The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Can climate change be a personal crisis as well as an institutional or technical one?

This guest blog is written by Ingrid Timboe, a member of the AGWA Secretariat.

Born in the 1980s, I grew up during a time of increasing climate awareness as the concept of human-induced climate change moved out of obscurity and into the mainstream. I have no trouble believing what the science tells us: that global warming is real, it’s here, and it will continue to impact our planet in varying ways for decades if not centuries. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, listening to a piece of music for solo piano entitled “Elegy for the Arctic” by Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi, that I fully connected with the reality of climate change and what it means for us and for our planet. As I listened and later watched the video of Einaudi playing this beautiful composition floating in front of Norway’s Wahlenbergbreen glacier, I felt profound sorrow for what is happening. At the same time, his music moved me to feel an even deeper commitment to keep working.

Nearly everything about climate change – from the name itself to the global phenomena it generates – is maddeningly complex, broad, and impersonal. For example, it is rather difficult to elicit strong emotions or personal connection with words and phrases like “CO₂ concentration,” “mitigation,” or “general circulation models.” But strong emotions are precisely what is required to respond to the very real and present threats associated with a changing climate.

This is why acclaimed author Amitav Gosh frames climate change not as a science problem, but rather as a crisis of imagination. Science may do an adequate job of defining, categorizing, and modeling climate change’s effects on the planet, but it lacks the vocabulary required to meaningfully relate these concepts to human experience and spur the necessary action required to respond. For this we need Gosh, we need Einaudi, we need the arts.

On a recent episode of the syndicated radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge, Gosh, along with several other novelists, journalists, and visual artists reflect on the idea of Imagining Climate Change. Listen in to hear their perspectives on what it takes to confront one of the most urgent issues of our time.
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