By Auden Schendler, author of “Getting Green Done.”
A business colleague and friend recently had a nice conversation with his brother, a doctor visiting from the South. His brother doesn’t think climate change is a problem. It went something like this:
Brother: “I’ve been reading some interesting articles about climate change that don’t”¦.”
Colleague: “Shut the $%& up, you’re a %$&ing DUMBASS!!!”
Unfortunately his mom then piled on the denial train. And my colleague, who has been retrofitting boilers and lights as part of his work in finance, and reading dense climate science I hand him (Hansen on paleoclimatology, Stephen Schneider on the credibility of the scientists denying climate change) went ballistic. So much so that his wife left the house to make phone calls from the car.
The argument ruined my friend’s family visit, and likely put strains on his already tenuous familial relationships.
My first response was: “That’s a shame!” And then I thought: Most things that fracture families are meaningless and stupid in the broad scope of things. “We don’t like your wife.” “You aren’t nice to your sister.” “You won’t take care of yourself.” But climate change is an issue worthy of a massive family fight. It’s worthy of complete estrangement, actually.
I got to thinking about other important issues that fracture families. Interracial marriage. Feminism. Gay marriage and sexual oritentation. Religious independence. Affluence vs. poverty. And I remembered a maxim from an activist on gay rights, which was that “by the time an issue becomes deeply part of the public discourse “” like gay marriage is now or civil rights was 50 years ago””the battle is already substantially over.”
And in that observation, and that family fight, I found a grain of hope.
— Auden Schendler