I wrote in a previous post about Deniers and Alarmists – those who are frozen in place by emotional charge, by built-up resistance. Talking to them about the issue probably won’t do any good… but you don’t know how entrenched they are until you ask. I think it’s worth asking questions such as:
For Deniers “Do you want to understand?” Deniers may be in denial because they’re afraid they can’t understand and don’t want to look foolish.
For Alarmists “Do you want to feel hopeful?” For alarmists, they may feel helpless, not seeing any way to make a difference.
In both cases there is an amount of emotional pain involved. It’s vital to be curious and compassionate, and to speak simply and clearly. What I find hardest is being ok with them saying No! But that’s important.
Talking to Skeptics
A Skeptic has moved beyond a Denier to being interested in the facts. They just may have different facts or draw different conclusions.
I encountered a guy who had done lots of research on the last 100 years of CO2 emissions to determine if humans caused climate change. He had moved beyond Denier to Skeptic.His facts weren’t wrong but he was using them in an ineffective way. Knowing the abundance of disinformation that exists, and being someone who taught statistics for years, I decided it was worth the time to respond.
I explained that when looking at data, it’s important to consider the question you’re trying to answer. The question to ask is whether humans can survive climate changes. That requires looking at data for the timeframe homo sapiens have existed on this planet. It’s about 300,000 to 400,000 years. I provided this graph.
I highlighted the significance of the axes. If we look at 100 years or 10,000 years of CO2 emissions we cannot see the pattern shown in this graph. If we look at millions of years it won’t show up either.
Looking at this graph with the appropriate timeframe indicates Earth has somehow been able to correct itself within a certain range. It’s worth considering what caused the cycles, but we can’t prove or disprove the cause based on historical data; we can only come up with educated guesses.
We also can’t be absolutely sure that humans won’t survive in these new ranges. We could cross our fingers and hope that the Earth won’t become uninhabitable for us, but … really? If there are ways to address it, why wouldn’t we?
This is where his 100 year graph is useful. It can provide information on how humanity created CO2 in the last 100 years. By asking the right questions we can get into action on the right answers.
Talking to Advocates
Advocates that are still on the Alarmist end of the spectrum are often focused on what they’re against. Gas and oil are bad, cows are bad, cars are bad, companies that support gas and oil are bad. Most of their personal energy on the topic is spent complaining. It’s better than being frozen in fear but could be so much better.
Coal, oil and natural gas are the solid, liquid and gaseous forms of fossil fuels. My book “Beyond Light Bulbs: Lighting the Way to Smarter Energy Management” shows why we can’t just stop using them immediately. It’s not even clear if that’s the right answer. CO2 isn’t actually bad. Like many things, too little or too much can be bad; too much or too little water can be bad. But water itself is just fine.
We can reduce AND mitigate AND counteract emissions. We can determine how to lessen the use and effects of CO2 from traditional methods. We can ramp up sources that don’t create CO2.
We can also look at how to USE the CO2 . I believe something the futurist Buckminster Fuller said – that toxicity is something that hasn’t completed its cycle yet. There is a critical relationship between people and plants – they consume CO2 and produce oxygen, which we need. That’s also a place to look for solutions.
I’m working on a financial literacy game and wanted to know which banks are most committed to the environment. After all, those are the ones I want to support. I found plenty of info on the big bad banks. But which are the good ones? I sincerely want an answer. It’s important to focus on what we want rather than what we don’t want.
There is plenty for Advocates to do if they only look. First, talk. Fully engaged advocates don’t just preach to the converted; they have the willingness to speak with those that don’t necessarily agree. If they actively listen, they will learn what needs to be said. They may need to do research for their own knowledge, and then they can share it better the next time.
The next level is getting into action.
The Mega Middle
I once saw a description of competition that made sense to me – going for the same goal but by a different path. My husband has been watching the Tour de France. The riders don’t try to stop the competition; they try to get there faster. They learn from the others. They get stronger in the rivalry. There is absolutely no focus on getting in the way of the other guy.
The true Mega Middle folks are focused on solutions, and on everyone getting across the finish line. It includes Skeptics who have moved beyond their doubt and Advocates who move beyond their complaints to both focus on results. It is the people who believe in collaboration, and that there is something for everyone to do.
As far as the Skeptic, I don’t know if I changed his mind but I know it was worth my time, as it helped me understand another perspective. That has value. And whether or not he accepts what he learned, I do know I educated him.
Susan has taken action by writing an award-winning book “Beyond Light Bulbs: Lighting the Way to Smarter Energy Management,” co-founding an energy efficiency solutions company reducing emissions of homes and businesses, and now as President of Accelerated Build Partners, building healthy, sustainable, intelligent lifestyles… fast.