Why I Feel the Need to Be So R.A.D.

I spoke just a few weeks ago (and I’m sure before that, too) about how my primary focus here is to present positive news about the ocean and the environment – breakthroughs, discoveries, success stories, and the like. That said, a full 2/3 of all R.A.D. as Hell stories have depressing undertones or are rooted in some human-caused problem in the first place (see, for example, all these about saving corals, these about plastic, and these about our death-dance with climate change).

I’ve been asking myself, am I betraying the spirit of what I set out to do? Not according to psychologist Per Espen Stoknes who studies humans’ (largely apathetic) reactions to climate science. Stoknes dives into the very relatable psychology of the whole deal in this interview, but one passage really resonated with me. He says, in response to being asked how to reach people on climate change – both non-believers and believers who have maybe burnt out, “We need a new kind of stories, stories that tell us that nature is resilient and can rebound and get back to a healthier state, if we give it a chance to do so. We need stories that tell us that we can collaborate with nature, that we can, as Pope Francis has urged, be stewards and partners of the natural world rather than dominators of it. We need stories about a new kind of happiness not based on material consumption.”

Echoing this sentiment is scientific titan Jane Goodall in a NowThis video in which she instructs “do it always through stories, never through direct confrontation. Because if you directly confront someone who’s…thinking polar opposite to you, they don’t really listen.” And from Liv Grant, who worked on David Attenborough’s climate documentary Climate Change: The Facts, we get further testament: “For years the dogma has been that climate change is too abstract a concept for people to truly care about it, yet my experience, and that of so many others, demonstrates that when people hear the human stories we can build that tenuous and critical emotional connection with such an amorphous subject.”

I’m not claiming to be a Goodall (or a Stoknes or Grant, for that matter), but I believe in their message and acting on it. (Note: the scientist in me fought using ‘believe’ in that sentence, but these are the folks with their boots on the ground in educating the public on climate science, so I truly do believe – based on experience – that they know best how to reach people). Of course, this doesn’t just apply to climate change (though that is the biggie), but you get my drift. How we talk about the issues facing our ocean and our environment – from plastic, to fishing, to habitat destruction, to climate change – is as important as what we talk about. So I’ll be here, slinging R.A.D. stories and spreading the good word for whoever’s out there reading – and my own sanity, too.

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