An Inconvenient Truth
On Saturday evening a bunch of us went out to go see An Inconvenient Truth
. There weren't too many particular pieces of new information in it. I hadn't realized the extent to which the glaciers are melting. I hadn't really visually absorbed the extent to which the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has exceeded the levels of the last 650,000 years. I didn't know about the polar bears drowning because the ice is too thin to hold them. But it was still a useful exercise in being reminded of something we'd rather forget. 928 papers in the ISI index about human-caused climate change, and not a one that disagrees with the notion that we are causing dangerous changes to our planet
. To me that's the most basic statement of why it's time to stop arguing and throwing the dust of manufactured doubt in people's eyes, and time to start changing things.
I recommend you go see it, if only as a reminder. I don't know if it can change someone's mind, but I've heard that the slideshow it's based on has done so in the past.
We need more reminders in our culture of inconvenient truths, and less sensitivity to having our faces rubbed in our derelicted duties. I'm as guilty as the next person. It never ceases to amaze me how even the most rationale of people--myself included-get utterly defensive when our contributions to pet peeves like climate change and the war in Iraq are pointed out to us. It's almost as if we are socially and mentally built to constitutionally oppose any kind of helpful feedback. Humility, thou art a difficult prize. And of course, in my experience, the people who posess the most humility need it the least.
It makes me wonder if perhaps we need to be able to look in the mirror, say, "God, you're awful," and mean it, and not collapse under the weight of such a statement. Bite the bullet, nod, and go, "Yep. Time to change." My whole life almost everyone from Mr. Rogers to my grade school teachers to college professors said, affectionately, "look in the mirror and say you're wonderful." Sure, sometimes that's useful. But admire yourself unconditionally? Approve of yourself unconditionally? That can't possibly always be good.
So here, I'll start it. I'm wasteful. I drive more than I should or even "need to" by relative California standards. I often leave the lights on. I buy bottled drinks even though I have a perfectly good Kleen Kanteen. Etc. etc. So then what?
Find a friend to get better with. I've been working with some friends to become a competent cyclist, so that eventually I'll move my weight around myself instead of relying on dead dinosaurs. My goal is to drastically cut my gas consumption by the end of the year, and eventually be able to move my self around to my routine destinations. It's slow, slow going, but it would be impossible going without a lot of help from my friends. In general this working-with-friends strategy seems like a good one. My friends encourage me. They cheer me on at all the right moments, and they take time out of their busy weekends to help me feel safe on the busy roads and answer my questions about my bike. It's not that they stare at me grimly and say, "Saheli, you are an awful person for burning so many fossil fuels," every time I bring it up. But neither do they spend too much time defending me to myself when I feel bad. Instead they listen, and when I ask for help with some countervailing project, they give it to me.
To me, that's really what friendship is really about. Hanging out, having fun, relating to each other, mutual admiration--these are all good things. But a card I saw recently had the quote that love is not staring at each other, but looking out in the same direction. "I got your back," implies "I'm going to go into this battle with you." My favorite wedding toast was from someone who said, "You know you're with the right person when being with them puts you in the direction of the best person you ever wanted to be." Less exactingly applied, I think that's a pretty good standard for friendship too. Partner-in-crime was always one of my favorite titles.
So instead of my usual wonkish, numerical meditations on what we can do to stop global warming, I say this--go out and be a good friend, and get good friends. If it's something that's really bugging you, talk about that. Let people you care about know that it's upsetting you, and that you want to change it, much as you would want to get healthier or be more efficient. I think that you will find that the people who want to help you--even if "only" with encouragement, which is so very valuable--are often the people who really care about you.