Anti-Fear Messaging: A Queer Response to Climate Change


Studies show that scaring the shit out of people does not work.  In fact, fear tactics may even encourage the denial of climate change in those scared shitless. Reading a piece in the New York Times, Global Warming Fear Tactics, I was reminded yet again that when talking about Climate Change, one must not lead with the dire doom and gloom dangerous end-of-the-world  scenarios.

“Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern,” the researchers wrote, “they clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.” In a controlled laboratory experiment published in Psychological Science in 2010, researchers were able to use “dire messages” about global warming to increase skepticism about the problem.

Over the past year I have been musing over a query that at first seemed to only make sense to me, but as I explored it and  shared my thoughts with others, they too began to see the point. I wondered, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change?

I know that many see Climate Change as a scientific issue and a policy issue. In many ways it has become a political issue drawn by party lines (although there are still Democrats silent on the issue or deniers themselves.)

But I see Climate Change as a Human Rights issue and one that requires a great deal of imagination, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking. For those reasons and more I see that transgender, bisexual, queer, lesbian, gay, and asexual folks are specially situated to address Climate Change and the many issues connected to it.

Over the next year here on this blog, in Climate Stew, my podcast that will be availible in the fall, and in my new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? I will seek to answer the question, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? As I do, I will avoid fear-based language as much as possible. Fear shuts down the brain, while hope and solutions opens us hearts and minds.

So What thoughts do you have? What might be a Queer response to Climate Change?


This post has 1 Comment

  1. Kevin L. Miller on April 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

    The fact that fear shuts people down would seem to be self-evident, but it turns out that many of us have had to learn about that fundamental psychological truth the hard way. So your observation that scaring the shit out of people does not work is very astute, Peterson. For years I have been painting canvases about climate change and exhibiting them — — and it took me all that time to realize and accept that people shrink in fear from my painting entitled “The Flood,” showing nearly life-size nudes caught up in a violent vortex of bubbles and dark water along with sharks and orchids and the detritus of civilization, all being sucked into a black hole. I couldn’t understand why someone didn’t snatch up my 6-month effort to hang it over their couch! Now I get it. If we are going to tackle climate change at all, the problem has to seem approachable. What I LOVE about your methods, Peterson, is their total accessibility and approachability. -k

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