(LOE Host, Steve) CURWOOD: So, George Lakoff, you're a linguist, you understand how we communicate with each other. What is it about the human condition that makes it so hard to talk about a slow moving, yet as science tells us, ultimately a deadly phenomenon known as climate disruption?
LAKOFF: Linguists have studied languages all over the world, and every language has a way to express causation, but that causation is always direct. It's like, you know, I pick up this cup of coffee, that's direct causation. Climate change isn't like that. It happens all over the world, it's a matter of a system – a system working because that is the central problem. People think in terms of a direct causation, the phenomenon is systemic causation.
CURWOOD: So, here's a question: What language is better suited for communication systemic causation? Or is this part of the human condition?
LAKOFF: It's part of the human condition. There's no language better suited for speaking of systemic causation. They all have direct causation.
CURWOOD: And I suppose it is a human condition, right? I mean it's very hard to link the extra item on one's plate to something that appears around our waist, or handing over the credit card and the bill that will arrive later in the mail.
LAKOFF: You've got it, and moreover, the same problem is there the economy. You have short-term greed, and the assumption is that short-term greed is good. If everybody around the world is greedy in the short term then we'll all be better off. We have the same problem in both the ecology and the economy. Short-term greed has created the problem over a very long time all over the earth, and we don't have a comprehensive way of thinking about systemic risk and systemic causation.
Heady food for thought from Lakoff, as usual.
As a scientist, it amazes me how across America, there are significant chunks of conservatives who simply refuse to believe that climate change is even a reality.
As a communicator, however, I consistently find good news: many Americans -- even climate change deniers -- are often in favor of the solutions to climate change -- especially clean energy, energy efficiency and other technologies that will benefit our economy and security by freeing us from dependence on oil. A transition to a clean energy economy is a great way to fight them terrorists by cuttin' off the flow of oil money to 'em.
Hey, whatever it takes to get the job done...
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