Being an English major in college, I absolutely love books. So when Iowa IPL decided to host a book club event for Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, I was ecstatic to do what I do best: read something and then talk about it.
The turnout was incredible, with folks tuning in all the way from Spokane, Washington to join in on the discussion. It was encouraging to hear individuals describe the book as ‘hopeful’ and ‘empowering’ when so much of the environmental narrative right now is doom and gloom. Though we need to be realistic about the future, Katharine writes in depth about how scare tactics do not work to empower people to take action. Although initial fear works to draw attention to the issue, we tend to not know what to do next.
Katharine writes, “Research on everything from airplane seat belts to hand washing in hospitals shows that bad-news warnings are more likely to make people check out than change their behavior.”
We tend to lose motivation when it feels too overwhelming to fix. So how do we tread that fine line of action without distraction? Katharine gives us some ideas.
The main point in her most recent book is the need to talk about climate change. So many of us, especially those probably reading this piece right now, care about future generations and what the climate crisis means for them. But how do we articulate the need for climate action now? Even as someone who works at an environmental non-profit, I still find myself tongue-tied at times when trying to stress just how imperative climate action is. The topic feels political when it shouldn’t be, and in a world with media constantly blasting how seemingly divided we all are, I tend to grow quiet instead of speaking up.
But as one of our participants said during our discussion, “Many of us need to be encouraged to speak out.” We need the reminder that we can still talk to each other without immediately getting shut down – and that is what Katharine gives us with her work.
Katharine is incredibly skilled at seeking common ground – as is evident throughout her writing – which is why this book should be on every bookshelf. She offers tools to connect with those we may have never thought we could connect with. We can start with something we have in common and relate that to how the climate crisis affects us individually – not the whole human race, just us right here and right now. As we talked about in book club, if we spend time getting to know someone and their values, action is a lot more attainable.
“By bonding over the values we truly share, and by connecting them to climate, we can inspire one another to act together to fix this problem,” Hayhoe writes. And as the book club discussed, it is okay to share our vulnerabilities too. We all have questions; none of us have it completely figured out. When we open up to others and share that we don’t have all the answers, we open the door for a more honest conversation.
Our discussion solidified the importance of talking about climate. Here at Iowa IPL, we continue to empower Iowans to take bold and just action on the climate crisis. An action can be as simple as mentioning climate to others.
For those who have yet to read Katharine’s book, we highly recommend placing it on your must-read list. You can check your favorite local bookstore to see if they have it on the shelf or can order if they don’t. You can also order online through the publisher or through Bookshop, an online retailer that supports local bookstores. An e-book and audiobook are also available for purchase.
Saving Us makes a great gift and family conversation starter around the holiday season. You can also follow Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date on her events. Thank you to all who joined in our wonderful conversation of hope at our first book club discussion. We expect to schedule another book club event soon!