I Survived a Tornado in a Tent (Interpreting the Alarming)

An old friend and I were in a small nylon dome one April night last year, when we were awoken by violent wind and the sound of more than a hundred mature trees snapping.  As the campground host later put it, “They said it was an F3, which means, you boys got lucky.”  This is difficult to write.  It is not because we lived through a storm strong enough to overturn a train.  That fact is wonderful. Our children still have fathers!

What’s challenging is interpreting it effectively.  There were more tornadoes that day than any other in recorded history1.  That fits right in with other extreme weather patterns we are seeing this millennium and what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying.  This group of peer-reviewed, publishing climate scientists say Climate Change is happening now, is human-caused, and will accelerate with current lifestyle trends.  I am not saying the scientists are correct, but they are unaffiliated experts and if they are right, it will affect every human on earth.  It could be the most important issue of our lifetimes.  Still, it often seems too scary, too politically-charged to discuss.  I would like to change that and could use your help.

There is good news and we can spread it:

  1. We are not in crisis.  There is still time to act.
  2. Human caused is cause for hope.  We created it so we can fix it.
  3. Understanding the science of Climate Change can be made easy for the general public.  It does not have to be polarizing or depressing.

Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere work like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun.  The process makes our planet hospitable for life.  Data shows this gas layer is thickening from human emissions and thus trapping more heat.  Nine of the ten warmest years since records started have occurred since 20002.   An overall warming of the climate results in environmental changes being observed now in the oceans and on the continents.  It includes the increased frequency of severe weather patterns, like my tornado, and both warm and cold weather events.  These changes threaten food availability and there may come a point when our planet’s climate can no longer sustain us.  Interpreters can help in avoiding this by inspiring fellow humans to act.

Energy-use choices that shift toward a stabilization of carbon emissions are the goal.  This would mitigate problems from Climate Change and simultaneously address ecological and economic challenges at the local level and beyond.  Therefore, successful interpretation now could improve the future for our species.  We must meet the challenge of balancing why people should care with not alarming folks to the point that they stop listening or feel helpless.  Then, we can use the power of existing common values (personal responsibility, resourcefulness, and ingenuity) to inspire solutions.  The ripple effect from this could affect substantial positive change.  To get started…

    • Learn more about Climate Change and ways to interpret it.  The worst that could happen is you make an informed decision that it is not worth your energy.
    • Help make a taboo subject less intimidating for others by talking about it.  Even if you are just discussing learning more for or why it’s worth talking about, that could empower others.
    • Practice interpreting Climate Change and share successes and failures.

See www.climateinterpreter.org for further resources and don’t ever underestimate your tent!



1. “April 2011 tornado information”NOAA

2.  NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies








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