Holiday Politics: Leaving Your Comfort Zone Is Good

Image credit: 13Musical

As I said in my post on the art of the eco-argument, I have a recurring fear of sitting in a yurt at the end of the world with a bunch of environmentalists, congratulating each other that it wasn't us who destroyed the climate. It's not enough to be right. We have to win too. And by winning, I mean we have to create an environmental movement that is as broad and inclusive as possible. Yet we need to do so without diluting our aims to the point of meaninglessness. That's why the holidays are so stimulating to me. Because we travel, because we gather with family and friends, because we step outside the often self-imposed cultural and ideological cliques we create. It's the perfect time to absorb viewpoints that are different from our own. It's a perfect time to listen. For me, this year was no exception. Having traveled through record snowstorms from North Carolina to Indiana, my wife's home state, we immediately threw ourselves into the usual round of parties, dinners and gatherings with old friends. As always, conversation flowed back-and-forth between gossip about acquaintances, talk of high school days and, of course, politics. Inevitably, last night I found myself "representing" the environmentalist in the debate.

Now my wife's friends are a mixed bunch, politically speaking, and I have previously had many a conversation about whether global warming is real, and whether Al Gore really did invent the internet. So given the apparent upsurge of climate skeptic and climate denialist activity, I was expecting to be held accountable by some for the evil socialist climate hoax--or something of that nature. And yet that discussion never happened.

Instead, the same folks I had previously argued with about the reality of climate change, now were genuinely interested and engaged in the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, and the need to cut carbon emissions. Unsurprisingly, opinions differed widely on what should have happened at COP15, and who bore responsibility for the end result. But the discussion was firmly rooted in the reality that climate change is is happening, and we need to do something about it.

Some felt that Obama could have done more, others felt that until China and India step up to the table, it's impossible (and unwise) for the US and other developed nations to commit to emissions cuts. But everyone wanted something to happen.

At a time when much of the environmental movement is down-in-the-dumps over the failure of international politics, it was encouraging to see that most of us can agree on what needs to be done.

Now if we could just agree on how to do it.

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