Wen Stephenson, a climate journalist and essayist, was CA’s second Environmental Symposium speaker of the year. Formerly an editor for the Atlantic and the Boston Globe and writer for the New York Times, Stephenson has been writing about the ongoing struggle of the climate crisis for the past decade.
On Tuesday, November 16, Stephenson spoke about his book, What We’re Fighting for Now is Each Other, to an audience of CA community members. In this book, Stephenson wrote about people who were courageous enough to put themselves at risk to begin movements; he calls these people “new American Radicals.” Further writing that Stephenson shared with students revolved around Henry David Thoreau, including Stephenson’s essay, Walden at Midnight: Three Walks with Thoreau. Here, Stephenson highlighted the climate crisis through the lens of Thoreau, a Concord local, and Thoreau’s status as an early climate activist. Some issues that appeared in the essay were wildfires, global sea-level rise, increased prevalence of storms, rapid erosion, a fossil-fuel-driven world, and global warming. For example, decades ago, Concord used to get frost as early as September, but, as Thoreau put it, these changes “have been too subtle for [the] untrained eye.”
To promote a radical change, Stephenson explained that students have to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Stephenson explained that if things continue as they are now, even the most insulated people will see the consequences in the future. For instance, scientists predict that half of the several million species on Earth will likely face extinction before this century is over. Additionally, by 2070, up to one-fifth of the planet’s populated land will become uninhabitable.
But overall, Stephenson highlighted the intersection between climate activism and other forms of social activism. He pointed out that poor and racially marginalized groups and younger generations are suffering disproportionately and will be affected the most. Successful movements are led by radicals and often include diverse groups working together, such as women’s suffrage, anti-war campaigns, and civil rights movements. The movement to address and mitigate the climate crisis could take a page from those movements.