Talking Turkey: A Holiday Pledge To End Climate Silence

Lou Leonard, via HuffPost

We think of Thanksgiving as an eating holiday. And why not? One thought of Mom’s candied sweet potatoes and my salivary glands are off to the races. But Thanksgiving is about something more, isn’t it? The average American travels nearly 600 miles for Thanksgiving and — my mom’s sweet potatoes notwithstanding — we are not traveling that far for the food.

We endure crowded airports and screaming kids in the backseat, so we can spend time reconnecting with family and friends. While our mouths are full some of the time, more often we are using them to share our stories from the previous months. So Thanksgiving is really a talking holiday; a time when we slow down and spend the day in conversation.

What if we spent a little of our “talking holiday” this year speaking with each other about our warming planet and what we can do about it? There’s plenty to talk about, from the scary (Sandy, the record drought in the Midwest affecting 80 percent of U.S. agricultural land) to the hopeful (America’s first major climate law coming online in California on New Year’s Day or a Motor Trend Car of the Year that for the first time doesn’t run on gasoline).

These kinds of conversations would make a big difference. Over the last two years of climate silence in America, it has largely become socially taboo to even mention this enormous growing threat to humankind. That silence was broken, at least temporarily, three weeks ago as climate disruption roared back into our public discourse in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Suddenly, newspapers, business magazines and even politicians began to talk again about the risks we face and the solutions within our grasp, if we take practical steps to prepare.

Can we take the next step and begin to talk about global warming socially? For many, the years of not talking about climate change have left us a little out of practice and even uneasy about broaching the subject, especially in the mixed company of our holiday dinners. This uneasiness is completely understandable. And we must get over it.

Only if we quickly begin a major conversation in America about climate disruption can we give our leaders the courage to act. And what better time to launch this conversation than on America’s “talking holiday.” So I encourage you to join me in taking a Thanksgiving climate pledge: “I will talk to at least one person during Thanksgiving about my concerns around global warming and my hopes for a safer future.”

“But wait,” you say, “how do I start a conversation about climate change?” Well, if you can be certain of anything it’s that folks will talk about the weather. So how about going a little further and talked about our weirdly changing weather?

“Okay,” you say, “but I’m not a climate expert. I don’t want to get into a debate with Uncle Howard about peak oil and volcanic eruptions?” So don’t. These conversations don’t need to be scientific debates. The best advice I’ve heard is to tell your own story, explain why you are worried about a future where we fail to address climate change. Resist the impulse to debate and instead really listen to what your aunt/brother-in-law/high school friend has to say. Rather than questioning science, is she really just worried that there’s nothing we can do to about climate change? And most importantly, this isn’t about “winning” or convincing someone that you’re right. By meeting your climate conversation partner where they are and truly listening, you can begin to break down our collective anxiety around talking about global warming.

But if you’re still looking for a little confidence boost heading into that after-dinner chat with Cousin Ray, here are a few myth-busters:

Myth: “Sure, the climate is changing, but scientists don’t agree on the cause.”

Fact: Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. The new World Bank president, medical doctor and scientist Jim Yong Jim, said recently “[a]s someone who has lived in the world of science for a long time, 97 percent is unheard-of consensus.”

Myth: “Even if the United States reduces carbon pollution it won’t matter because other countries won’t act.”

Fact: More than 30 countries already have caps on carbon pollution or carbon taxes, including all of Europe, Australia, South Korea and South Africa. Earlier this year, Mexico enacted an ambitious climate law. Last month, China launched a cap-and-trade program in several of its provinces. The rest of the world is moving; increasingly we in the U.S. are the exception.

Myth: “The problem is too big; there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Fact: There are so many ways we can make a difference in our homes, businesses, communities and our nation to get better prepared for climate change. And we have the technology we need today to break away from fossil fuels. Saving energy saves money — $18 trillion worth according to the International Energy Agency. We don’t need major technology breakthroughs; we need political will.

And political will follows public conversation.

So as you take the Thanksgiving Climate Pledge, know that you won’t be alone, but will be part of something much bigger. One-by-one we can create the conversations we need to move America forward to a safer and prosperous future. Let’s get started this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Lou Leonard, Head of Climate Change Program, World Wildlife Fund. Reprinted from HuffPost with permission of author.

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9 Responses to Talking Turkey: A Holiday Pledge To End Climate Silence

  1. I agree with all of what Lou says here, and I’d like to add one more way we can make a huge difference, and that it together.

  2. Leif says:

    There are two planes on the tarmac, you must take one to an far away destination across many miles of uncharted terrain. One approved by 97% of aeronautical scientists. The other by 3%. Which do you fly? You will be taking your family and all the family jewels with you.

