Rebecca Huntley, How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference

Rebecca Huntley, How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference (Sydney, London: Murdoch Books, 2020). 291 pp. £16.99

How to Talk About Climate Change is a response to its author’s concern for her own children. Rebecca Huntley raises the question ‘Why didn’t you do more?’ – a question that she fears her children may ask her one day. How can we prepare our children for the future in a climate-altered world? This is the central question raised, and answered, in How to Talk About Climate Change. It is a question that cannot be answered in purely rational or intellectual terms, Huntley claims: we must be emotional as well as personal.

As Huntley points out, there is little natural science in her book. Rather, How to Talk About Climate Change is a self-help guide that will enable us to understand our reactions to the climate crisis. We must talk about the latter and encourage personal and communal action. Such action, Huntley suggests, includes putting pressure on governments and corporations –and especially those that are resisting action.

Above all, Huntley wishes to encourage her readers to be hopeful, because, as she emphasises, the necessary technology is already in place. Hope is not enough in its own right: it must be based on action. This action becomes part of a story: the story of famine and destruction. Stories must, Huntley suggests, help us to imagine the possibilities, particularly with respect to renewal: renewal of society, wildlife and ecosystems. Huntley does not claim that this is a new approach; others, including psychologists like Per Espen Stoknes, and Damon Gameau, actor and director, have already said this. Stories move people, stimulate action, and bring us together as we gradually understand that this is a global crisis requiring global as well as individual measures.

Huntley’s conclusion is as sharp as it is resonant: ‘And I keep returning to the words of writer Matthew Wilburn King: “It’s true that no other species has evolved to create such a large-scale problem. But no other species has evolved with such an extraordinary capacity to solve it, either.”’ (‘How brain biases prevent climate action,’ BBC Future, 8 March 2019: bbc.com/future/article/20190304-human-evolution-means-we-can-tackle-climate-change). If we love the Earth, we will save it.

Talking about climate change is an important part of the process of survival. A process whose goal must, as Huntley writes, be ‘a shared world, a future for all children, not just mine’ (12). For those who want to know and do more, Huntley provides a useful and detailed list of books and resources, including the names and contact information of climate experts, books, websites, podcasts and films.

If you want to learn how to talk about climate change, How to Talk About Climate Change is the book for you!

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