Thanks to the climate chaos unleashed by global warming, extreme weather is getting more press now than ever. This can put journalists like you in quite a pickle if you’re writing about these deadly events but can’t mention the cause. Maybe you work for a newspaper owned by a right-wing hedge fund or a website run by the career managerial class who are far more terrified of being accused of having a liberal agenda than they are of mass extinction. Or maybe your boss is one of those reasonable centrists who doesn’t realize his kids and grandkids are going to have to live in the hothouse world he is helping to create by forcing you to be silent about an ongoing existential threat to the future of our species because “it’s supposed to be an article about the weather, not the climate.” Doesn’t really matter why you can’t talk about what causes the weather when you’re writing about the weather, what matters is finding ways to do it!
So here are 5 handy tips for finding your inner coward when it comes to writing articles about the effects of the climate crisis while avoiding mentioning the climate crisis:
1. Role Playing – Pretend you’re a journalist from 1981. No one in 1981 knew about global warming… well, the fossil fuel companies knew, and Al Gore knew, but you’re not pretending to be a fossil fuel CEO or Al Gore, so for the purposes of this exercise, you don’t know about global warming. Write all your articles about today’s extreme weather using only the knowledge someone who hasn’t heard the phrase “climate crisis” would bring to it. Turn your intentional omission of pertinent facts into a fun writing exercise! You can even play Hall & Oates and lose yourself in nostalgia, it’s how most people cope with the climate apocalypse.
2. Ignorance – When the meteorological expert you’re consulting about the flood, heatwave, hurricane, or other extreme weather event you’re reporting on brings up climate change, avoid listening to them by sticking your fingers in your ears and humming a little tune (see above, re: Hall & Oates), or moving the phone far enough away from you that you can’t hear what they’re saying. If you’re communicating with your source in writing, perfect the ability to immediately skip over any paragraph that contains the words “climate” or “global” or “emergency” or “we have to act now.” You can’t be expected to include material you purposefully avoided finding out!
3. Punishment – Put an elastic band on your wrist and every time you feel the urge to inform your readers about the factors that created the extreme weather you’re reporting on, snap that baby as hard as you can. Alternatively, if you’re writing during one of the “once in a lifetime” heatwaves we now get every few years, simply walk barefoot on the sidewalk outside. Soon, the very thought of mentioning climate change in your articles will cause you to break out in a cold sweat, which will also help cool you down during our now deadly summers! Win-win!
4. Intoxication – It’s far easier to ignore your ethical and moral duty as a member of the fourth estate if you’re hammered or high. The next time you have to write about an event that wouldn’t be happening if humans hadn’t spent the last hundred years using the atmosphere as an open carbon sewer, a nip from your trusty hip flask or a quick toke will help dull that pesky urge you have to give your readers all the facts about why the forests are burning, the air is no longer breathable, and things are only going to get worse.
5. Let Them Kill Your Darlings – If all else fails, and you simply have too much integrity to report on the effects of global warming without bringing up global warming, make sure all discussion of human-caused climate change is concentrated in a single paragraph at the end of your article. Then it’s just a simple matter of copying and pasting everything above that paragraph or, if your editor has no scruples and no sense of shame, they’ll even do it for you! Then you have the joy of knowing you did the right thing! Almost! But not really! But almost!
There you have it! God help us all!