What’s the point?

Courtesy of L.J. Whitsitt

Courtesy of L.J. Whitsitt

When the topic of climate change comes up, I think a lot of people hear an interior monologue something like this:

(Okay, Okay, it’s true…) But Jesus Christ, what the f**k you expect me to do about it? I give money to the good guys, I recycle, I’m thinking about buying a Prius (when they get a little more HP). I don’t mind paying taxes. I can embrace the concept of putting the brakes on our national gluttony but…just how much are we talking here? I know it’s not all about me but I gotta ask… I mean I have obligations; a mortgage; kids that need private school so they won’t be (forced to be) baristas. Yeah, yeah climate change is a bad thing. Check. Text me when you’ve got a plan that other people will buy. In the meantime, it gives me a headache.

What do I feel I “know”? I feel that I know that our ancestors began changing our collective carbon footprint 125,000 years ago when they began using fire and that the archaeological record is replete with examples of localized environmental collapses. I owe this to having read books (most notably Jared Diamond). I have seen pictures of the “New Northwest Passage” but I have never been to the Arctic. I have seen “before” and “after” pictures of disappearing glaciers I have never visited. In years past I noted that coral reefs closer to large concentrations of people (as off much of the Hawaiian Islands) are dull and lifeless compared to the more remote reefs of Fiji. I read the climate statistics. I find them compelling as statistics but I honestly cannot connect them to my own bodily experiences. Weather is variable. I know that we are a species capable of fouling our own nest because I remember when the 34 square miles of Lake Washington in Seattle was a toilet bowl. I remember when the city taxed itself to clean the lake that I swim in now.

What I feel I “know” is a combination of my limited personal experience and what I have accepted from authority. People who deny climate change come to their “knowledge” the same way I do. They marry their own experience with other information they take from (some other) authority. So what’s my point with all this?

My point is that in deconstructing my own “knowledge” about climate change I can recognize that the people with whom I might disagree have arrived at their “knowledge” just as I have. They are not stupid, venal and/or immoral. If there is to be discourse on this topic, invective will not get us there.

I believe in less invective. More later.

Breath, Courtesy of L.J. Whitsitt

Breath, Courtesy of L.J. Whitsitt

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