On “Alarmism”

One of the most frequent push-backs I get from Christians is that I need to be more “positive and hopeful”; to suggest more things that individuals can do.
( I got this from a denominational news person when I was suggesting that they cover an upcoming local Earth Care conference hosted by a large church of their denomination. They implied that they’d only be interested in covering such a thing if it offered ways for “individuals” to “do something”, basically admitting that more collective action is either a “bummer” or perhaps “too controversial”). My thought was : What a way for a church to be; a body called to be a City on a hill and to “be not conformed to this world” !
It seems to me that is precisely in times like this —even more so when the “times” in this case are unprecedented: they’ve NEVER been like this in all of human history. Literally and scientifically— that we need to be that “on a hill”, “Non-conformist” body that the Kingdom demands.

Wallace-Wells addresses this “bias for the positive vs facing the bad news” in his chapter on “Storytelling”:


“For decades now, there have been few things with a worse reputation than “alarmism” among those studying climate change. For a concerned class, this was somewhat strange; you don’t typically hear from public health experts about the need for circumspection in describing the risks of carcinogens, for instance. James Hansen, who first testified before Congress about global warming in 1988, has named the phenomenon “scientific reticence,” and in 2007 chastised his colleagues for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was. That tendency has metastasized over time, ironically as the news from research grew bleaker, so that for a long time each major publication would be attended by a cloud of commentary debating its precise calibration of perspective and tone—with many of those articles seen to lack an even balance between bad news and optimism, and labeled “fatalistic.” Some were derided as “climate porn.”


Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth (p. 155). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.




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