Civilized Communication About Global Warming, Energy, Environment And Stuff; Naysayers, I’m Open for Persuasion

Why do we have give-and-takes like this?

A: “Global warming exists. Let’s do something about it.”

B: “Screw you! Global warming is a commie, liberal farce!”

A: “We should harvest the wind and sun for energy.”

B: “Screw you! My car is set up for petroleum; my house likes coal-fired electricity…commie, liberal farce!”

“We should care about Earth and each other. Nothing stays the same; we’ve got to evolve.”


And so on.

Oh, and on the relatively civilized tip…

A: “Science demonstrates that global warming exists.”

B: (In the eloquence of Dick Cheney…) “So.”

I’m perplexed of late by the glaring contrast of view points on some important issues in our world. Not to mention the venom and vitriol that charges so many of the outbursts. And not to mention that facts seem irrelevant to many people, even when they honest-to-goodness exist.

Republican or Democrat? Conservative or Liberal? Science or Religion? United States or Everyone Else? Rich or poor? Self or Others? Us or Them?

First of all, I’m not sure why everything has to be so polarized. A couple of weeks ago, when I told a colleague of mine that I don’t affiliate with any political party, he choked a laugh in disbelief. Knowing I am a man of opinions he assumed I was certifiably a Democrat.

I said, “No, really. I’m for good people and good ideas. In 2000, I even liked John McCain and I voted for Bush.”

(I feel violated because of that vote, by the way, and I didn’t fall for that mistake twice. In that recent convo, I immediately realized I shouldn’t have owned up to having voted for Bush at all; it will no doubt be held against me at a future date via the office gossip vine. But my point was made.)

I just want good leaders to keep their eyes on the needs of people, not on their own private interests and vendettas.

Second of all, I’m absolutely vexed at all of the animosity over politics and environmental issues, just to name a couple of major items that tend to stir opponents. (Just because it’s supposedly “always been that way,” doesn’t mean that’s how it should be or has to be.)

I repeatedly wonder: How can we possibly receive the same facts, news, information, etc., and see it so differently? And despite these differing views, why can’t we discuss them in intelligent, patient, rational ways?

There Are No Gods Here

Fellow Sustainablogger, Alex Felsinger, recently posted about research announcing the positive effect against global warming by painting rooftops white

The first six comments – the only comments when I first read the post – all blasted the notion of global warming, saying evidence clearly refutes its occurrence, and mocking those who are “playing God and believing that we have ANY CONTROL whatsoever on our climate,” and acting so “incredibly arrogant!

[Later, a commenter cited the George W. Bush-governed EPA’s admitted understanding that global warming exists: “Careful measurements have confirmed that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and that human activities (principally, the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use) are the primary cause. Human activities have caused the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane to be higher today than at any point during the last 650,000 years. Scientists agree it is very likely that most of the global average warming since the mid-20th century is due to human-induced increases in greenhouse gases, rather than to natural causes.“]

I’m pretty sure that I know I’m not a god.

(And I’m equally pretty sure other Earth-loving people also realize they’re humanness, too. In fact, I would propose it’s their humanity that motivates them/me to care about the good of others.)

When I blog here at Green Options, I do so, more often than not, for the purpose of facilitating discussion, not issuing answers or mandates or condescension.

I’m trying to understand and learn from opposing views, and I am trying to participate in creating a productive consensus, all while recognizing that hateful clashes accomplish nothing.

I do all of this with the understanding that I can only know so much. So I trust experts in other fields. I trust that science has a valuable role in our world. I trust that when visible proof is given to us showing, say, an arctic ice shelf collapsing, it means that an arctic ice shelf is collapsing.

Tell Me What You Believe In

I believe that the essence of environmentalism is simply to be mindful of how we use our resources. I have yet to come up with a good reason to be wasteful of anything, so I choose not to be (and for unknown reasons that seems to make me one of the bad guys in the eyes of a discouragingly large piece of the status quo public).

So here are my real questions to you, be you “liberal” or “conservative” or anything or anyone else, to be answered in rational form free of defensive hostility, all for the sake of mutually calm and helpful discussion:

What truths do you hold to be self-evident? And why?

What are the things you feel you see so clearly and can’t understand why your neighbor, your mother, your boss or maybe even I don’t see equally as clearly?

