Floods, Storms, Civil War, what exactly are we fighting for?

Global Challenges in Science communication.

The word ‘science’ itself comes from the Latin word ‘scientia’, meaning knowledge. So to communicate science is to effectively communicate knowledge, and basically science communication can be perceived as those in the know informing those that are not. (Roberts-Artal, 2015). This would suggest that scientists hold a position of power, aloof from the rest of society.

Increasingly in the media nowadays we are being warned of impending doom and gloom from scientists, where a team of atomic scientists predicting us being closer to Doomsday than we have in 64 years (Clarke, 2017).

Against this are the resounding cries of “fake news”, “fake media”, and “climate change is a Chinese hoax” from a certain orange angry man who purports to being the voice of the working class and the leader of the free world.

The public are saturated with polarizing views in the media and politics, thus finding it hard to relate this to their everyday lives. The detrimental effect we are having on our environment has become palpable in this country over the last decade. We’ve seen disastrous flooding, comparable to the recent flash floods in California. The feedback from the public and its concerns (Donaldson, Lane, Ward, & Whatmore, 2013) spurned the government to act quickly. In answer to the flooding in Gloucester in 2007, the government used a combination of the deficit model of science communication and local feedback. Enhancing its flood prevention strategy by utilizing local knowledge, collating stories and information from those living in the area for a number of generations, of first-hand accounts during the latest flooding and historical references. Also promoting volunteer and community action groups to assist in flood prevention, thus establishing local flash points and areas for focused flood defence. (Mcewen & Jones, 2012). A later independent review took this further, suggesting an upstream engagement model should be used to involve the public, where their involvement takes the lead in any strategy (Cabinet Office, 2007).

On a global scale unusual climate occurrences are happening everywhere. From the recent deep freeze in the eastern US (The Telegraph, 2018) and in sharp contrast the dangerous heatwaves of 117 degrees Fahrenheit in Australia (Huffington Post UK, 2018).

Such unprecedented bouts of climate change exacerbates the already burgeoning problem of reduced natural resources. Flash heatwaves and droughts reduce the flow of rivers, diminishing water supplies, irrigation, causing starvation, anxiety, and civil conflict. (Klare, 2013). A study from the Royal Institute of international Affairs in 2012 cited the Syrian uprising as an example. In Syria prior to the outbreak of civil war there was four years of consecutive drought affecting much of the vulnerable population. Migration increased to urban areas which led to extreme poverty, aspects which played a role in the uprising (Chatham House, 2012).

So let me end on a positive note. All is not lost, we still have a chance to put things right. Maybe this era of protectionism and climate skepticism is what we need, a wake up call for us to look towards a better future. It’s therefore essential for the science community to engage our diverse societies on a global scale to inform and involve them in environmental concerns, averting anxiety and dangers to health and well-being.

References

Americans are warned skin could freeze in 30 minutes of exposure to record cold. (2018, 7 January). The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/07/americans-warned-skin-could-freeze-30-minutes-exposure-record/

Cabinet Office. (2007). Learning lessons from the 2007 floods — Full Report. Retrieved from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100812084907/http://archive.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/pittreview/_/media/assets/www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/flooding_review/pitt_review_full%20pdf.pdf

Chatham House. (2012). Resources Futures. Retrieved from https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/public/Research/Energy%2C%20Environment%20and%20Development/1212r_resourcesfutures.pdf

Clarke, J. (2017, 26 January). Nuclear ‘Doomsday Clock’ ticks clostest to midnight in 64 years. [Weblog], Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-doomsdayclock/nuclear-doomsday-clock-ticks-closest-to-midnight-in-64-years-idUSKBN15A2JJ

Donaldson, A., Lane, S., Ward, N., & Whatmore, S. (2013). Overflowing with Issues: Following the Political Trajectories of Flooding. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 31(4), 603–618.

Klare, T. (2013, 22 April). Will water supplies provoke World War III?. [Weblog] Available at: https://www.salon.com/2013/04/22/could_water_supplies_provoke_world_war_iii_partner/

McEwen, L., & Jones, O. (2012). Building local/lay flood knowledges into community flood resilience planning after the July 2007 floods, Gloucestershire, UK. Hydrology Research, 43(5), 675–688.

Roberts-Artal, L. (2015, 6 February). A brief history of science communication. [Weblog], Retrieved from https://blogs.egu.eu/geolog/2015/02/06/a-brief-history-of-science-communication/

Temperatures In Australia Hit 117 Degrees As Sydney Sees Hottest Day In 78 Years. Huffington Post UK. (2018, 17 January). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/sydney-sees-hottest-day-in-78-years_us_5a522adee4b089e14dbb94e0