Lucy Jones, disaster expert: “Anger is what motivates action against climate change”

His recipe to overcome the impotence generated by any natural disaster is to take action: “Prevent, train, think for ourselves and not assume that governments protect us.”

Lucy Jones, scientist expert in natural disasters.

After four decades being the face and reassuring voice of Science on American television after major earthquakes, eruptions or floods, seismologist Lucy Jones (Santa Monica, 1955) has focused on changing the attitude of the people to combat what, in his opinion, is the greatest of disasters, climate change.

Jones, a leading scientist in natural disasters, has concluded that “climate change is the worst of disasters because its impact is global and on a time scale greater than any other. Earthquakes happen in a minute, floods can last for days, eruptions for months, the covid it will be a matter of years, but climate change is a disaster that is going to happen for centuries”.

This is underlined in an interview with EFE on the occasion of the publication in Spain of his book Disasters. How major catastrophes shape our history (Captain Swing) in which he analyzes What 11 major disasters reveal about the human condition that have devastated the Earth, since the destruction of Pompeii by the eruption of the Vesuvius to the tsunami that swept Fukushima in 2011.

Jones, who has dedicated 40 years studying extreme phenomena to provide useful scientific information from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Caltech Seismological Laboratory, explains that while writing this book he realized that any of the great disasters he describes have been infinitely minor compared to what climate change implies.

carbon neutral

Lucy Jones, scientist expert in natural disasters.  Photo courtesy of Capitan Swing editorialLucy Jones, scientist expert in natural disasters.

“The paradox is that compared to other phenomena, climate change is predictable, 30 years ago we already had enough information to have solved it. Not anymore, now is the time act to prevent the worst impacts and for that it is very important to change the attitude of the people”.

And that is what he has proposed to do from the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society which he founded in 2016: “I work with social scientists to understand what emotions they lead people to take action In the face of climate change, we have seen that anger is what drives people to act. We have a project with artists, especially musicians, to create that kind of emotion in people. Until now, most of the art in this field generated sadness and uneasiness, and with that we are not going anywhere”.

“I am confident that if we encourage that sense of anger in the population, make the necessary investments and accelerate the technologies, we will be carbon neutral in about 20 yearsand we will avoid the worst impacts, except for the collapse of the large frozen areas of the planet”, he says.

The pandemic as a disaster

Jones, an expert in communicating scientific knowledge in times of crisis, analyzes the covid pandemic as a great disaster for her next book and assures that “the same casuistries come together as in other great catastropheswe have created heroes, looked for culprits, empathy flows more slowly when the victims are not white or from a rich country and, in general, we pay more attention to science in search of patterns that tell us what is safe”.

“When a disaster occurs, people turn to scientific information not only to minimize destruction but to placate their fear, I realized a long time ago that when I went out to talk about an earthquake, classifying it by name, fault and magnitude, it fulfilled the same function as priests and shamans. The same thing is happening with covid, ”he adds.

jones emphasizes that, like other disasters, “the pandemic has brought to our face the things that are malfunctioning in our societyindividualism, selfishness, the ease with which false information circulates.”


To address this last point, he insists that “it is essential to train the entire population in techniques for searching for truthful information. The Internet has changed everything, now anything can be published and the responsibility of trusting whether something is true lies with the person, and most people are not trained to know what is real and what is notbecause it is something that until now only some professionals such as scientists or journalists did”.

“To fight against denialism and hoaxes we have to change education and that is going to take us decades, although it will be worth it, now most of the people do not have the capacity to process information”, he stresses.

The recipe of jones to overcome the impotence generated by any disaster is to take action: “Prevent, train, think by ourselves and not assume that governments protect us, collaborate with our neighbors at the local level and be guided by our capacity for empathy and desire to help, disasters hit us all together and together we must get back up again”.

Disasters, by Lucy Jones.  Editorial Captain Swingdisasters, by Lucy Jones. Editorial Captain Swing.
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