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Kimberly Nicholas interview: How to be human in a warming world

To have any hope of tackling climate change, we must alter many aspects of society, says sustainability researcher Kimberly Nicholas – but meeting that challenge can give meaning to our lives

Environment 19 May 2021

New Scientist Default Image

Rocio Montoya

“TO 2030. I hope we did right by you”. It is an unusual dedication that appears at the front of Under the Sky We Make: How to be human in a warming world. But then Kimberly Nicholas, a sustainability scientist at Lund University in Sweden, has written an unusual book: a guide, she says, to living through the “decade that will define the future for both humanity and life on Earth“. It is part clear-headed summary of what we know about climate change, part call to action and part personal reflection on how global warming has challenged her own views and values.

Nicholas spoke to New Scientist about climate science, environmental loss, the problem of finding a green date on Tinder and her challenging legacy as a turkey heiress.

Richard Webb: What’s the meaning of the title Under the Sky We Make?

Kimberly Nicholas: It came to me when I was travelling overland to a science communication conference in Finland several years ago. I was really struck by what a momentous time we live in. We are the stewards of the very last traces of humanity’s carbon budget. We’re making the sky that we live under, and that our descendants will live under for many generations. We have a lot of agency and power and responsibility. I want us to make the changes we need to make a safe and beautiful sky, not the dangerous one we’re making at the moment.

You summarise climate change as: “It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. We can fix it.” But you also say that science won’t save …