Why are we so far apart in our visions of “truth” and “reality” and all that we hold dear?

Make me believe what you’re saying. Tell me why you’re credible. Tell me why science isn’t good enough to convince you and, who knows, maybe you can persuade me that you know best.

Or is all of this Doubting-Thomas blustering just a loathsome pastime no one will ever win — and communication is not really the goal?

Other Posts:

A Cocktail Party Guide to Global Warming: Soundbite-Free Science

Schwarzenegger Angry With Bush Over Global Warming Inaction

How America Lost the (Self-Appointed) Title of ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’ to Denmark

The Positive Side of the Green Life

The Upside to Natural Disasters

  1. Jeremy

    I agree with you whole heartedly. I honestly feel the polorization is due to an ever increasing decrease of people’s confidence and self esteem. And replaced by fear, pretty much the root of all rash and negative behaviors in my opinion. Fear sells, and we are sold everything by it.

    So any challenge of any persons view or idea doesn’t cause review, discussion and collaboration. Instead it causes anger, fear, defensiveness and therefore a fight and attack back.

    So politics, religion, science, homosexuality, abortion, all of them have become battles, not discussions.

    Back in the day, a person was far more uninformed, with that meant you didn’t know good and bad. Media has pretended to “inform” us in the past 30 years or so, but have actually just been selling us. And they have figured out that fear sells better.

    Perfect example, in the U.S. your children are statistically safer then ever. But yet we have serious irrational fears about evil people in every corner waiting to snatch them up.

    I would argue that people just need to simply turn off the TV. Go have some real interaction with real people, and re-learn how to work with people and talk with people, not be talked at, and not talk at others.

    I’m right there with you man. I have often voted just to keep congress majority one party, and president the other. It forces discussion, and discussion forces better solutions.

    Stop watching Tv, and start discussing and interacting with people and your environment more.

  2. Adam

    Thank you for writing this article, for it raises some very interesting questions. Questions I have been asking myself for a while.
    I also write in reference to Environmental issues, and I have asked myself repeatedly, why it is that people will deny something in the face of scientific facts.
    I have come to believe, that there are two main reasons. The first one, as Jeremy said, is fear. Specifically the fear of change.
    Western Society teaches that we need to identify ourselves with success, and ownership of and consumption of goods and services indicates success. When faced with change, many peoples gut reaction is to think and say “I’ve worked hard to get where I am at. I deserve this, and no one is going to take it away from me.” These people fear losing their sweat equity. What they dont realize is the the only constant in life is change. It’s the people who do not identify their self worth with the objbects and lifestyle, that have an easier time with this.

    The second reason is that the nature of trying to create Enviromental Change, is to point out what it is that people are doing wrong, and what they can do to correct that. This makes people feel Guilty, and when people feel guilty, they will build glass castles in the sky and fabricate defenses and will deny even scientific evidence in an effort to negate those feelings of guilt. They will look everywhere else, instead of themselves. This is why when a discussion is started, many people revert to saying that other China and India are even worse, or it’s the Media’s fault for pushing consumption on us. It’s the lobbyists fault, its the corporations fault. It’s everyone’s fault except their own. They don’t want to feel the guilt.

    Fear of Change and Environmental Guilt are what drive people to deny and excuse.

    The question then becomes, how do we overcome these psychological roadblocks. Education helps and websites and articles like this are one way, but often times, they only make people more defensive. (An example is the first six commenter in a previous article that you spoke of)

    I wish that I had the answer. All I can do is offer my own moment of clarity.

    I realized I couldn’t change India and China. I cant put the lobbyists and oil speculators out of business. All I can do is stand up and say “I am guilty. I helped cause this problem. I accept that. My hands are dirty and I am changing. Not for you, but for me. If you would like to do the same, that would be great. I can show you how to do it. Follow me if you will. Together, we can make change.”


