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By Sherry Listgarten

Drivers Ed 101: Look Where You’re Going

Uploaded: Jan 30, 2019

Sometimes I give money to animal rights organizations. I like animals, and I believe they should be treated with decency. Fine. The problem is, the organizations reward my donations by sending me fliers with heart-wrenching pictures on them -- starving horses, abused dogs, bears pacing in tiny cages. Thank you? I toss them in the recycling bin as quickly as possible without looking, and hope to remember to give again next year.

The thing is, these days, you don’t even have to donate money to find traumatizing pictures sent your way. In the papers or online, they are everywhere, be it emaciated polar bears, vanishing pikas, or, just this week, piles (literally) of dead horses in Australia. And of course there are some pretty alarming pictures of forests, oceans, family homes, and more.

So it is no wonder that many of us prefer to close our eyes and just check out a little when it comes to climate. It is tough to look at, and it can feel overwhelming. For quite a while I did just that -- it was too sad, and too big to do anything about. But then I started feeling a twinge of guilt. The (unavoidable) headlines made it clear that our planet is changing, and that we need to get on top of it. Was my willful avoidance responsible, adult behavior? Hmm, maybe not. As they say in Driver’s Ed, if you don’t look where you’re going, you probably won’t like where you end up...

So I started to read. And read. (There is a lot to read on this topic.) And you know what, it’s not all bad news. There is a great deal of interesting climate science, innovation, and policy work going on, with plenty of opportunity for each of us to make a difference. Once we get comfortable with the idea that the planet is changing, and that we are all going to be a part of the solution, we can achieve some terrific outcomes by working together to shape the future for ourselves and our kids. There is abundant “low hanging fruit” for reducing our emissions and helping the environment. We are at an inflection point in our evolution, one that I believe has great promise.

So how do we start thinking about all this in a productive, collaborative way? I would like for this blog to be an informative, optimistic, and even entertaining space where we can start to think about the changing climate and our role in it. Sometimes big things, sometimes little things. If you are interested in understanding what our household emissions look like, adopting some cheap and/or easy ways to trim your own emissions, hearing from local climate scientists about the interesting questions they are working on, or learning more about climate projects at places like Jasper Ridge and the wetlands -- and participating in the discussion -- stay tuned!

The buck is going to stop with each of us. While 69% of Americans say they are worried about climate change, only 41% discuss it occasionally with friends or family, and only 26% hear people they know talking about it on a monthly basis (1). But to get our heads around it and make real progress, we need to talk about it. So I encourage commentary, from experts and novices alike, whether agreeing, disagreeing, or just asking a question. As a trial run of the comments on this blog, I’d love for people to share something you’ve done in the past few weeks with climate change in mind. Small or big things, it’s all good, just chime in.

I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines, or your comment may be moderated:
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based, and provide references (esp links) as helpful.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.

Climate is complex, and talking about it can be tricky. So I’ll end with ten words that many climate scientists use to sum up where we are. “It’s real. It’s us. It’s bad. Scientists agree. There’s hope.” A changing climate is our future, and also our present. Let’s take a look at it, together, and see what we can figure out. As they say in Driver’s Ed, the first step in being a good driver is to look where you are going.

References:
(1) You can find some interesting data on national perceptions of climate change here:
http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Climate-Change-American-Mind-December-2018.pdf. Regional perceptions, such as from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, based on somewhat older data (March 2018) can be found here: http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us-2018

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