As you know, readability tests changed journalism. The Flesch–Kincaid readability test is also used to study political candidate’s speeches. I challenge myself to write well. As an engineer, internal auditor, educator and system scientist, I was challenged to write well. However, my writing typically measures above the 12th grade level. That is not a good idea when trying to communicate with angry, misinformed constituents. I tried to craft this letter below the 8th grade level. Not to dumb it down for you, but to demonstrate a way forward for you to speak with other politicians and your constituents. (This paragraph has an average grade level of about 10.)
Do people care about earthquakes? In Oregon, we know earthquakes are real. Earthquakes happen all the time but we can’t feel them. We know death, destruction and refugees happen after earthquakes. Few prepare for an earthquake.
Cities and States tell us to prepare for an earthquake. Pros are trained and equipped to deal with what happens after an earthquake. Millions of dollars are spent every year on earthquake design of new buildings, and remodeling old buildings.
There is a 20 percent chance we will be hit by a big earthquake in the next 50 years. There is a small chance one happens and we might die. Should people understand a threat based on chance? How do we engage people to take action to prepare for a statistic? (These three paragraphs have an average grade level of about 6.)
Climate change is a statistic: over decades the change in average atmospheric temperature is a change in the climate. The droughts and floods caused by climate change are not a statistic. They are real and happening now.
Oregon now has warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers. But the results are not felt by everyone across the state. The economic and health burden is not felt by everyone. Low-income families, who can’t move and those without proper healthcare, have the worst outcomes. The wealthy, who are able to move and those able to pay for healthcare, do not suffer. (These two paragraphs have an average grade level of about 8.)
Oregonians have common beliefs about earthquakes. Ideology or politics does not matter when we talk about earthquakes. But when we speak or write about climate change, what matters is the misinformation, misunderstandings and fallacies that took root over the past 50 years. Overcoming 50 years of propaganda will not be easy.
Climate change is real and happening now. We need to prepare in the same way that we prepare for a magnitude-8.0 or higher earthquake. Like an earthquake, climate change has a very low probability and is an existential threat. (These two paragraphs have an average grade level of about 9.)
Scientists are too conservative with their estimates of climate change. Cities and States need to prepare citizens for climate change. First, adapt. Second, mitigate risks. Same as earthquakes.
Be prepared with water, food and emergency shelter. All the basic skills needed after a big earthquake are needed to deal with a climate emergency happening now.
(These two paragraphs have an average grade level of about 9.)
People are suffering and they’re angry. The economy has left them behind due to low or stagnant wages, expensive housing, lack of education, lack of skills aligned with demand, increasing healthcare premiums and many other basic needs. People feel the due process clause is not working for them to guarantee equal protection for them, their children and future grandchildren.
The due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law. The government’s failure to act to protect families from economic decay and the consequences of climate change denies citizens the right to due process. (These two paragraphs have an average grade level of about 14.)
The approaching perfect storm of economic decay and environmental catastrophe require action by all citizens to come to the aid of our country. (Average grade level of about 15.)