Perhaps we need ‘climate ambassadors’

To the Editor:

The series of articles you have recently been publishing on “Folkmoot’s Cultural Conversations” have been most enlightening — and worth taking to heart. In the interest of becoming cultural ambassadors, we each of us need to learn to practice the attitudes and skills stressed in those conversations — being polite, keeping an open mind, speaking only for self, keeping confidentiality, acknowledging (and resisting) our capacity for prejudice and stereotyping, understanding how and why we define ourselves as we do — and more.

While those conversations have focused on racial and cultural differences, the same attitudes and skills are needed in our discussions of another major issue and threat facing our nation — climate change. 

Research by scientists at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communications has identified a spectrum of six distinct groups in the U.S. population: the “dismissive” (9 percent) who don’t believe climate change is really happening and thus see it as no threat to our well-being; the “doubtful” (11 percent) who aren’t sure it’s happening but if it is, view it as part of a natural cycle and not human-caused; the “disengaged” (5 percent) who hold no particular beliefs about the matter one way or the other; the “cautious” (23 percent) who believe it’s happening but are immobilized as they wonder what can one person do; the “concerned” (34 percent) who think it’s real and human-caused and address it by lifestyle changes like recycling and changing light bulbs; and the “alarmed” (18 percent), the activist environmentalists who install solar panels, drive electric vehicles, and work for legislation to protect the environment and shift from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy.

Whichever of these groups we may identify with, in the interest of community cohesiveness and national security and unity, we need to be making use of the above-mentioned Folkmoot approaches by engaging in conversations about global warming. If addressing this head on proves too divisive, we can begin by exploring related topics like clean energy, the plight of coal miners, the revenue neutral carbon tax, the Tesla phenomenon, the effects of violent storms, coal ash ponds, our love of fishing or hiking, or why we like living in the mountains.

By thus breaking the climate silence, we can become “climate ambassadors,” maintaining civility in the process by practicing such time-honored virtues as humility, respect, courage, self-control, teachability, dignity, conviction, kindness, openness, and — need we say it? —love. 

In so doing, we “can bring light, compassion, and determination to the national conversation on climate change: light, by helping people grasp its gravity; compassion by recognizing that those most harmed are innocent victims who need protection; and determination by refusing to accept any future that is unsustainable.”

Doug Wingeier


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