In her new book How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts, Candis Callison explores how our changing climate does indeed matter to different facets of society. The author takes a unique approach to the conversation by examining how different groups look at climate change in their own distinct ways.
By that, Callison performed extensive fieldwork of disparate sample groups of cultures, societies, and organizations as they attempt to communicate the climate change issue to the ordinary people within said groups. Specifically, Callison has written about five groups that approach the problem of climate change differently: Inuit in Alaska, corporate activists, evangelical and religious groups, science journalists, and science policy experts. For each group, her research is much more specific, but that is the general outline.
Not only do the above groups approach the issue differently, but they also interpret it differently as a whole. We’re talking about the vast difference between how Inuit culture views climate change in comparison to evangelical faith groups such as Creation Care. Callison explores these differences by delving deeply into each group and how they view issues of global warming among those inside each group. As a whole, she also traces the way the conversation about climate change is shifting in more important directions, such as in the realm of science, where scientists have become pressed into “near-advocacy” instead of merely reporting their findings. Many of these types of shifts are explored by Callison, with the above being only one example.
As far as style goes, the book is heavily academic, but don’t let that put you off. Much like reading any academic paper, the introduction is a little bit dry and hits all of those “this-should-be-in-your-intro” bases that you’d expect. That said, since the book is academic, it is likely partially aimed at other academics. It isn’t part of the vague “popular science” genre. Get through the intro and move on.
Once she gets rolling into the main chapters, the book becomes a little clearer and much more interesting. Her small stories that constitute the field research done for the book are quite enlightening. Callison is good at wrapping a whole ton of information into the small experiences of her field work. It is interesting to read about the different ways all kinds of people approach climate change, and Callison’s writing reflects that.
How Climate Change Comes to Matter is dense, intelligent, and thoroughly researched. Callison hasn’t exactly presented the easiest read in the world, but the content is vitally important. She presents an interesting conversation about climate change, rather than engaging in many of the typical debates one could read anywhere. Her unique perspective informs the content of the book and makes for an interesting read.