Let’s start with introducing you to a word.
Indeed, if there’s anything we take more non-seriously than our own health, it’s the things that are making the world more and more unlivable. Case in point: pollution and that most dreaded catastrophic phenomena of all - climate change.
It is to combat this very nonchalance, that media and activists are calling for a radical change in the terminology around climate change, with UK-based media outlet The Guardian going on to issue a new style sheet around environmental issues.
"Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned." - The Guardian’s updated style guide
But why, and more importantly, why now? Well, the outlet’s editor-in-chief makes that very clear in her statement.
"The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity." - Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief
This was also the ‘main takeaway’, as Politico reports, at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in January this year, where the top brains sensing the impact of environmental changes every day as part of their work, felt that the time had come to issue a new terminology that “is meant to instill this sense of urgency about what is happening in ways to which everyday citizens can relate.”
But while this conversation is largely restricted to US and UK, we thought of speaking to renowned environmentalists in India, about what their take is on the issue, and whether or not, we should also Indianize some words to better deal with local environmental problems.
India’s Climate Activists Say Yes, Language Matters
Sunita Narain, one of India’s most prominent environmentalists, feels that the move behind the renaming of climate change to climate emergency will only help the fight against it.
"It (the move) is good as it brings out the fact that we have gone to new state of emergency and urgency of action." - Sunita Narain, environmentalist
Meanwhile, Aarti Khosla of Climate Trends, believes that changing the terminology around environmental issues becomes even more important for a country like India, which she says is “at the forefront of the climate fight- Himalayas on the top, vast plains in the middle and a large coastline make us particularly vulnerable”.
"We are at a point in time when everything from the food on our plate, to the car we drive, and air we breathe has been impacted by overexploitation and over use that the human race has done on the planet. In that respect, clearly we are seeing more than climate ‘ change’. It is a climate breakdown where weather systems are breaking, rainfall patterns are changing, we are seeing more frequent and intense droughts, floods, heat stress and the physical world is undergoing unforeseen changes. " - Aarti Khosla, Climate Trends
Ekta Shekhar of The Climate Agenda also chimes in,
"When you see people burning plastic and other waste everywhere, it is not just warming. It’s a clear case of heating the planet. Behavioural change does not come in a day. But whether it will come some day or not depends on how we discuss things." - Ekta Shekhar, The Climate Agenda
However, while these activists hail the move towards a stronger language, some fear whether the move will further alienate conservatives and result in a more polarized discourse.
Brian Kahn in Gizmodo argues that ‘terms like climate crisis and emergency connote a value judgment, and that ‘the terms still blur the line between subjective and objective, a move that could have unintended consequences.’
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