Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PSA: This American Life on Climate Change (Episode: “Hot in My Backyard”)

Tune your audio devices to this week’s This American Life podcast for a pleasurable dip into the maddening debate over climate change.  

Ira thinks he sees a glimmer of progress (ie, rejection of climate change denialism) in the “national conversation” on climate change.

I’m not so sure—overall attitudes toward man-made climate change are more skeptical than they were ten years ago, while scientists agree more than ever. And the evidence provided in the podcast itself suggests that business interests have pushed Republican legislators farther toward denialism than actual Republican voters.

While I loved this episode—especially the way in which it gave no credence to climate-skeptics—its premise is problematic. The idea of a “national conversation,” as personalistic, narrative reporting like TAL well illustrates, does not make any sense when trying to understand climate change denialism, or it's lazy cousin--steward apathy ("yes global temperatures are rising, but we just can't do anything about it"). 

A better clue might lie in attitudes and interests that have very specific geographies: resource scarcity (as in the case of the Colorado ranchers profiled); energy sector lobbying; and, perhaps less tangibly, what a pair of commentators have recently deemed “the big sort,” or the geographic clustering of the ideologically alike.  

A “national conversation” is a coarse, blanket statement. But pulling on its threads leads me back to historical analyses of region and resources, as well an emerging scholarship on the industrial manipulation of science.  

Check it out. Post your thoughts. If you’re like me, you’ll let Ira’s oddly soothing nasal patter get you through a hot run.

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