  3. catman306 says:

    R.E.M. had song lyrics 25 years ago with almost the same advice. But the message was too far ahead of it’s time. Actually it was just in time; we’re way late.
    (talk about the weather and gradually shift to talking about climate change and how the government and business don’t want anyone to know)

    Pop Song 89

    Hello, I saw you, I know you, I knew you
    I think I can remember your name
    Hello, I’m sorry, I lost myself
    I think I thought you were someone else

    Should we talk about the weather?
    (Hi, hi, hi)
    Should we talk about the government?
    (Hi, hi, hi, hi)

    Hello, how are you? I know you, I knew you
    I think I can remember your name, name
    Hello, I’m sorry, I lost myself
    I think I thought you were someone else

    Should we talk about the weather?
    (Hi, hi, hi)
    Should we talk about the government?
    (Hi, hi, hi, hi)

    Hello, my friend, are you visible today?
    You know I never knew that it could be so strange, strange
    Hello, I’m sorry, I lost myself
    I think I thought you were someone else

    Should we talk about the weather?
    (Hi, hi, hi)
    Should we talk about the government?
    (Hi, hi, hi, hi)

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    Here’s the real problem: we have oil company billionaires spending huge amounts of thoughtcrime money on every possible way to squelch both genuine science and the ensuing American (world) public policy debate. The hired hands are massively writing letter to the editor in some stupid states that they’ve never visited. They’re online right here sometimes, just throwing out chaff to detract readers from some really good points. These people love to say that they are Ph.Ds from some major university (I really doubt it when I see their grammatical errors) and therefore they know more than you. Or, they pretend to be solidly on one political side or the other.

    All voting citizens everywhere should be genuinely offended that a couple of moral creeps are taking them for thoughtless dupes, as if this were the old Soviet Union.

  5. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Lou – that’s beautifully put. Best post I’ve seen on informing people in many years. How to reach 300 million people in a weekend !

    Some further advice I’d value your thoughts on. It’s near impossible to call people Deniers without it sounding offensive and shifting discussion into futile argument. By contrast, amicably referring to people who’ve yet to get their heads round the reality of AGW as ‘Flukers’ can easily be a part of friendly banter – and it states their position that all of the intensifying extreme weather events worldwide are just flukes upon flukes upon flukes. It also sows a seed as I’ve seen grow among my neighbours – an event comes along that a Fluker decides is just too much, and they can change their opinion with scarcely any loss of face. As one put it to me after the sousing rains here in Wales since last June, “We’ve always had some fluke weather, but Christ, this is beyond that ! ” Another farmer went further, “They say the weather’s changing, but I say it has changed. And where will it be ten years on ?”

    Using the term Fluker socially also allows the term Denier to be focussed on those who know AGW is real and lethally dangerous but deny it for financial or political gain – the paid shills and some CEOs and politicians. This in turn empowers a valuable proposal for anyone who gets asked “But what can we do about it ?”

    Cutting ones own carbon debt and that of ones community is great, but until the White House agrees to a global climate treaty capping all nations’ emissions, any fossil fuels locally displaced are just being bought and burnt elsewhere. What we can do about this is to decide to vote only for candidates in the next elections who strongly support national and global action on climate – regardless of whether they’re independents, republicans or democrats. And where no such candidate is on offer, we can strongly challenge the most promising to get off the fence and start showing they’re set on defending our society from the threat of a destabilized climate. –

    In reality, climate is the ultimate bipartisan issue, so let’s take advantage of that fact.



  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    While the human beings remain quiescent, like some animal trapped in the headlights of approaching death, the dead souls march on, driven by Yeats’ ‘passionate intensity’. In Australia denialism goes from strength to strength, driven on by the Rightwing MSM, the Murdoch infestation entirely, the others preponderantly. Environmental advances are everywhere being wound back, with shooters and graziers allowed to run amuk in National Parks, duck shooting being restored and wilderness legislation eviscerated. Campaigns against renewable energy are growing ever more strident, and coal-mining remains a sanctified act. The one brief ray of hope, the carbon tax, has been vilified by the Right with a typically hysterical hate campaign, and the hard, hard, Right Opposition Leader, Abbott has sworn to abolish it, and the Renewable Energy Target of 20% by 2020. Good luck over there-the situation here goes from hopeless to contemptible from day to day.

  7. Brooks Bridges says:

    I had considerable success Thanksgiving with one person with an attempt to quote The National Academy of Sciences statement that the evidence for climate change has been so well established in so many ways that it could be accepted as a fact. The source of the quote mattered a lot to the recipient.

    The actual quote is:

    “Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. ”

    I now realize I must have such info in my phone ready to relay to their email.

    The quote is from : bottom and top

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘family jewels’ go wherever I go.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I have never met a real Rightist with an open mind. Sense of humour, bonhomie, love of their family and friends, yes, but intellectual inquisitiveness, questioning of establishment nostrums or incipient insubordination, never. Once told by their Thought Controllers in the MSM or at work, or in politics, what to believe, they become quite obdurate. Argument, particularly if they lose, only solidifies their prejudices. Climate disasters will only piss them off more, because they hate losing face.