“It took a pandemic to bring us together.”
The first line of the “Saving Us” preface gives us a good idea of where Katharine Hayhoe will take the reader. Through conversations with colleagues, interactions on social media, professional conferences and the like, Hayhoe points how we have more in common than not while explaining the science of climate change and what to do about it. Hayhoe currently lives in Texas and is a devout Christian. But more on that later.
As an Environmental Safety Scientist I’ve learned that all of the sciences are related. Our profession’s main focus is how can we protect and optimize human and living species safety in our surroundings. In the preface, Hayhoe summarizes how we went from a relatively unified pandemic mindset to arguing about science and masks while not addressing the needs of impoverished countries unable to employ modern precautions. By the end of the book, Hayhoe maintains that despite the discord, we have more in common than not and this will allow us to mitigate manmade climate change.
She goes through the usual suspects like cyclic temperatures, the sun conditions, and even volcanoes. I loved the fact that most times she kept the science rather light and remembered to convert Celsius (C) to Fahrenheit (F). It is widely recognized that the world needs to keep a rise in global temperatures within 1.7C (or 2.8F) by 2030 for us to be able to maintain our current way of life. As I’ve explained to countless schools, conferences and during interviews, it will get ugly, but man and woman (and most animals & botany life) will survive. The transportation industry, the meat industry, and especially fossil fuels release carbon dioxide, (CO2) which traps heat. Thus rising temperatures and its consequences, which include more severe and frequent storms, melting glaciers, land erosion and loss of animal biodiversity are occurring. The latter being mostly from human sprawl, deforestation, environmental degradation and even poaching. Hayhoe also doesn’t run from a debate on social media or even in person because she believes that it’s better to try and find common ground and go from there. She should know. Hayhoe is about the best there is in the business.
Now I try and stay away from other contentious issues, especially religion. But Hayhoe brings up the Bible at various points in her book. Frankly it is distracting that she intertwines her faith with the science of climate change. Especially by quoting a book that was used for over 300 years to rationalize the capture, enslavement and oppression of Africans in the US. As a female black Environmental Scientist, it is VERY difficult to be included in many forums, especially in the very religious south. Katharine specifically asked for honest reviews. This is my honesty. The Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community are the global majority. As we continue to be excluded from the decision making table, it is virtually impossible to win the war against climate change. The majority of people MUST be engaged and active, not just older white men, for us to be successful together. Hayhoe’s faith allows her to approach her conversations with climate change deniers with compassion and love. She says that in that love you should be able to speak with truth, courage and understanding. While I certainly respect her faith, it’s not a prerequisite for civility and cooperation. But cooperation is impossible without inclusion.
It is also regrettable that Hayhoe writes that climate change is a “pro-life” issue. Pro-survival certainly, but by including such a contentious term as pro-life in her book, Hayhoe detracts from the important lessons she has to offer. She explains how higher education and better economic options can lead to decreased infant mortality and abortions, using examples of women in Mali, Malawi and Uganda. But Hayhoe never mentions men anywhere in this section. If the issue of abortion is ever to be solved, men must be involved and I’m not confident Texas will be the state to solve it.
Regardless of these distractions, “Saving Us” remains a must read. Hayhoe explains the most complicated science theories in a clear and succinct fashion. She is an excellent communicator and top notch scientist. That’s why I read her books; for the science. I named my company, “In A Green Minute” because you need to be able to explain scientific concepts in 60 seconds or less, or why bother? People don’t need to be a Ph.D. scientist to understand and engage in climate science and environmental activism. It is clear that full scale mass transport, electric vehicles, enhanced green spaces, alternatives to many meats, human migration inward off our coasts and other adaptations will eventually be the norm. Adapt or get flooded or burned out. It may be up to our children to finish these transformations but it is our responsibility to assure that the process begins in earnest. Hayhoe’s book provides a framework for understanding and collaboration. Ultimately, this is about saving all of us, with equity and pride. If the Ford F150 Truck and Harley Davidson Motorcycle can go electric, there’s hope.
Gwen Lynn is the Founder and CEO of In A Green Minute, LLC., an environmental and safety science consulting firm. The opinions expressed within this post are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Advance ESG or its affiliates. https://www.instagram.com/inagreenminute/
About the Author of “Saving Us”, Katharine Hayhoe
Katharine Hayhoe is a renowned international climate scientist and chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy. She is a Professor at Texas Tech University and has been named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. She is the climate ambassador for World Evangelical Alliance and World Vision Canada. Katharine has a B.S. in Physics & astronomy from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois. “Saving Us” can be purchased at http://katharinehayhoe.com/.