Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Can We Make Progress On the Environment if We Don't Agree on Climate Change?

From the bean of Green Bean.

Last week, I had an exchange with a Twitter user that got me thinking.  The other party lauded efforts to reduce our impact on the environment and clearly cared about conservation, reducing pollution and waste, renewable energy but was not convinced that the climate is changing.  The user pondered: "why don't we focus on not polluting for polluting's sake".

That same day, I listened to an interview with a fisherman in Alaska.  When this gentlemen tells people that he is with Trout Unlimited, people respond, "What are you?  An environmentalist?"  To which he responds (paraphrasing), "No. I'm a conservationist. I want to protect the fish so that I can kill them and keep killing them for years to come."

Have "climate change" and "environmentalism" become so polarizing as to be counterproductive?  Certainly, we cannot ignore that climate change is happening but, instead of arguing with those who disbelieve global warming, would we be better off looking for common ground?

Last year, in an election that was a bloodbath for the environmental movement, voters passed a record amount of funding for local conservation efforts.  Conservation is an issue that crosses party lines.

I have close family members who do not believe in climate change.  I will never forget the day, though, when we hiked through a forest together. We admired the old trees, diverse native plants and abundant birds. Then we crested a ridge and came upon a clearcut forest on the other side.  My family member shook his head and said, "I don't care what your politics are. This is wrong!"

Do we build bridges based on conservation, reduced pollution, clean air and water?  Do we start conversations about preserving farmland by supporting local farmers or bolstering main street by shopping at locally owned stores?  Do we talk, not about climate change, but about how water conservation efforts and native plants can help with the drought?  Do we talk about all the money we save through energy efficiency?  Can enough environmental progress be made in this way or is it too late for those kinds of bridges?

What do you think? Do you have close friends or family members who do not believe that global warming is occurring?  Do you find common ground or just avoid the topic entirely?


Anonymous said...

Nice article.
Where ever our beliefs and motivation come from, if there is a common ground and we are not working together in it then we have lost sight of what living in a society means.

Whether I believe in climate change or not should not matter if I also see the pollution and destruction that cars cause and want to do something about it, etc.

Likewise I'm not religious, but I have lots of morals which are the same as the religious people I know. Having different motivations/experiences that lead to our morals does not cause us issue.

Tiffany said...

I avoid the topic with them because I can't say what I really feel...which is that deniers must be a little daft.

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I always believe we can meet in the middle and solve things together. I like your article since if we can solve the same dilemmas calling it different things, then so be it.

Rachel said...

Great post! I love this. It gets frustrating sometimes, but I think the two sides can come together.

Betsy Escandon said...

It might just be more productive to find issues that relate immediately to people personally. I do think climate change is a hard thing to wrap your mind around, and just hard to pay attention to (partly b/c it's so depressing). You know what they say - all politics is local. Maybe focusing on local issues that cross party lines, at least as a starting point to caring about conservation/ environmentalism (whatever you'd like to call it), is the best place to start.

I do think it's amusing that conservationist and environmentalist are somehow seen as different. I think "environmentalists" are often seen as hippies who care more about trees and polar bears than every day people. Whereas we all know that we want to save trees and polar bears b/c ultimately it will save US. That somehow gets lost in translation though.

Sarah Johnson said...

This is such a wise article and certainly ther must be common ground. But here in Europe here is a real clash between climate changers and conservationists on energy. Solar farms don't really do any harm to the environment but they look horrible and everyone who loves the countryside hates them. Even more of an eyesore are the miles of wind farms disfiguring the countryside all over Europe. They produce very little energy, are unreliable, kill birds and are noisy. Nuclear power stations, by contrast, are relatively compact in terms of land usage, don't make a noise and don't sprawl across mile upon mile of once unspoilt hill country. Many Green experts have now come round to nuclear power and acknowledge that it gets safer all the time. Yet the left wing parties in the UK, and the Government in Germany are dead set against nuclear power because of a 1960s mindset that just won't shift.

ginabad said...

I love this post. I think that all polarizing issues can find a middle ground. I think our government is broken right now because most people have lost the idea of a middle ground. Good government is all about compromise; if they've lost that ability, it's time to rethink government...or at least, who you are voting for. "My way or the highway" is not good for a democracy. PS, I love that your friend said that the logging was just wrong. If only we can make everyone see what we see!
gina b

Mindful Momma said...

Really great conversation starter! I live in a liberal bubble where most people I talk to are mostly on the same side of the fence. But I do think there is a lot of common ground, if people will step away from the rhetoric and just talk about how to take care of our wonderful planet.

Heather said...

This is a really interesting topic.

I think we need to be careful when we label people as "deniers" -- the term is often used as a pejorative (not say that you're doing that, per se) and can make people more resistant to change, I think, because it puts people on the defensive.

Confession: I, for one, am quite conservative in my political views. I most likely disagree and vote differently on various issues with many that read (and post) on this blog. But, that said, I don't think it's a bad thing. We can all learn from each other and our different approaches/views on how to make our earth a cleaner, better place for future generations.

Green Bean said...

@Heather - I so appreciate your comment. I really struggled with the title for this article. I don't see "denier" as a pejorative but someone else told me that it is. I could not settle on a better label and decided that "environmentalist" is seen by many as negative as well. That said, please help me pick a less offensive title! :) I really would rather build bridges. Along those lines, I really value having you as part of this community. Having you post and comment on this blog illustrates my hope - that we can disagree on some things but find common ground on protecting and preserving the world around us. Thank you for being here. Now about that title ...


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