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Anna Fahey's Posts


How to talk to your polar-vortexed friends

cold girl

Brrrr, it’s freezing. So much for global warming, huh? We heard this kind of thing a lot during the early January cold snap when everyone was talking about the polar vortex (a.k.a. the jet stream) -- along with claims far more outlandish and sensationalized. And we’re hearing it again this week as temps dropped and snow blanketed the East Coast. Global warming is a scary prospect; it’s no wonder lots of people jump at the chance to explain it away when the weather gets cold. (I’d sure like the whole big, gnarly problem to disappear in one cold snap too. …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Who me, an environmentalist?

Who could ever hate this disembodied pair of nature-lovin' arms?
Who could ever hate this disembodied pair of nature-lovin' arms?

For a long time I’ve been suggesting (as have scores of others) that environmentalists -- or activists in general -- aren’t necessarily their own best spokespeople; better to partner with doctors, local businesspeople, teachers, concerned parents, etc.

The problem? Environmentalism has been successfully cast as a fringe concern, not the basic, universal right of every man, woman, and child to have safe and healthy air, water, food, land, sea, and natural places -- not to mention economies based on security and sustainability not corporate profit and destruction.

But before I get too openly indignant about all this, thus giving myself away as a card-carrying greenie (whoops -- too late?), here’s more evidence that the environmentalist identity is not always compelling to those outside the choir.

Read more: Living, Politics


Asian Americans lean green

A growing Asian American voting bloc.
A growing Asian American voting bloc.

As populations grow and political preferences shift, Asian Americans are emerging as an increasingly powerful voting bloc. And politicos, NGOs, and pollsters alike are just beginning to pay more attention. So, while polling data are still fairly spotty, evidence is mounting that most Asian Americans hold particularly strong green values.

In fact, research indicates Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rank much higher on their commitment to and identification with environmentalism than the rest of the U.S. population.

This is significant. Asian Americans represent just over 5 percent of the total population, but according to the U.S. Census, the Asian American population grew by 46 percent between 2000 and 2010 — faster than any other racial or ethnic group. And in California [PDF], Asian Americans make up 15 percent of the state’s resident population (almost three times the size of the state’s African-American population). Asian Americans constitute a majority of the population in Hawaii (57 percent), and are also a significant portion of the state populations [PDF] in New Jersey (9 percent), Washington (9 percent), New York (8 percent), and Virginia (7 percent). Plus, Asian Americans, who voted in record numbers in 2008, turned out in even higher numbers in 2012.

What’s also significant is that Asian Americans have been shifting to the political left more generally.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Meet ‘the Minimalists’ — two guys who had it all, and gave it up

the minimalistsAlmost 12 months ago, my family resolved to quit buying new stuff for one year. The experiment itself was nothing new -- in fact, it’s been recycled many times over. But we wanted to take a triple bottom line approach: In a year of widespread belt-tightening, focusing on people, the planet, and profits -- or in this case our pocketbooks -- made just as much sense for families as it does for businesses.

To clarify, it didn’t mean we wouldn’t buy anything at all, but when we did need something, we’d try to find it used. When we could, we’d borrow or rent. Of course we still buy our food new and we make exceptions for some essentials like toiletries and medicine -- and underwear. The idea is to be more conscious and thoughtful about the things we do buy. Progress, not necessarily perfection.

The experiment has not only altered my relationship with stuff, it’s opened my eyes to all kinds of people -- and whole movements -- dedicated to simplifying their lives and breaking out of joyless consumerist mindsets.

Read more: Living


Climate and Hurricane Sandy: What’s in a name?


What’s in a storm’s name(s)?

In hopes of avoiding a “Hurricane Cassandra” (yet another wake-up call that we simply ignore, as Joe Romm fears) and moving us closer to a Cuyahoga -- the name of the river in Ohio that caught fire in 1969 and set the stage for our major national environmental laws -- I’m doing my part to pull something productive from the wreckage.

Seeking lessons for communicating about extreme weather in the context of climate change, I plumb the storm’s names and nicknames for useful and memorable takeaways.


