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IGHC Member Dr. Susie O'Brien

Five questions on climate change with McMaster prof Susie O’Brien

On Wednesday, Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition (IGHC)members, professors Susie O'Brien and Robert O'Brien (no relation), are hosting a free public forum on climate change called "My World's on Fire, How 'bout Yours?" Ahead of this dialogue, The Hamilton Spectator sat down with Susie O'Brien for a Q-and-A on what attendees should expect. Answers have been paraphrased.

Jan 28, 2019

Original article by Rosie-Ann Grover published in the Hamilton Spectator


Q: The discussion is called "My World's on Fire, How 'bout Yours?" Why did you pick this title and how does it speak to the topic?

A: The name is actually a lyric from the Smash Mouth song "All Star." My daughter Bridget, 19, came up with it. It's compelling. Part of those lyrics point to the fact that climate change affects people differently, some depending on where they are. Some living circumstances make people more susceptible to climate change; it can affect those hardest who aren't really contributing to it. It's uneven. For instance, Indigenous peoples are the most profoundly impacted, as well as the least listened to. We need to incorporate that Indigenous knowledge with science.


Q: How does culture shape climate change?

A: Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that parts of the U.S. are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record-setting cold. He finished the tweet with "Wouldn't be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!"

It makes me really mad. It's climate change denial. We need to approach climate change from a bunch of different lenses. The tweet says it's so cold, stay inside. It's the familiar narrative out of the White House — just hide in your houses. The "build a wall" narrative speaks to that. When we feel afraid, we are told to build a wall to keep the danger out. People are legitimately anxious about health and economic security. Then you have politicians who play or capitalize on that fear.

Q: What if you don't believe in climate change?

A: I never considered that climate change deniers would come. There are people who really believe it's not true. They are distrustful of science and its complexity. All of us are compelled by the idea that things are simpler than they seem. We, as a society, like heroes and villains, and climate change doesn't fit those stories. It's so complex and there is uncertainty.

Q: What is the most incorrect thing you've read on climate change?

A: The argument that we have to choose between environment and economy. Climate change will have profound economic effect. The idea that we have to make a choice between the two when they are linked. Western culture sees the environment as a separate subject from humans.

Q: What do you hope attendees will get from this discussion?

A: I hope people will feel galvanized to care about climate change and to start to support local organizations that are working toward carbon reduction and other such movements. I'd like people to see that the humanities and social sciences have a significant role to play. It's a social justice issue and that's really important.



Original article by Rosie-Ann Grover published in the Hamilton Spectator