Tonight I'm giving a lecture on global warming at Williams College
. I was asked to give the lecture by a friend who works at the college's Center for Environmental Studies
, someone I got to know during a fight against a local development project. (My husband also works at Williams, and we live in Williamstown, MA, at the edge of what used to be a rural neighborhood filled with cows and is now a formerly-rural neighborhood filled with second homes.) When I agreed to give the lecture, months and months ago, my assumption was that having spent the last two years writing about global warming, I wouldn't have any trouble coming up with something to say. Of course, I was mistaken. (Only Day 2 of this blog, and already this seems to be becoming a theme
One of the things that you learn as a journalist (or at least should learn) is the importance of genre. I worked for many years at the New York Times ??? fourteen, to be exact ??? and there I learned to write what everyone would recognize as a New York Times story. Then I went to work at the New Yorker. It was a disconcerting experience, like mastering French only to find that you are being posted to China. In a way, I had to learn to write all over again.
In writing about global warming, there were many things that I tried to do. I traveled to a lot of places ??? Greenland, Alaska, Iceland ??? and tried to convey what I had seen. I talked to a lot of people ??? scientists, politicians, Inupiat hunters ??? and tried to convey what I had heard. The one thing I tried not to do was deliver a lecture. So what was I going to do, now that I had agreed to deliver a lecture? (I myself rarely attend lectures, though in Williamstown you could go to one practically every night.)
After a lot of agonizing, I decided I would talk about the history of climate science. This, you could argue, is an odd choice, since obviously I'm not a historian of science. I think, though, that when people learn that everything we are seeing today ??? the melting of the polar ice cap, the thawing of permafrost, the steady rise in average global temperatures ??? was predicted by climate scientists decades ago, they begin to understand why what's often called the "debate" over global warming isn't really a debate at all. At least that is my hope???