Schooling the Relatives

If you've read my profile, you know that I was fortunate enough to learn from my grandparents a deep respect and love of nature, spending summers with them on a small island in British Columbia. I learned that respect not because they lectured me, or somehow proved I should feel that way, but because a love of the land and sea was naturally woven into everything we did from sunrise to sundown. My grandparents created the opportunity for me to see; nature did the rest.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I was, but even so, nature still finds a way to affect us. Its beauty and power come to almost all of us at some point or another, and in my experience it's the rare person who really doesn't respect and want to protect what's beautiful and valuable in nature. I'd encourage you to remember that if you are at the family holiday meal and political arguments about global warming break out. When that happens I know how easy it is to rise to the bait, and before you know it you find yourself at one pole in a debate pitting "extremist environmentalists" against "global warming deniers."I'm not persuaded that these sorts of arguments get any of us where we want to be. Instead, I try to start from the respect and desire to protect nature almost everyone has in common. The facts are important, so you might want to look over some basic ones the Sierra Club put together about global warming in our Holiday Survival Guide. The guide helps you chat with fun example family members such as surly Uncle Burt, confused Aunt Mim, feisty Sis, and "wonky" Cousin Mervin - all in good fun and with some great information.

Some of that information might also help you discuss the benefits of the energy bill, the final version of which was passed Tuesday. That bill will bring a 35 mpg fuel standard for cars, mandate a massive increase in the production of homegrown biofuels, institute programs to train workers for 3 million green collar jobs over the next ten years, dramatically increase the efficiency of our buildings and appliances, and begin to take the steps needed to reduce our global warming emissions.

At the end of the day, though, I'm trying to see facts not as fodder for scoring debate points, but as essential strands in the discussion we must have about working together to achieve what almost all of us actually have in common - a desire to protect what we love and value in nature. I'm the first to admit I don't always succeed, but it seems to me that shared discussion, not debating society, is where the real challenge and opportunities lie - and it has the fringe benefit of creating far more pleasant conversation with family and friends over the holidays.