I promise: I don't go out looking for gloom and doom articles. They always seem to find me instead.
The left of center New Republic sounds the alarm for climate change, once again telling us the sky is falling and that we will end up having to "abandon" many of the world's coastal cities. From the article:
While actual abandonment would not happen for many years (we’re talking centuries), the studies warned that our actions now are irrevocable and will lock in these future sea level rises. In other words, our descendants will be dealing with irreversible damage that we are committing today.
I'm not here to debate whether climate change is real and, if it is, whether it's man made. I don't find that one's position in the debate is particularly helpful in determining who is likely to support a preparedness culture and who isn't. And so I don't spend a lot of my time in this blog on the subject.
But tonight, I'm going to deviate from this rule for a bit, in hopes that I draw your attention to what I see as a problem in the Climate Change Industrial Complex's thinking on the issue. Namely, we can't get people on the coast to prepare for hurricane season...what makes you think they're going to prepare for a predicted multi-century rise in the sea levels?
Many climate changers lament the fact the public doesn't seem willing to engage on this issue in the way they would like. I feel their pain. Sixty percent of deaths from house fires occur in homes that don't have a functioning smoke detector. On average, 99 people a year die from flooding in the United States. We can't get people to save their own lives by installing a ten dollar smoke detector and doing a U turn when they see rushing water on a roadway. Getting them to worry about the effects of climate change a century from now when they won't do those basic things to save their own lives today is simply a bridge too far for most people.
And for those who do try to understand the issue, they quickly find they must take a side and become the mortal enemy of those on the other side. Terms like "idiots" and "whackos" are hurled at opponents regularly. "Reasonable people, if they would just pay attention to the facts, would conclude..." whatever position that side of the argument propagates. While I understand such tactics are en vogue in today's political discourse, they do little to motivate the average person who wants to make an informed decision to engage in the necessary intellectual exercise to understand the issue.
So for my climate changer friends, here are some things I've learned from trying to get people more engaged in preparedness:
- Not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot. Not everyone who isn't convinced that it's prudent to be prepared for extended emergencies is a moron. There are many really bright people who, for a number of reasons, have not bought into the argument. The same goes for your position. Saying that people who don't agree with you are idiots does little to convince them that anthropological global warming is real or that they should have a supply of food and water on hand in the event of an emergency.
- Dire predictions have a finite shelf life. So when Y2K turned out to be a non-event, despite a lot of hype to the contrary, it became much more difficult to get people to take preparedness seriously. (9/11, on the other hand, was a compelling motivator.) Daniel Patrick Moynihan's now famous warnings on rising sea levels fall in that same category. There's only so many times you get to say "the sky is falling" before people tune you out. That's not to say you can't talk about it, but we have to make clear that these are worst case scenario predictions...but even if we're only ten percent correct, it still warrants us taking action.
- Walk the walk. If you're going to complain about humans contributing to man made global warming, I best not catch you driving a big SUV. (Many of you climate changers are doing this. And worse.) And if I'm pontificating on the need to check your smoke detectors, you'd better be able to come into my home, push the test button on any of detectors and make them go off. That's only fair.
Those of us advocating preparedness and environmental stewardship have much in common. We ought not let differences on certain issues - as important as they may be to us - become stumbling blocks to further discourse on the subjects upon which there is strong agreement.