Mark Gold made the ultimate comment in his opening plenary at the State of the Estuary Conference: “The age of incrementalism, and not moving forward in a bold way, is not getting it done in terms of climate change.” Gold, deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy for the California Natural Resources Agency, outlined the state’s newly revised strategic plan for a bluer economy, coastal resilience, and rapid response to fisheries emergencies.
Following his talk, Geeta Persad of the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed various challenges facing California. “Climate change is going to fundamentally transform where and when California gets its water,” she said.
Later, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Yumiko Henneberry asked a panel of scientists what their top priorities were given current management questions. “Identifying areas that might be refugia from warming and understanding how they fit together will be increasingly important as environment changes,” responded U.S. Geological Survey’s Jessie Lacy.
“End-to-end ecosystem modeling that narrows down driving forces, acknowledges changes in natural variability, and puts current science into a more predictive framework,” said Delta Independent Science Board’s Steve Brandt.
“Recognizing traditional and local knowledge, and investing in social science capacity,” answered Ocean Science Trust’s Liz Whiteman.
An audience member asked what could be done to overcome “regulatory constipation.” U.S. Geological Survey’s Mike Chotkowski said to “encourage science with no strings attached.”
Developing effective communication strategies around climate change is a critical challenge of the climate crisis. Persuading people to change their behavior, and to support climate change solutions and adaptation programs requires that they both understand the problem and be motivated to solve it. But according to poet, behavioral scientist, and Exploratorium fellow Pireeni Sundaralingam, we are building these strategies on a false foundation.
Speaking on “The Brain and Observation: Towards a Language of Resilience,” as part of the State of the Estuary Conference panel Public Learning in an Era of Climate Crisis, Sundaralingam said, “it’s a critical mistake to approach communication about climate change with the assumption that humans are rational actors.”
The key to persuasion, she said, is to understand the shape and type of heuristics that are at work. “If you’re trying to convince a human brain, it’s vital to know how information is going to be chunked and processed, otherwise your efforts are just wishful thinking.”
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Top Photo: Napa skies during Kincaid fire, 2019. Photo credit: Amber Manfree
Special coverage 2019 State of the Estuary Conference