Northwestern One Book Author on Turning Climate Change Fear into Action


While author Hope Jahren’s words on the enormity of the challenges we face in tackling climate change were striking, the central message of last week’s One Book One Northwestern opening speech was the empowerment and action.

Jahren spoke from his home in Oslo to a virtual audience of students, faculty, staff and members of the public about his book, “One more story: how we got to climate change and where do we go from hereWhich explores the consequences of population growth and human consumption patterns on the planet and the actions we can all take to fight back.

I hope Jahren

Award-winning scientist, University of Oslo professor and best-selling author, Jahren has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996. What she hears again and again from students and the public is fear.

“Should I be afraid of climate change? Is it going to be terrible? Is it going to ruin the Earth? How should I feel about this? How much fear is justified? Am I manipulated by fear? She said of the most common questions.

In his book and public lectures, Jahren breaks down climate change into key trends over the past 50 years to give people actionable information and an alternative to what can immobilize fear:

  • The population has doubled from 4 billion to 8 billion, even as birth rates on average have been halved
  • Food production has not only kept pace, but has outpaced population growth
  • Cereal production has tripled over the same period, although the amount of land used for agriculture has remained stable
  • But 40% of this grain is given to animals destined for our tables
  • The amount of meat we produce has also tripled
  • Energy consumption in the form of electricity has increased fivefold
  • Most of the energy the world still uses comes from fossil fuels
  • Emissions have doubled
  • CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 30%
  • Sea level has risen 5 inches

“More energy, more food, more people, more everything has really been the story of the last 50 years,” Jahren said. “Now that we know how we got here and have a sense of the scale of the numbers, is it possible to tell a different story over the next 50 years? “

Jahren warned the students to be skeptical of anyone who tells them it doesn’t matter what they do.

“The sooner we start to think of ourselves as where the money ends, the better,” she said. “I don’t see a solution that doesn’t involve people, individually, looking at their energy use and starting to make choices about what they really need.”

Jahren pointed to the pandemic and the world’s response as proof that humanity is capable of massive change; in the way we shop, work, educate our children and so much more.

“2020 has been a fascinating year. A lot of terrible things happened and we were all terrified. But something really fascinating happened as people changed their use of resources almost overnight, ”she said. “I didn’t know that our behaviors could change so much in a few months. We have learned this on our own.

The main event is part of a series of events organized by the One Book program during the academic year.


Grover Z. Barnes