Reconstructing the Terminology and Rhetoric of Climate Change: Resiliency and a Rhetoric of Democracy (Part 3)

Reconstructing the Terminology and Rhetoric of Climate Change: Resiliency and a Rhetoric of Democracy (Part 3)

How does an apocalyptic/comic rhetoric inform the communication of resiliency?


My intention in this analysis of “Revealing and Reframing Apocalyptic Tragedy in Global Warming Discourse” is to explain how Foust and O’Shannon Murphy’s perspective influences, complicates, and legitimizes my understanding of the intractable confusion inherent in the existing terminology: “climate change” and “global warming.” Additionally, I will justify my thinking on the necessity for an entirely new ideology – a new terminology and rhetoric of climate change communications.


To reiterate, an apocalyptic/comic rhetoric of global warming (*again, I’m using “global warming” when referencing Foust & O’Shannon Murphy’s work as a means of keeping the terminology consistent) is a linear temporality (increased greenhouse gas concentrations –> warming –> catastrophe) that emphasizes a catastrophic end-point that is more or less outside the purview of human agency. When apocalyptic rhetoric is communicated from the perspective of an apocalyptic/comic rhetoric, the catastrophic end-point is understood as only one of the potential end-points. In an apocalyptic/comic rhetoric, global warming is an environmental problem caused by humans’ mistakes (unsustainable lifestyles, etc.) but one that is within humans’ power to fix; to act more responsibly/sustainably in response to consistent hypotheses about what is likely to occur if we do nothing in response to global warming (again, best illustrated by Meadows, Meadows & Randers’ World3, which theorizes/models a systems perspective: “… 10 different pictures of how the 21st century may evolve” (xix)).

Apocalyptic/comic rhetoric understands human agency as humans’ ability to respond to/remedy their mistakes, and in response to an awareness of their mistakes, engage in productive action to change/transition into a sustainable system. An apocalyptic/comic rhetoric is a rhetoric of global warming that is founded on agency – especially concerning how collective human agency is capable of bringing population, affluence, and technology (and its effects) back within the Earth’s limits. An apocalyptic/comic rhetoric is an optimistic perspective, founded on the premise that enough time still exists within which to change behavior – to transition to a sustainable system.

In terms of how an apocalyptic/comic rhetoric pertains to resiliency, the new/replacement term I’m proposing for “climate change” or “global warming,” is “resiliency.” At its most basic level, resiliency is optimistic, in that it is defined as the turning of threats into opportunities. An apocalyptic/comic rhetoric of resiliency, then, would require that the telos – the potentially tragic end-point (catastrophe) be understood as one possible end-point/conclusion. This opens space – opportunity – for human agency in transitioning to a sustainable system, one that is resilient. A resilient society is one that accepts that we understand enough about climate change science in order to make informed (not flawless) hypotheses about specific measures – lifestyle changes – that we ought to make. Resiliency is especially important because of the way in which it understands/uses/implicates time: because it describes a state of action in response to the hypothesized effects of climate change, it requires – demands – that resilient actions be specified and acted on. Such a perspective differs greatly from the rhetorics of climate change and global warming, of which the majority of time, scholarship, and debate is paralyzed over the contention between who/what is responsible for climate change itself. Where climate change and global warming are preoccupied with seeking to identify facts supporting one/another causes, resiliency frames attention on how to respond to certain changes, focusing on the various – and potentially positive – opportunities that can result from actions that bring the overshoot of population, affluence, and adverse effects of technology, etc. into balance within the Earth’s limits.


The subsequent post (the last post pertaining to Foust & O’Shannon Murphy’s article) will address the four remaining/significant terms from “Revealing and Reframing…” (fictional weather apocalypses, crisis, catastrophe, and thinking) as well as answer the questions: “Can new terminology – that of resiliency versus crisis and the subsequent communication of a rhetoric of democracy – provide the communication that is necessary for restoring the vibrancy and engagement of science with citizenship?”; and “How can new terminology – resiliency (framed by a rhetoric of democracy) communicate the large-scale, sustainable changes in human behavior; the changes that are necessitated by the global environmental problem of climate change?” Essentially, I’m concerned with the connection between Foust and O’Shannon Murphy’s framework in “Revealing and Reframing…” as it connects with – and is extended by – my case study of the competing rhetorics of climate change as observed at Resilient Tampa Bay 2011.  



About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

One response to “Reconstructing the Terminology and Rhetoric of Climate Change: Resiliency and a Rhetoric of Democracy (Part 3)

  • David Nutzuki

    I’m not the only former believer urging prosecutors to lay criminal chargers to the leading scientists and news editors for knowingly inciting this needless panic of CO2 climate crisis and REAL planet lovers don’t WANT this misery to have been real. Climate change wasn’t stewardship, it was a CO2 death threat to billions of children and a criminal exaggeration rationalized with political correctness on steroids. All the scientists studied effects of a crisis that never happened and called it consensus. This is a dark our for civilized humanity.

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