Climate Fwd: makes a big problem seem more manageable

Climate change is a hard topic to wrap your arms around. It affects the entire planet, for one. And fossil fuels are so ingrained in our lives that making meaningful carbon cuts seems impossibly hard, particularly under the current administration.

The New York Times’ Climate Fwd: newsletter speaks to the complexity of the challenge without sending us into apocalyptic despair. It’s part science journal, part gardening blog.

It curates all the well-written, insightful climate stories the Times produces each week, some of which are, well, depressing. If it only did that, I’d still subscribe. It often highlights international stories that I’ve missed during the week.

But Climate Fwd: offers something more, a “One thing you can do” feature that makes the daunting challenge seem slightly more manageable.

This week it focused on lawns. “America has a lot of lawns. Add them all together, and they’d cover an area roughly the size of Florida, making grass the most common irrigated plant in the country. And all that grass comes with an environmental cost.”

A graphic from the latest New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter.

The post advises less lawn and more trees, in part to reduce the use of gasoline-consuming lawn-care machines.

Even if we don’t actually do any of the things we read about each week, the how-tos are a nice change of pace to the heavier climate change reporting we often see.

The combination of practical tips and in-depth reporting makes sense journalistically from another perspective.

Through engagement, the Times has built a lasting relationship with its audience. In another example, reporter Henry Franklin used Climate Fwd: to offer a peek behind the curtain of a Times investigation into what could be meager oil reserves in ANWR: “It began with an intriguing lead. It ended with the answer to an Arctic mystery.”

Climate Fwd: also published tips from readers about how to reduce plastics use. Would any of them eliminate the giant island of Barbies, Ziplocs and Coke half-liters floating around the Pacific? Alas, no. But the dialogue connects those of us interested in such things to one another and the paper and gives us something to do besides worry.

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