AUG 6, 2013 ZACHARY SCHUSTER
One of the big challenges with communicating climate change is the perception that the impacts will be far into the future or will affect someone else. These perceptions make it very easy to resist action to mitigate potential future impacts because there are a lot more pressing issues closer to home.
A recent project from a group of folks in science and communication sought to address this issue by using treasured outdoor activities to highlight the potential impacts of climate change. The project is called Climate Wisconsin, and it can be found online at http://climatewisconsin.org/.
Wisconsin is an ideal state to address the local impacts of climate change because the outdoors are an essential part of its cultural identity. Every November, folks head back home for deer hunting season, people travel from across the state to fly fish in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin, and Devil’s Lake State Park alone receives over 1.2 million visitors each year. These and other activities are treasured by Wisconsinites, so if they have the potential to be threatened by climate change, the thought is that folks will pay attention.
The Climate Wisconsin project takes nine activities and describes how they may be impacted by climate change. Each activity features a short, professionally done video, and a few paragraphs describing how it will be affected. The descriptions also relate the impacts to scientific findings from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) (http://www.wicci.wisc.edu/).
In keeping with the Wisconsin Idea of using UW-Madison research to make the state a better place, each module also features teaching tips that educators can use to discuss climate change in terms of each activity.
If the kind reader has the opportunity, I encourage you to head to the Climate Wisconsin website (http://climatewisconsin.org/) and check out some of the stories. I think it is an incredibly well-done effort that seeks to bring the impacts of climate change closer to home for folks in Wisconsin who derive their happiness and livelihoods from a healthy natural world.
The project also provides an interesting way of thinking about how we communicate the impacts of climate change. We derive monetary, recreational, and spiritual fulfillment from the natural world. Framing climate change in terms of these values may help reach a subset of people who may not be thinking about how climate change will affect their lives.