The Climate Change + Poetry series continues this Thursday with a reading from Aracelis Girmay and with more readings upcoming through the spring. As part of our effort to pose questions about poetry, language, and our role in combatting climate change, we will also feature blog posts where we pose some of those questions to climate scientists. Today's post features climate change scientist Diana Liverman, who will give a Climate Talk prior to the reading.
Poetry Center: What do you want people to know about climate change right now?
Diana Liverman: That the climate is changing and unless we act faster to reduce emissions we will be living in a much warmer world with more extreme events. Although we can do a lot to adapt there are limits to adaptation for many people and ecosystems.
PC: Your work specifically delves into the human elements associated with climate change. What social consequences do you anticipate worsening or newly occurring on our current environmental trajectory?
DL: Climate change will undermine much of the progress we have seen in many developing countries such as reductions in poverty and hunger, access to safe drinking water and protection of forests, and even gender equity. The poor and marginalized are suffering the most from climate change. We need to find ways to reduce environmental and climate risks while maintaining the social foundations of development.
PC: What role do you think poetry (or more generally, language) has in the education about and fight against climate change?
DL: Poetry and the arts can provide powerful and inspirational images of climate change and our environmental future as well as hope for living more sustainably with the planet. Language and poetry can influence our emotions, intellect and values in ways science rarely can do. Together science and poetry can help to transform our path forward.
PC: What can people do/what do you do to combat climate change?
DL: Right now all I can think about is the importance of voting for political candidates - at all levels from the local to the national level - who understand and accept the risks of climate and environmental change and will act decisively to protect people and the planet. That is probably more important than our individual efforts to reduce emissions. Nevertheless we can take steps that contribute to reducing climate change risks - consume less energy, eat less meat, conserve water, fly less, contribute to organizations that advocate for and protect the environment. I just invested in solar PV for my house, reduced irrigation in my yard, and have increased my use of video conferencing to reduce travel.
Diana Liverman is an academic and writer focusing on environmental issues living in Tucson, Arizona and working at the University of Arizona where she co-directs the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona and holds a faculty appointment as a Regents professor in the School of Geography and Development.