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How to find your voice to heal our planet

In this 10th-anniversary year of the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the debate between those who believe in global warming and those who do not has reached a critical stage. President-elect Trump, who has said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has threatened to end all funding and ignore past pledges of President Obama’s administration.

Those passionate about saving the planet from the effects of global warming face off against others who believe, just as passionately, that there is nothing to save since earth’s climate changes every few thousand years. Chances are you have an opinion, but is there a way to understand the other side and cross the divide?

When Gore’s film first came out, I watched the trailers and suggested to my husband that we watch the movie. Tony was not that interested. This wasn’t a total surprise since we had different opinions on a variety of topics, including our every-four-year presidential voting patterns. Yet, I couldn’t understand his disinterest when he had been committed to the environment for much of his life.

He joined the Peace Corps after college and moved to a small village in Burkina Faso, Africa to help people learn how to dig wells for better access to water. Tony wanted to travel the world and give something of value to those who had very little. His 2.5 year stint in Africa was such a defining experience that 45 years later, at the end of his life, he had returned to his interests in Africa and the environment, and was working with a German partner on plans to combat water scarcity and land degradation.

My first reaction to his resistance ten years ago was to be upset that he wasn’t willing to be educated. I believed An Inconvenient Truth had important data that we both needed to understand. Tony felt the film might be biased and perhaps not factual. He talked about Ted Kennedy and Al Gore wanting to limit fossil fuels, but when it came to putting wind turbines in his Hyannis Port backyard, Kennedy fought the idea, and Gore jetted around the world burning more fuel than we ever would.

We let our disagreements cool off for a bit and then we tried again. It wasn’t always easy, but when we remained curious and intently listened, one of our minds was often changed. Holding tight to the ideals we were passionate about often left us unwilling to listen to anything that challenged our beliefs. We debated all kinds of topics and often I was the one who learned an important lesson. On this environmental topic, however, I was pleased that he agreed to watch the film, telling me afterwards that he had gained a new perspective.

When he and I stopped talking about climate change and focused on the very possibility that humans are contributing to an accelerated global warming, we began to see eye to eye. The terminology had been tripping us up. We all can find common ground when we listen in these passionate conversations.

In 2014, Tony wrote a post on his environmental blog entitled, Change in Philosophy. In part, he wrote, “While this has been a challenging year for humanitarian issues around the globe, it has also been a watershed period for the occurrence of extreme weather phenomena as well as for polarized attitudes about the implications of these events on the future sustainability of our planet. I have tried to maintain issue neutrality on how these topics would be presented. By seeing both sides of issues, we can hope to filter out extreme ideologies and generate informed personal opinions of their cause and effect.”

Conversations with our daughter, however, made him think about the importance of being more definitive in his views and opinions. He did not want his site to become political or to be read only by readers who shared his  philosophy, but he began to realize that neutrality was no longer an appropriate option.

I know Tony would be very interested in the National Geographic/Leonardo Dicaprio film, Before the Flood. He would agree that the most pressing environmental issue facing our world today is global warming. I urge you to watch this film:


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