By Guest Blogger - Louise Vaughn
I fell in love with conservation because of the stories. Buried within the scientific literature, peeking through the bar charts and pie graphs, are incredibly beautiful, breathtaking stories. Did you know that butterflies drink turtle tears? That’s adorable. It’s also bizarre and sounds like it came out of a Tim Burton film. But if these stories are not told by someone who can captivate and enthrall an audience, they go unheard.
I like Bill Nye the Science Guy as much as the next person who grew up watching his show for a solid ten minutes before flipping the channel, and he is definitely having a moment. He’s distinguished and well spoken; the very image of a scientist. He also feels a little like someone’s grandpa. That’s why it’s soooo funny when he gets angry and drops an F-bomb on John Oliver’s late night show, because Grandpa isn’t supposed to cuss! Even I had to clutch my pearls at this sassy version of Bill Nye. I guess all those times he went on Tucker Carlson to be heckled while trying to dispute completely asinine questions finally got to him. But why do we think sending Grandpa to go get spittle-sprayed is a good strategy to convince people that climate change is real and requires action? Can we get someone besides an older white man with a bow tie to debate climate change with a slightly-younger-but-still-kinda-old white guy who wears a bow tie? Frankly, I’d like to send someone who can handle themselves in a fight, suffers no fools, and looks good doing it.
I think we need Cardi B.
Until a few months ago, I thought Cardi B. was the name of a flavored rum. But then, I saw her Instagram post about the Federal Shutdown. Reposted, retweeted, and hypnotic. She was beyond captivating as she voiced her thoughts about shutting down the government over a border wall and asking Federal workers to return to their jobs without pay. Without a bow tie, she caught the attention of senators, Rolling Stone, major news outlets, and late night talk shows, which all served to amplify her message. As a woman who, in part, became a celebrity through her ability to go viral and is one of the only female rappers to have multiple number-one hits on the chart, when she talks a lot of people listen. What would happen if she was the new spokeswoman for climate change?
Consider the question recently asked, “How many members of the U.S. Congress follow climate scientists on Twitter” by Robert Rohde. Spoiler alert, the answer is not very damn many. Only 11 senators and 36 members of Congress follow climate scientists. It’s another debate about whether politicians should follow more climate scientists, but the fact is they don’t. So, who are they talking to?
Personally, I think it would be nice, for once, to watch an interview where the following occurred.
Host: But not everyone in the scientific community thinks that climate change is manmade. Cardi B: Do not make me slap you in public. All these wildfires just burned the shit out of California. How many Bachelor Mansions and Kardashian compounds have to burn down for you to get it? I don’t want to get goddamn Lyme disease every time I go outside and are you gonna pay for my medical bills? I didn’t think so. What about my daughter and the air she breathes? I am concerned about it because I’m a citizen of America; a citizen of the world. Are we gonna wait for mutha-fucking Miami to wash away before we handle our shit?
Yus, yus, yus, Cardi.
While Bill Nye’s angry rants on late night talk shows are amusing, that’s all it is — amusing. He’s someone who’s been telling the same story for so long, he’s decided to shout it to try and get a different reaction. But I’d like to be represented by someone else; someone who already resonates with people beyond the scientific community and is ready to go to the matt. Someone that knows the real message to share is that we need to find ways to address climate change within our own communities.
Because scientists aren’t the ones who can do anything about climate change. It’s like going to your doctor and getting diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and then expecting that doctor to give you an insulin shot every day. We are the patient. It’s our own local communities, all across our landscape, that need to develop creative strategies that can move the needle on climate change.
Cardi B is not a scientist talking to other scientists. She’s a cultural icon with a far-reaching voice. She not only resonates with people, she’s also capable of completely dog walking anyone that offers the narrow, unsupported, and unpopular belief that climate change is not a thing that we need to address right now.
Cardi B, with over 40 million Instagram followers and 5.5 million Twitter followers, speaks to a broad audience. Compare that to Bill Nye’s 2.7 million Instagram followers (his bio reads “Science Rules” because Grandpa is cool, bro) and his 5.8 million Twitter followers. Consider their audiences and then think about the power of having both Cardi B and Bill Nye speak about the urgency of climate change action.
There are loads of amazingly smart, talented, and brilliant scientists in the world who are not great at influencing the public. Alexandria Occasio-Cortez is not a scientist, but she has galvanized the issue of climate change to voters. Perhaps we should start looking within communities for voices that can tell their own stories in ways people are more able to relate to.
Again, imagine turning on the TV and seeing Cardi B, wearing her Fashion Nova line, shaking her head while sitting across from some climate change denier. She’s doesn’t need graphs and charts. She’s not constrained by the need to maintain an objective and composed demeanor while listening to someone spout out contextually inaccurate statistics. Instead, she calmly rolls her eyes and starts to take off her earrings. Don’t worry Bill Nye, she’s got this. She knows this is not really an unbiased debate. It’s the chance to tell a story about the fight we’re having, and about what to do next.