It was days before Halloween and Hurricane Sandy was something of a hybrid -- and thus arose the sensational, not-so-cute nickname Frankenstorm. But as KC Golden and others have pointed out, Frankenstorm carries deeper meaning. Sandy, and any extreme weather event “juiced” by a warming climate, was part natural force, and part human-made creation.

In fact, the name Frankenstorm gives us a really simple way to remember how to talk about the climate science of extreme weather: In a climate warmed by emissions from burning fossil fuels, weather is now always part natural force and part human-made creation. What’s scary is that we are seeing weather extremes that are increasingly monstrous -- more powerful, destructive, and deadly.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Undecided voters not undecided about climate change

Who are these elusive undecided voters, anyway?

We are hearing a lot these days about a small group of Americans -- the approximately 7 percent who remain undecided about which presidential candidate they’ll vote for. So where do these few -- but mighty, and mightily sought-after by political operatives -- stand on climate change?

The latest data from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication indicate that a broad majority of undecided likely voters -- as well as Obama-leaning voters -- know climate change is real and want the United States to do more to address it.

Conducted this summer, the survey found:

Eight in 10 undecided voters know climate change is real. That’s right: 80 percent of undecided voters “believe” that global warming is happening, while only 3 percent believe it is not.


Babes in bikeland: Advice for cycling with kids

My daughter will turn 3 this year, and we just enrolled her in preschool. With all our childcare at home to date, we’ve been lucky to avoid lots of extra running around with the kid. So, no sooner had we signed little Audrey up for preschool than we began to fret about the logistics of getting her to and fro -- without royally complicating our lives.

It’s a bit too far to walk, and since I try to commute as often as possible by bike, it seemed counterproductive to go the few miles by car. What would I do with the car? Drive back home and then hop on my bike? I don’t think so! Drive to work and pay to park downtown? No way!

So, I started to investigate my options for conveying my babe by bike -- it appears to be the most convenient and sensible solution.

I asked other parents what works for them and for tips about equipment, safety, and getting started. I also asked for photos -- and they flooded in, along with all kinds of inspiring insights about the joys of cycling with your kids!

Read more: Biking


Weather underground: How TV weathercasters can help in the climate fight

A version of this article originally appeared on Sightline DailyThis article is from the series "Talking Weather and Climate."

We humans are warming our climate -- mostly by burning up fossil fuels. And we’re seeing a range of serious impacts in our own backyards and across the globe, including the increased frequency and magnitude of some types of extreme weather.

Americans seem to get it. Polling from 2011 shows that a majority of us now link an unnaturally warming climate to droughts, floods, and other extremes. But, according to opinion research by George Mason University, only 19 percent of television weather forecasters [PDF] acknowledge the established science of climate change. An earlier study found that 27 percent of TV meteorologists call global warming a “scam,” while over half denied that humans are the cause.

It’s a cryin’ shame, too, because as trusted local “personalities,” weathercasters are in a unique position to help interpret climate science and impacts through the lens of local weather.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that some weathercasters are coming around on their own -- and there are several campaigns to help the others catch up.

Read more: Climate Change


Don’t hate the player: How fun and games can encourage sustainable choices

Humans are naturally playful. So why shouldn't we make sustainability more fun? (Photo by Norma Desmond.)

Cross-posted from Sightline Daily.

On some level, most of us are in the business of behavior change -- whether we’re trying to lose a few pounds ourselves or whether we’re promoting energy efficiency. It goes without saying that habits are hard to break, even when someone has gone out of their way to make the better choice fairly easy.

As communications guru Andy Goodman points out in his "free-range thinking” column [PDF] this month, most of us opt for the escalator instead of the stairway. Highway speed trap cameras do little to reduce speeding. And handy garbage cans in public places haven’t stopped littering.

Read more: Living


The art of talking climate science

By tweaking their language, scientists can communicate better with the public on climate change.Cross-posted from Sightline Daily. This is part five in the series "Talking Weather and Climate." Read parts one, two, three, and four. Let's face it: Few of us speak in perfect, clear, stirring, and memorable soundbites. But scientists are particularly apt to load their communications with so many caveats and so much detail that non-scientists have a hard time determining whether they've said anything definitive at all. Scientists have good reason to be cautious in their communications -- and in a politically charged environment, climate scientists are …