By several metrics, my interviews with Iowa Trump voters have gone well. The dialogue is good. We’re finding common ground. We’re dispelling the false notion that Trump voters are stupid. And on some fronts, I’m having my own views challenged.
What’s not coming together is clarity on the climate emergency. Take my conversation with Dave Funk. What to me are solid, irrefutable facts are, to Dave, either up for discussion or simply false. While I respect that, I also find it frustrating.
Frustrating because we’re running out of time to respond to climate change. Frustrating because, beyond climate change, Dave and I agree on many things.
We’re passionate about organic farming. We shop at locally owned businesses. We think the federal government is too big and intrusive and the average American pays too much in taxes. We agree that both major political parties are overly influenced by monied interests.
We also agree that the late US Senator Paul Wellstone was awesome. In fact, Dave voted for Wellstone when he lived in Minnesota. “Wellstone was essentially one of the most honest people I’ve ever met in my life,” says Dave.
But on climate change, which for me trumps all other concerns, the pathway to common ground is as hazy as the air over Los Angeles on a smoggy day. Here are a few snippets from my conversation with Dave, with responses from various sources I regard as expert:
DAVE: “You can look at historical data … we’ve got thousands of years of roughly 175-year climatic cycles.”
NOAA: “Earth has experienced cold periods (or ‘ice ages’) and warm periods (‘interglacials’) on roughly 100,000-year cycles.” (CITATION)
DAVE: “Greenland got its name back when it was mostly green.”
WORLD ATLAS: “The name Greenland was first given by a Norwegian named Erik the Red. … On reaching there, he looked for a favorable name that would attract others to settle in it.” (CITATION)
DAVE: “Ocean temperatures aren’t rising.”
EPA: “Sea surface temperature increased during the 20th century and continues to rise. From 1901 through 2015, temperature rose at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade.” (CITATION)
DAVE: “I’m not sure we have accurate data to measure [climate change].”
NASA: “The records of global temperatures calculated by U.S. and other major climate research organizations are remarkably similar, … are peer reviewed, and the processed data sets have undergone many peer-reviewed analyses as well.” (CITATION)
So, what gives? Dave’s a sharp guy. We agree on many things and have much in common. Heck, we both even ran for Congress and got our backsides whooped in our respective primaries. Why the impassable gulf on climate change?
That conversation deserves a lot more attention than I can give it today, but I’ll venture three quick hypotheses:
— The fossil-fuel-funded climate-denial industry is sophisticated, well-funded, and highly effective. In fact, “The five largest publicly-traded oil and gas majors (ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total) have invested over $1 billion of shareholder funds in the three years following the Paris Agreement on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying.” (CITATION)
— Humans have an innate propensity to want things to stay the same. This inclines us to believe information that sustains the reality we want to preserve, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
— Our species is wired to fear the immediate threat (tiger) over the more serious, long-term threat (volcano). In contemporary parlance, we’re more easily roused to take action against a present pandemic than the looming threat of climate change.
To turn things around on the climate emergency, big initiatives are urgently needed. At the same time, each of us has to push back against both misinformation and human nature, having difficult, even inconvenient, conversations with friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers.
So, Dave. When can we get together for a beer?
(01:35) Dave Funk: Retired Northwest Airlines Captain, Trump voter;
(17:53) Report by human rights group concludes Israel is an apartheid regime, with Maria Reveiz;
(29:54) US Senate must end filibuster to protect the right to vote, with Charles Goldman;
(40:17) Cancel culture, with Charles Goldman;
(51:39) Front yard maple syrup, with Kathy Byrnes and Ben Hoksch.
Watch our conversation with Kathy Byrnes on The Fallon Forum Youtube Page.
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