  3. Kyle

    I appreciate and understand your opinions on this extremely important issue. As environmentally conscious individuals we are faced with the challenges of our decisions on a daily basis. The entire concept of sustainability opposes so much that our capitalist society is built on and I think people can’t help but feel threatened and uncomfortable when another person is practising something so contrary to their beliefs.
    In a lot of ways I think that the immature, and often unintelligent reactions that people have to environmental discussion is because they don’t have any meaningful way to express or understand their own personal discomfort with the issues. Our environmental consciousness implies that their way of life is not only the wrong one but in many ways an immoral and irresponsible one. This implication most definitely isn’t a pleasent one and so they oppose it with name calling (“commie!!”), labeling (“tree hugging Hippie”)and an utmost dismissal for scientific evidence. What they haven’t realized is that the majority of so-called “environmentalists” (whatever that means exactly) were raised in the same system that they were and were influenced to hold the same strong beliefs about industry, resources, and the Earth that they do. Environmentalists just stopped opposing the ideas, and started embracing them.

  4. Caroline Savery

    Dear Adam,

    Nowhere in my post am I critical of you. In fact, I made sure that my language was *not* critical of your article, because I admired the conclusion you drew. At first, however, my interest was sparked–and a bit turned off, I will admit–by the opening tone of this post, which initially inspired my own post.

    I can tell you are very sensitive to criticism due to the recent direct and hateful comments directed at you, which you listed in your comment. You have every reason to be sensitive. This is why I made sure not to criticize you. I put into my own words some assumptions I thought you might be making, but I made sure they were my own words by not using quotes or references to your words. I am sorry if you perceived that I was speaking about *you*, and not generally, when I talked about hateful speech. Like many other Americans today, I am thoroughly disgusted by the mindlessly hateful criticism on *both* sides of the spectrum toward the others. I was speaking more in general of this sad tone in our public discourse than of any individual.

    You are right that the comment-makers you list have no place–and really, no point–in making such blatantly hateful statements as they do. I also perceive that the tactic of “ad hominum” arguments–like “you’re a dumb commie”–is used more often by right wing speakers than left. I only don’t know how to heal this rift except to refuse to stoop to such a level of discourse myself. Your post was a breath of fresh air to me and inspired my own post. Please don’t align me with the malicious and insecure commenters. 🙂

  5. Caroline Savery

    Hello again,

    I wholeheartedly agree. The internet absolutely has drawbacks–namely, the nuance of bodily expression present in face-to-face conversation. I do tend to love it, though, for its ability to bring strangers together to discuss and share information, which is so important and life-affirming.

    So yes, much chagrin about the miscommunication… but I am glad to “meet” you. 🙂

  6. Charles Sifers

    The polarization is simple, and can be easily illustrated from this article. Those of you who are “True Believers” never really listen to what anyone else says, and when we point out that anthropocentric global warming has no scientific basis, then you simply turn a deaf ear and go back to your devotions.

    I realize that actually becoming educated is much to difficult for you people, and you can’t base a cult on science, so continue on with your ignorance, all the while being told the truth.

    I have posed several rebuttals to your religious doctrine, but never once was any of it answered, except for an invite to represent the “Conservative” perspective against the earth.

    Just where do you people come from? Did you all just suddenly become aware a few years ago, so the entire world’s history prior to 2000 is a mystery?

    Get a clue…you’re not in any way original, and the earth is getting along just fine without you.

    Of course, this is as much a waste of time all all the other direct information that is posted that proves without a doubt that anthropocentric global warming is simply a marketing campaign that you “babes” have bought hook line and sinker.

    However, when you are interested in the facts, we grownups will still be here.

  7. Cameron Seifert

    My friend Charles, I’m afraid, is being maybe a little too inflammatory to take seriously. If we could, once and for all, do away with all this subjectivity, we would get somewhere, here. Having said that, I sympathize with Charles’s indignation to a point, even if I don’t empathize, because nothing is as frustrating as having one’s views dismissed without any sincere investment in understanding all sides of the issue. I’ve been frustrated, lately, too.

    Bottom line seems to be scientific evidence (even though I find that the whole anthropogenic climate change debate to be rather more political than scientific–more on that later). Cynics, including both Charles and me, have seen scientific evidence that contrasts, indeed, starkly disagrees, with the claim that human industry contributes solely or even largely to climate change. We’ve seen graphs that show polar bears as having survived much higher temperatures than the current ones. We’ve heard expert testimony brave enough to disagree with the scientists being funded to support the other side (I particularly recommend Bjorn Lomborg’s testimony in “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It”). Finally, we’ve carefully considered the political atmosphere of the debate, and quite frankly, this dissenter finds it inhospitable to objective scientific debate.

