'Climate Emergency' Named Oxford Word of the Year
By Jessica Corbett
Climate advocates and experts celebrated Oxford Dictionaries' announcement Wednesday that "climate emergency" is the Oxford Word of the Year 2019.
Oxford defines climate emergency as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it."
Climate emergency. Look it up.https://t.co/U9YTUIlwzr— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) November 20, 2019
The term beat out other climate-related language on Oxford's shortlist, including climate action, climate crisis, climate denial, eco-anxiety, ecocide, extinction, flight shame, global heating, net-zero and plant-based.
"When we were looking through the evidence, it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with," Katherine Connor Martin, an editor at Oxford Dictionaries, told The New York Times about the decision. "It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019."
Usage of climate emergency has "increased steeply" throughout the year, and "by September it was more than 100 times as common as it had been the previous year," according to Oxford's data.
Oxford's official annoucement, published online, offers futher details about the explosive use of the term by scientists, journalists and the public:
One high profile example of this language development is the changes made by The Guardian in its reporting of environmental news in May. The newspaper stated that instead of climate change, its preferred terms are 'climate emergency, crisis, or breakdown' to describe the broader impact of climate change. The move prompted other media outlets to review and update their own policies and approaches to reporting on the climate.
The Guardian's editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, who outlined the terminology changes, said: 'We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase "climate change," for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.'
Language choice in scientific reporting on climate science has been influential in this shift during 2019. With the publication of careful scientific analyses presenting the various consequences for the world's communities should people fail to take action — see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's special report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, for example — an increasing number of climate scientists have urged their peers to 'tell it like it is' when communicating their research.
Linking to the Times report on Oxford's announcement, meteorologist and science writer Eric Holthaus tweeted, "We are in a climate emergency."
Genevieve Guenther, founder and director of digital activist group End Climate Silence, also shared the Times report on Twitter. "Damn right," she wrote.
A local English chapter of the global Extinction Rebellion movement acknowledged a spike in the term's usage in April, when XR activists held a series of marches, demonstrations and peaceful civil disobedience around the world to promote the movement's three key demands — including that governments declare a climate and ecological emergency.
The @OxfordWords word of the year is "climate emergency"! Good to see the graph with a massive increase in usage in April, following the @ExtinctionR actions. A good start; now we need serious action. #ActNow https://t.co/eCSL4kxotS— Extinction Rebellion Oswestry & Borders (@ExtinctionReb10) November 20, 2019
First @CollinsDict named #ClimateStrike the word of the year. Now @OED has named #ClimateEmergency its word of 2019.— Greenpeace Canada (@GreenpeaceCA) November 20, 2019
STAY LOUD, it's working ✌️📢
“It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019.”https://t.co/468qy7oMmA @GretaThunberg
As the Collins website explains, climate strike is "a form of protest that took off just over one year ago with the actions of Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and which has grown to become a worldwide movement."
The term "was first registered in November 2015 when the first event to be so named took place to coincide with the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, but it is over the last year that 'climate strikes' have spread and become a frequent reality in many of the world's largest cities," according to the website. "Collins' lexicographers observed a 100-fold increase in its usage in 2019."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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