Greta Thunberg
Climate activist Greta Thunberg, not one to pull punches, being interviewed at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in January 2019. (Photo credit: World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek)

The strength of Greta Thunberg’s voice is inseparable from her bluntness. Unconstrained by all the research on effective climate-change communication that tells us we should include reasons for hope and action items, Thunberg simply and directly says what she knows, what she thinks, how she feels. For example, watch or read her brief, viral words to the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.

Sometimes such bluntness is just what we need to punch through the fog of familiarity. Here are some other powerfully direct pieces:

  • Climate journalist Jeff Goodell’s excellent work is usually measured in tone. Here, in “Climate Apocalypse Now” (Rolling Stone, August 2020), he keeps his grip on facts but drops the measured journalist’s tone for a vigorous commentary.
  • Mary Anna├»se Heglar, co-host and co-creator of the Hot Take newsletter and podcast, writes powerful personal essays, often dealing with climate justice. As she said in an interview, “When I write, I think about the effect I want to have on my reader. I want their knees to buckle. I want them to think that they can read my writing standing up and then have to sit down. I want their spine to tingle. I want them to have goose bumps. I want them to be arrested. To have that effect on my reader, I … need to be very vulnerable myself.” For a memorable example, read “Home Is Always Worth It” (Medium, September 2019).
  • Nemonte Nenquimo is a leading Indigenous activist from the Ecuadoran Amazon with an uncomfortable message to those of us in richer, more powerful places. Read this to hear her direct voice: “Your Civilization Is Killing Life on Earth” (The Guardian, October 2020).
  • Sometimes especially powerful perspectives relevant to climate change are in articles about other topics, as in this one (Medium, September 2020) by Sri Lankan writer Indi Samarajiva. More overtly about politics and the Covid-19 pandemic, it offers a jarring description of “how life goes on, surrounded by death,” that has much to tell us about the ease with which we push the devastation of climate change aside to continue with our daily routines.

This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

Topics: Communicating Climate, Policy & Politics