    Believe it or not, climatologists, geologist, oceanologist, etc., cannot find any solid sources of funding to disprove the theory of anthropogenic global warming. The ones brave enough to strike out on their own funding are received in a manner so shameful that I can only liken it to the situation of an evolution proponent in the early 20th century. These men and women aren’t treated like scientists; they are treated like unpopular politicians, and that is quite telling of the nature of the debate, is it not?

    The study of global warming is an industry in and of itself. There’s simply no money to disagree with Al Gore anymore, and the fiscally-conscious scientist knows that. To paraphrase Deepthroat, follow the money. Then, and only then, consider the perspectives of men brave enough to stand opposite those poised to get that money: Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Crichton, John Coleman (founder of the Weather Channel), Patrick Moore (one of the founding members of Greenpeace), et al.

    Ad hominem attacks are the narrow-minded person’s refuge. We should keep this in mind, and when I write this, I intend for both sides of the issue to take heed (perhaps in futility). I do agree that our cynic’s rebuttals to the global warming claims occasionally lapse into baseless denial. However, all responsible thinkers should keep the heart of scientific debate objective, and leave the senseless bickering to the politicians.

    If I may do so, I’d like to add that I consider myself an environmentally conscious voter, no matter the shade my opponents care to cast on me. I am a college student majoring in English literature and education, and I recycle. I do not own a car, and instead prefer to ride a bike or use public transportation when necessary. I do my very best to conserve electricity where I can, be it in a building on campus or my own apartment. I vote in a manner consistent with my environmentalist ideals. Keep these things in mind as you consider my views.

  8. Adam Pippin

    First of all, I too am sorry that such polarization of our country exists. We could all do some much more if we were more united. Just look what Japan is doing with well-managed nuclear power and transportation. (Not to mention the “space elevator development.)I don’t claim to be on a “side” on this issue, but there are flaws in being too focused within both philosophies. Global warming is real, but so is global cooling. Years of scientific evidence shows that the Earth has cycles of warming and cooling. Some ages are tropical, ice-free, and others are ice ages. Based on the fact that life is thriving, I believe that it is safe to say that the Earth is still within an optimal range of temperatures for life to exist, and exist well. We humans can impact the temperature of the Earth by some degree, through release of CO2, CO, methane, and other bi-products of chemical reactions that occur because of the use of fossil fuels and several types of waste that isn’t processed in an optimal manner. This is part of what is often coined as a “Negative Feedback Loop” (this particular one is a type of “Greenhouse effect”, where the effects compound one another. The Earth has ways to counteract some of these effects, vegetation in land and sea absorb and convert CO2. Weather patterns shift to compensate. The Earth’s compensation may not be pleasant to us. Evidence is not yet conclusive enough to determine how much our actions effect the Earth. It may be less than is often thought. I personally think it is good to be wise with resources. I recycle, support companies that manage waste more efficiently (when possible), and support energy providers who use sustainable energy sources. I think the “Global Warming Movement” is not necessarily the best course of action, nor should it be our reason to be wise with resources. I believe it better to adapt if the climate is actually on a changing trend, rather than stop it. Again, I think we should do what we can to be wise on how we do things, but we should also balance this need with other important social and economic needs. Just my thoughts.

  9. Terry

    So what are we doing to get ready for the coming Ice Age? As I recall from school, the Ice Ages are caused by the ice caps melting, slowing down the ocean conveyor, etc. So in my way of thinking, global warming is a self mitigating problem…..


    And, no, I’m not just being a smart arse here, (well, a little…) my point here is that for all the data and all the opinions of learned men, people, we are still just a few hundred years past drilling holes in the scull to let the demons out. And may I remind you, that was done by learned men.

    Should we be concerned about green house gasses? Of course, as well as toxins in the ground and water. But realistically, putting a finical burden of the backs of the working class, where it always ends up, to reduce, by a small amount, the minuscule amount that mankind contributes to the total….not worth it. Want to cut co2 emissions? I’d say taping Al Gore’s mouth shut and using him to plug a volcano would be a good start…oops…smart arse on the loose again.

    Just my two cents worth.

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