Climate discussion speaker argues combating climate change requires an emergency mindset
Virtual event scheduled for April 20
Dr. Rob Davies believes the world’s ecological and social challenges can be met by a change of attitude.
The physicist and associate professor of professional practice at Utah State University will give guidance on that with his virtual presentation, “Climate Discussion with Rob Dr. Davies: A Mindset for the Age of Humans” at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The event is part of the Park City Community Foundation’s Special Speaker Series, and will include a Q-and-A with Davies.
“First and foremost, as the title states, I will discuss the notion of mindset,” Davies said. “When talking about climate change, massive levels of biodiversity loss, extreme unsustainability of our human food, energy and economy and extreme levels of wealth inequity, we need to talk about them together. They are interconnected and we need to treat them as what they are — emergencies, which are situations that require immediate responses to prevent catastrophic outcomes.”
By looking at situations as emergencies, the focus becomes acting with urgency rather than considering whether a solution is possible, according to Davies, whose work focuses on global change and critical science communication.
“The guiding star, instead, becomes doing what is necessary,” he said. “If you’re in a burning house and your mindset is not hope or despair, which is the wrong framework for an emergency. You don’t hope you can get out and you don’t despair, you just are resolved to navigate the emergency and do what it takes.”
Once people get into the emergency mindset, a variety of responses will become clear, Davies said.
“COVID-19 is a recent example, and we can look back to last year March when much of the nation accepted it as an emergency,” he said. “We took steps that would have been considered unviable a month before, and the technology wasn’t complex. It was paper masks, face shields, personal protective equipment for health care workers and staying home as much as you could.”
One of the things that prevented the United States from successfully meeting the pandemic challenge early was the lack of follow through and resolve, said Davies, one of the presenters in the Mountain Towns 2030 climate change conference that was held in 2019 in Park City.
“There are lessons to be learned there,” he said. “Once the emergency mindset works and you flip into taking actions that are necessary, you still have to have the resolve and commitment, and that will be something I will talk about.”
Sometimes it’s easy to get into an emergency mindset regarding climate change if the setting is right, Davies said.
“If you visit the South Pacific islands, you see that there are entire nations that are being flooded by sea-level rise,” he said. “Likewise, if you visit communities in California, Australia and other places that have been devastated by these mega fires that have climate change fingerprints on them, there is not a lot of trouble getting into an emergency mindset.”
The challenge is getting into the mindset while living hundreds or thousands of miles away from these affected areas.
“Even people who live in places like Logan, where I live, or Park City, know on an intellectual level that we have these problems, but our lives largely disconnect us from them,” he said. “We need to find ways to keep us connected in a way for us to feel it’s an emergency, because we have to do big hard things to mitigate climate change, create a much healthier food system, a much cleaner energy system, a more pleasant and efficient transportation system, better health care and full employment.”
Davies knows it’s impossible for one person to take on all these issues at once.
“It’s key to understand the power of community,” he said. “I can spend my time on some kind of political reform, but I need to be confident that others are working on clean energy and other people are working on sustainable food systems. You will find in any profession some steps that can be taken that address any number of these issues. We just have to be aware and understand how they connect with what we’re doing.”
When: 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20
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