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Do you get into contentious discussions with your conservative uncle over whether global warming is real or not? Or argue with your co-workers about why climate change isn't just "natural cycles"? Or do your best to bite your tongue when your mother-in-law refers to the warming climate as "some Al Gore nonsense"? Do these debates, arguments, and spats piss you off? If so, perhaps this will offer a little solace: The fact that the topic is already entrenched in common discourse means the battle is already half won.Auden Schendler, the author of a book called Getting Green Done, has a guest post over at Climate Progress expounding on precisely this phenomenon. In the post, he details an exchange that his friend recently relayed to him -- the friend had joined his brother and mother for a family dinner, when they got around to the topic of global warming.
You see, the brother, who had long been convinced that climate change wasn't an issue, had read a new article proving why it was a hoax. The two brothers got into an article over said article, and the mother hopped in on the side of denial. The whole thing got so heated that the friend's wife had to leave, fleeing "the house to make phone calls from the car."
Sounds pretty unpleasant, right? I'm sure it was. But Schendler draws different conclusions than the ones we usually do:
My first response was: "That's a shame!" And then I thought: Most things that fracture families are meaningless and stupid in the broad scope of things. "We don't like your wife." "You aren't nice to your sister." "You won't take care of yourself." But climate change is an issue worthy of a massive family fight. It's worthy of complete estrangement, actually.And that's a great point. There's next to no doubt in the scientific community that man is causing the world to warm -- that fact, being as it is, a true and verifiable fact, has lead to its entrenchment in the modern consciousness. Fleeting attacks and straw man arguments can only distract the public for so long, before such denial collapses under the weight of its own falseness -- such a process has happened many times before, and will happen again soon. The only question is whether it will happen soon enough.
I got to thinking about other important issues that fracture families. Interracial marriage. Feminism. Gay marriage and sexual preference. Religious independence. Affluence vs. poverty. And I remembered a maxim from an activist on gay rights, which was that "by the time an issue becomes deeply part of the public discourse -- like gay marriage is now or civil rights was 50 years ago--the battle is already substantially over."
And in that observation, and that family fight, I found a grain of hope.