It has been very cold in Asheville recently – and all over the East Coast. Today it is a balmy 45 degrees; but on Monday we woke up and our pipes were frozen. 10 degrees is rare for Asheville!
Our friend Mike, who does home repairs, came to help. Afterwards I mentioned that “Global Warming” should really be called “Climate Disruption.”
He said, “Yes, ‘Global Warming’ is wrong. Have you heard about the conspiracy?” He then told me how he had been listening to Jesse Ventura’s frequent reports about how the government and rich people are making a bundle by convincing people that global warming is a big threat and then getting fat contracts to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist. He said, “It opens your eyes. You should listen on TV, on the True TV channel.” I said that most scientists believe that global warming is real and a very big danger. He said that there is evidence that the scientists are getting paid off.
I didn’t have time then – or a handy list of points to make – to have a serious discussion, so I’m sorry to say that I didn’t follow-up. But my overall thought is that Mike is a very good guy. I honestly believe he would listen to real experts if he truly believed they were real and not speaking out of narrow interests. But he is currently plugged into only one channel.
Asheville is very cool, because you can find all points of view well represented here. There are many people like Mike who listen to only the ‘conservative’ side of the story. And there is also an extremely large and committed progressive community that cares passionately about sustainability, the environment, and the dangers of climate change. And, there are many people who haven’t made up their minds yet about climate disruption, and who probably haven’t really thought a lot about it.
The community includes many, many people who are very knowledgeable about these issues, and also many people who are expert in facilitating group dialogue and deliberations. I also believe that Asheville includes both progressives and conservatives who are not only knowledgeable, but who are also open enough to engage in a fair dialogue. (Note: dialogue does not equal debate. It is not about winning, but about listening and reaching a truth that all sides can get behind.)
I haven’t done the due-diligence yet (mea culpa) but I strongly suspect that these groups aren’t really talking to each other. Like everywhere else, the progressives seem to mainly interact with progressives, and the conservatives mainly interact with conservatives. And when people from the two groups do interact, it’s very hard to talk about this issue without getting frustrated or mad or giving up.
I happen to believe that climate disruption is happening and is a grave danger. But in order to really prevent the catastrophe that we see coming, don’t we need to talk to people like Mike, and to others who currently don’t agree, as well as to people who don’t know what to think? Yes, that includes me. I need to talk to Mike. But how many Mikes can I talk to?
We need help. In order to really break through the frustrations and make progress, we need a structure, skilled facilitators, and a group of honest people that both sides can relate to.
I can easily envision local climate talks, involving real people – citizens and neighbors – of all persuasions, and all over our country. Each side sharing opinions, sharing evidence, and, most importantly, honestly discussing how to make collective decisions about the evidence, and how to evaluate and respond to crucial issues where there will always be unknowns and unprovables – and yet, in the place of absolute certainties, where there will still be scientifically valid levels of certainty. (As one person said recently, “Would you put your child on a plane if 90% of industry engineers said there was 75% chance that the engines could fail anytime in the next year? Or even a 1% chance?”)
I can easily envision these local climate talks. But how to actually make it happen?
I can’t think of a better place to start than Asheville.