|Photo © Betsssssy at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
Having grown up neither British nor celebrating Christmas—and thus without any firsthand experience of plum pudding—I didn’t find it particularly enlightening to learn, in 8th grade chemistry class, that the turn-of-the-century conception of the atom was akin to this fruited, brandied, yuletide delicacy. Surely this metaphor of bits of dried fruit suspended in crumbly pudding meant something real and tangible to someone, but not me. Yet lessons of science must be communicated thus—through metaphor—because, while plum pudding isn’t rich with meaning for everyone, nobody can see atoms with the naked eye either.
The same holds for climate change. We need to understand it in terms of something we can see, someone we can talk to, somewhere we can stand, or something we can—literally—sink our teeth into. And, as with the atom-as-plum-pudding pedagogical tool, important details can get lost in the process.