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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Climate It Is A-Changin' aka A Change is Gonna Come

With my headline on this blog, I do not mean to belittle or minimize the reality of climate change on our planet. I believe it is happening; humans must take some, even much, blame for causing it; and humans must work together now to slow it down, if not prevent it. 

But I used that headline to grab attention, to put the fact of climate change into simpler, familiar words--words from a couple of my favorite songs.

What prompted me to do that is a website I came across today that uses "plain language" in this heading:

Climate Diplomacy in plain language – glossary of key UN terms and their secret meaning | The Adopt a Negotiator Project.
As I note often in my blog, I advocate for using plain language in all types of documents for all types of purposes, for all types of audiences. So I appreciate the intent of this Web page. It begins:
This little glossary provides a short and critical guide to the main terms used in the context of the negotiations towards a climate agreement in 2015. Its main objective is not only to help the user navigate the climate discussions but also to read between the lines of country positions and understand the intent of negotiators invoking the terms including below.
Not being familiar with most of the terms in that glossary, I think it helps. But wow, I keep thinking: Since the climate-change action negotiators from various country governments are using that language among themselves, how much do they understand climate change? How much do they accept the reality of climate change? How effective are they, really, in coming up with real-life, human, international actions to deal with it?

In asking those questions, I don't mean to imply that all the negotiators are insincere or ignorant in their discussions. (On the other hand, I believe there's a range of knowledge and sincerity among them that probably hinders discussion and agreement on real action.)

But I know from my 30 years of work in local government (and my earlier work in journalism, education, and nonprofit communications) that well-meaning people (and not-so-well-meaning people) get caught up in the jargon of their fields and interests. Talking among themselves, people use the common language of their workplace--be it government, the law, medicine, or something else--and can lose sight of the people who are likely affected by their work.

So I value the efforts of independent, volunteer activists and advocates outside the confines of those fields to communicate what's going on within those fields. (As a retired government communicator, of course, I also value the staff and consultants within those fields who try to get the word out in clear, concise and familiar language.)

And I value the efforts of the The Adopt a Negotiator Project and other organizations like it. Its website identifier says, in all-capital letters:

Tracking international efforts to deal with climate change.
Its About page says, in clear, human terms:
Climate change is the defining issue of our generation. How we confront it is literally shaping the world we grow up in. It’s shaping our challenges and our opportunities, from the cost of food to whether there’s any food to put on the table; from how we get energy to power our phones to how we get energy to power our classrooms and lift our communities. It touches almost every aspect of our lives.
Our leaders have worked on climate change for decades, negotiating amongst themselves and on our behalf how to deal or not deal with our changing world.
So why do we leave the most important decisions in the world to a few hundred people? Why doesn't everyone know about it? Why aren't we all having our say? And what can we do about it? These are the questions we asked ourselves.
And we came up with an answer: Adopt a Negotiator. We thought it was time to let our leaders know we are here and we are watching them and we are going to take our future into our own hands.
For more information on plain language, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. The Climate Diplomacy article is featured today, April 29, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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