canary in a coal mine

While on a book tour recently, Bill McKibben made an interesting point in an appearance in Santa Barbara. McKibben — a former New Yorker writer who wrote his first book on climate change back in 1989 — told the crowd that to expect the Sierra Club and traditional conservationists to take on global warming with "the grammar of wildness" that John Muir drew from his life in the Yosemite Valley back in the 1860s was impractical and unfair.

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He suggested that "we’re all looking for the next metaphor" for global warming.

Yesterday Southwestern reporter John Fleck posted a good example of why: a list of stories published in recent months employing the "canary in a coal mine" metaphor. Many of these stories were terrific, including the very first one, from Corie Brown at the L.A. Times.

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But it’s clear: the canary metaphor is exhausted, perhaps dead. We need a new one. Suggestions, anyone?