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Science & Environment
Mon July 29, 2013
When Climate Change Gets Personal
Climate change is a global phenomenon, and the science can sometimes seem distant or disembodied. But the impacts of a warming planet are increasingly apparent – and personal.
Act 1: Climate Change Hits Home
2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S. It was a year of heat waves, drought, wild fires and, of course, Superstorm Sandy. For science and environmental author Bill Sargent, it was also a year of awakening. In his latest book, The View From Strawberry Hill: Reflections on the Hottest Year on Record, Sargent writes:
Like everyone else, I am altogether too capable of subverting my understanding of climate change concerns for more immediate problems, like finishing this book. That is because carbon dioxide, the main culprit of our global warming crisis, is silent. We can’t see it spewing out of our cars and houses. And consequences of climate change can mostly be explained away in other ways. But this year was different. This was the year global warming manifested itself week by week in a thousand different ways that, all together, demanded my attention. This, then, will be my own personal memories of the hottest year on record.
Sargent says he felt compelled to write the book. The clarion call came in the form of a heart attack that struck during an intense heat wave. While the heart attack can't be blamed on climate change, Sargent says that was the moment when he realized he was living the statistics on the human health risks of a hotter planet.
Act 2: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Photojournalist Gary Braasch has spent his career capturing images of the impacts of climate change, the people it affects, and the scientists who study it. His exhibit “Climate Change in our World” is currently at the Boston Museum of Science.
The exhibit consists of eighteen large format photos, up to 5 feet tall. There are dramatic landscapes, and then-and-now photo series that show the dramatic melting of glaciers and the steady erosion of shorelines.
But people also feature prominently in many of the photos. And not just third-world children standing on drought-cracked ground or wading in encroaching ocean waters, although those are both present in the exhibit. Braasch's photos often focus on scientists, because, he says, they are also the people on the front lines of climate change.
But if a picture is worth a thousand words, Braasch says that's still not enough. The journalist in him wants to be sure viewers know exactly what science is depicted in his photographs. So each one is accompanied by a detailed caption that has been vetted by scientists.
It's a combination that has drawn accolades from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and presidential science advisor John Holdren, who has called Braasch's work “the best example of science art and education.”
Science & Environment