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“Preaching to the choir” is usually not a good strategy to accomplish important change. There’s a temptation to advocate only to like-minded people, particularly if you have a distinct and controversial vision. That’s not good enough for our times; handling climate change and other big environmental issues will require strong, intelligent political action, which means lots of people agreeing on basic principles and acting together. For instance, enacting and implementing an American carbon tax high enough so that the prices the consumer pays for gasoline and other hydrocarbons cover the full costs (military, health, climate and so forth) of bringing them to the consumer, and the consumer’s burning them, will require public support beyond what exists.

Finding people who don’t agree with me is not hard in the island suburbs where I attended grade school and high school in the 1950s. Then, as now, the Park Cities was primarily upper-middle and high income and conservative politically; I remember a poll of my fifth-grade class that came out 20-to-1 Republican. Many of my schoolmates went on to become influential Dallas citizens while staying close to their early values. The Dallas paper published a shortened version of one of my posts a few days ago, and there were reactions from some old friends. One classmate’s email read in part:

Re: the environment.

Everything in life involves a trade-off of some kind! Was man made for the planet or was the planet made for man? I believe that for most people to exist and be happy we have to evolve and adapt with an unselfish eye to the future, but not at the expense of forsaking the comforts and lack of suffering that the world has achieved!! Do you really want to sit shivering in the dark to make a point that the people of THE WORLD AND NOT JUST THE USA need to continue to change and adapt as we have done since the beginning of mankind???????????

I interpret the comment as recognizing that human activities are changing climate, while insisting that protecting the planet’s natural systems is subsidiary to maintaining the American lifestyle. Anyway, he implies that human beings have adapted successfully to environmental changes before and will do so again.

Another classmate was quite direct: “I can’t for the life of me imagine where Grier gets the ideas that flow through his head. He and people like him are endangering the future of this country.”

One classmate did call and say he didn’t know much about environmental issues and wanted to start educating himself. He read our blog, we met, and he may use his corporate and technical background to help.

One of my personal goals is to understand the viewpoints of fellow citizens who reject or ignore evidence that human activities in the past century, particularly mining and burning hydrocarbons, is changing earth’s climate in bad ways. My high school friends have helped me, and the work of Edward O. Wilson summarized in his recent book “The Social Conquest of Earth” has gifted me a more tolerant and compassionate view of the divide. I will do a post on Wilson’s ideas, but a quick summary is that each of us is a hard-wired mix of the selfish and the altruistic, of devotion to his own interests and of willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of the various groups he identifies with, and that both gut instincts, working together, have led to humanity’s success.

Our blog’s persuasion strategy is to broadcast facts and opinions relevant to our considered opinion that over-consumption is a threat to the natural systems our lives depend on. We aim to do it objectively, calmly, widely, compassionately and of course without fear that people will disagree with us, even my friends in my hometown.

Image by Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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