NEWBURYPORT — How can environmentalists battle threats like global warming if they can’t even define it?
John Anderson, director of education at the New England Aquarium, posed the question Monday night to members of Storm Surge, the nascent watchdog organization concerned about weather change and the rising of local waters during tempestuous weather events.
Anderson was speaking to about 50 at the regular semi-monthly meeting of the group, and framed his presentation as one at which listeners could learn how to advocate for a limited use of fossil fuels and as a result, a cleaner planet.
He suggested that environmental advocates have to be able to articulate, in simple language, the nature of the problems they are confronting.
Anderson showed tapes of “people on the street” that when asked to explain the cause of global warming, they offered generalities like “too much pollution.”
When the speaker asked members of the audience if anyone could provide a concise (accurate) explanation, many listeners appeared abashed that few said they could explain the phenomena.
Rick Parker of West Newbury provided the explanation, and was lauded for his extemporaneous explanation.
Anderson said that global warming is the result of the existence of a carbon dioxide blanket in the lower atmosphere that prohibits heat from getting out of the biosystem. It is caused primarily by a surfeit of fossil fuels released into the air.
Because heat lingers within the blanket, glaciers are gradually melting, oceans are slowly rising, and extreme storm events are becoming more frequent, the speaker suggested.
“It’s important for us to be able to explain our positions, such as on global warming,” said Anderson, who is based at the nationally known aquarium in Boston. “At our Thanksgiving gatherings, for instance, it will improve our conversations if we can explain what it is, and how we can attempt to deal with it.”
Anderson said cutting down on the use of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) is the most important single way to cut down on the blanket effect.
He said such information is not new, but concerned citizens must take a role in attempting to improve the conversation.
The speaker said influencing the use of fossil fuel was not easy, but he urged listeners to work educate friends and professional associates to the “urgency” of dealing with global warming.
He noted that studies show that experts and/or scientists think that cutting down on fossil fuels is an “urgent” task while most uninvolved citizens are more casual about it.
“There are people who say global warming is not serious,” said Anderson, “but then again, about 6 percent of Americans seem to believe think Elvis is still alive and out there somewhere.
“We need to point to solutions, and do what we can to spread the word that the excessive use of fossil fuels in damaging our planet.”