Saving Us, Katharine Hayhoe. New York: Atria/One Signal Publishers, 2021.
Summary: A discussion of both the urgent challenge of climate change, and the difference we can make in both action and conversations.
I thought this book was going to be one more argument for why we need to address climate change. And it certainly offers good fact-based evidence for why this is so, why it is urgent, and what the impacts on life on the planet, human, animals, and plants will be. But while Katharine Hayhoe believes there are consequences that we should be afraid of, this is not an appeal from fear or guilt or an exercise in shaming. Instead, Katharine Hayhoe’s hopeful appeal in this book is rooted in what she loves and we love and care for. She writes hopefully of the steps being taken by individuals, churches, businesses, towns, schools and governments that are making a difference
She begins by the problem so many have faced–the deep divisions around climate that arose since this issue was politicized (it wasn’t always). It’s just hard to talk with those with whom we disagree. Hayhoe proposes that there are actually six and not two camps. Only seven percent are in what she calls the dismissive group. She believes that it is possible to find ways to collaborate with the other 93 percent. Much of it, she believes is connecting what we care about with what someone else cares about. She writes about connecting with conservative Rotarians around their Four Way Test, around West Texas farmers around concerns about water, with conservative Christians around their shared love of creation and the truths of the Bible. While facts are important at certain points, recognizing the mental dispositions of others and how counter-productive approaches based on fear and guilt, is vital.
She explores why we often fear solutions and takes on the big issues of carbon and energy and what can be done. While fossil fuels certainly contribute to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, she recognizes how energy dependent our lives are and the role these sources play as we transition. At the same time it is important to speed our transition, and provide reliable and renewable electricity throughout the world.
Hayhoe concludes by discussing the ways we matter. I see in my neighborhood her example how residential solar contagiously spreads as one neighbor gets solar and others see it, talk about it, and follow. She believes talking about it, connecting what we care about with what others care about is important, and coaches us how to do that without the alienating arguments. Finally, she addresses the matter of hope and how we find and sustain it.
This book was a breath of fresh air. Amid so many dire accounts of what is happening with the climate, this book is neither despairing or tendentious. Hayhoe doesn’t want to discourage us or divide us but to find ways for us to work together on what we care about, no matter our disagreements about science or policy. She is not pollyannish–she observes that scientists’ intolerance for error means they have been more conservative in their projections than what is happening (i.e. things have happened even more quickly than they projected). But she has seen so much of what can be done, and that it leads to better outcomes for us and the planet. She has realized that when it comes to “saving us,” there is only us. We have no planet B which means its time to end our fighting and care together for our common home.