MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Are we going nuts or is it the environment?

Apr 10, 2024, 6:00 AM | Updated: 10:34 am

flash floods...

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle issued a flash flood watch for the central and northern Washington Cascades late Monday morning. (Photo from the Department of Natural Resources)

(Photo from the Department of Natural Resources)

It’s a subject that stirs emotions, sparks debates and, apparently, leaves an indelible mark on our brains.

According to an environmental journalist based in the Pacific Northwest, climate change is scientifically impacting the way we think.

“Climate change is not that thing that is necessarily causing changes within our brains, any more than other environmental changes are, but because the climate is changing, we are given cause to notice these changes within our brain,” University of Washington researcher Clayton Paige Alder told Seattle’s Morning News.

Alder is also a data scientist. He has a master’s degree from the University of Oxford in both neuroscience and public policy. He is also a Rhodes Scholar and Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow.

“Climate change encompasses everything unfolding in our world today. But let’s shift our perspective. Rather than fixating solely on climate change, consider it part of a broader environmental transformation,” Alder said. “It’s not just about melting ice caps, it’s about the intricate dance between human influence and our planet’s health. We’re surrounded by these changes and they’re shaping us biologically.”

Alder’s work spans the intersection of science, society and our changing world.

Cliff Mass on Washington’s depleted snowpack: ‘We understand … it’s not climate change’

Alder says climate change compels us to notice ourselves

“It’s about the neurological impact of environmental shifts,” he explained. “While climate change isn’t directly rewiring our brains, it compels us to notice the shifts within ourselves. This book isn’t just about rising temperatures, it’s about our interconnectedness with the natural world.”

Colleen O’Brien host of “Seattle’s Morning News” on KIRO Newsradio wanted to know how Alder bridged neuroscience and environmental journalism.

A decade ago, I toiled away in a windowless neuroscience lab. The lack of connection to the outside world drove me to journalism,” he said. “I craved windows, conversations and exploration. My editor encouraged me to revisit my neuroscience background. Could there be a link between a changing climate and brain health? Initially skeptical, I discovered a wealth of connections. Neuroscience isn’t just sensational headlines, it’s about understanding our minds in the context of our changing planet.”

Alder believes we’re borrowing the Earth for future generations.

“Climate change serves as a wake-up call — a reminder to cherish our environment and protect our minds,” he said. “As Chief Seattle wisely said, ‘All things share the same breath — the beast, the tree, the man.’ Let’s heed that breath and act collectively to safeguard our planet and our brains.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here

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Are we going nuts or is it the environment?