 1-2 emails per month with a focus on updates about my climate communication projects and related topics.

Other People’s Climate Communication

So many people are communicating about the climate crisis and climate justice now! When I started working on environmental issues over twenty years ago, the climate crisis was barely a blip on the radar, even in some environmental advocacy circles. Now, there’s a vast array of media outlets, advocacy groups, and other communicators who focus primarily or entirely on climate change.

You can find many of these climate communicators using Google or social media searches for terms like climate crisis, climate justice, just transition, climate communication, and so on. In case you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, I’ve included a list below to get you started.

  • News Sites & Websites
    • Drilled is one of my favorite climate journalism sites. They have a global team investigating the obstacles to action on climate change all over the world. Their investigative journalism approach to climate news delves deeper into analysis and research than many other climate news departments or sites. Their site includes supporting documents from their news stories and podcast.
    • Inside Climate News is known by some in climate circles as the people who published Exxon: The Road Not Taken, an investigative report that spawned the #ExxonKnew hashtag and considerable climate reporting and public discourse. They are nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that continues to provide essential reporting and analysis on climate change, energy, and the environment, for the public and for decision makers.
    • Grist has been doing environmental news and commentary since long before most other climate and media outlets existed. They have learned and grown over the years, with a renewed emphasis on climate justice and just solutions to the climate crisis.
    • Skeptical Science has a simple mission: debunk misinformation that is harming our species’ ability to deal with climate change caused by excessive anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. They do this by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of climate science denial, discourses of climate delay, and climate solutions denial.
    • Yale Climate Connections is a news service that aims to help you understand the reality of climate change and what you can do about it. Through their website, YouTube channel, and national radio program, which airs each day on hundreds of stations, they reach millions of people like you each year.
    • For more climate news sites, please visit my Climate News page.
  • Podcasts
    • Drilled also publishes one of my favorite climate podcasts! Their “true crime” theme is a groundbreaking and compelling way to frame the climate crisis. Fossil fuel companies, think tanks, PR firms, and captured politicians are on a climate crime spree that’s setting the world on fire. Drilled has the evidence we need to hold these climate criminals accountable.
    • The Coolest Show features conversations that reimagine how Black, Indigenous, and Brown people thrive in our environment. They discuss how we fight the racist policies that have led to brutality, pollution and the climate crisis in our communities. If you’re looking for ways to fight for Black liberation and fight for climate and environmental justice, this is the show for you.
    • The Climate Pod is a weekly conversation on environmental and climate issues. They discuss the latest news on the climate crisis with a wide variety of world-renowned experts on justice, science, politics, culture, activism, and more.
    • A Matter of Degrees partners with dozens of climate leaders to tell stories of bold solutions and groundbreaking campaigns, stories of misdeeds and corruption and efforts to stop them, and stories of people doing their best to be a part of the solution.
    • For more climate podcasts, please visit my Climate Podcasts page.
  • Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry
    • I could talk all day about my favorite climate fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Instead of doing that, I’ll invite you to check out Climate Change Books. This new site founded by yours truly features reading lists and book reviews that will help you find the climate change books that are right for you.
  • Film and Television.
    • I wish someone would do film or television adaptations of my climate fiction! Maybe someday. Burning seems particularly likely to appeal to a broad enough audience for that. In the meantime, whether you’re in the film and television business or a viewer who wants to support good climate discourse in film and television, be sure to check out Good Energy Stories. Good Energy supports TV and film creators in telling wildly entertaining stories that honestly reflect the world we live in now—a world that’s in a climate crisis.
  • Other Climate Resources.
    • Sometime in 2024, I plan to create an entire website dedicated to curating an expansive list of resources related to the climate crisis and climate justice. In the meantime, you can find a growing list of climate resources at my Climate Resource Center page.

Your Climate Communication

What form will your climate communication take in 2024?

It could start with something as simple as reading a book, listening to a podcast, or checking out any of the other climate change resources and ideas I’ve listed above. If you’re already doing climate communication in some volunteer or professional capacity, it could involve stepping up your game by exploring the work of other climate communicators, supporting or partnering with your favorites, and seeing what they have to say that can shape your perspective.

Either way, regardless of how complex and intractable the climate crisis seems, you have the power to make a difference. And making a difference for the better often begins with the simple but powerful act of communication.

Whether you’re new to climate communication or an old pro, I invite you to explore one or more of the climate communication options mentioned above. Read a climate change book, listen to a climate podcast, or seek out whatever other forms of climate communication you find most appealing.

If you find something you like, let me know. I’m always glad to hear from readers who have enjoyed my writing and found some aspect of it helpful. And let the people in your life know too! You never know what a difference a book, film, TV, news, or music recommendation can make in the life of someone you know

Creative climate communication has the potential to change lives — and change the world for the better.

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