This week’s edition of the radio program, “The American Life”, is titled “Hot In My Backyard”. It looks at Politics of Climate Change. If you listened to it you would have heard about controversial scientific facts and figures, but they are not the focus. The focus is how our representatives and government administrators are tied to the political realities of this emotional topic.
The program is presented in three acts, or three different stories on a common topic. The first act tells the story of Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doeskin, who has slowly developed a stronger belief in Climate Change. His clients (farmers and ranchers) generally do not believe that Colorado’s recent extreme weather is more than an abnormality of the weather cycle. Doeskin struggles with warning his clients about the dire predictions of changing temperatures. He feels that “telling people to believe something different than what they do hardly ever has an impact”. The people most affected by Climate Change don’t want to believe in it. They want to be optimistic that next year will be better than this one. They believe Climate Change is a ‘liberal conspiracy’, ‘God is in charged’ or ‘the science is wrong (or rigged)”. Doeskin decides to ‘come clean’ with his clients at an annual meeting, with interesting results.
The Second Act is a story about former Congressional Representatives from South Carolina, Bob Inglis. Inglis was a 12 year veteran conservative congressman. He had an 100% approval rating by the Christian Collation, 100% National Right To Life rating, 93% American Conservative Union rating , and he earned an “A” rating from the NRA. In 2010 he faced a Tea Party backed Republican Primary Challenger, who used Climate Change against him. The Tea Party candidate crushed Inglis, 71% to 29%!
After he lost, Inglis decided to start a non-profit organization to promote climate change to the most conservative audiences. One Mississippi talk show host told him, “Every fiber in my body tells me that if you are a conservative you can not believe in Climate Change.” The story points put that polls show 40% of republican voters believe in climate is changing and are worried about it. Republicans representatives believe the Talk Show host, and have voted down language in bills that would just acknowledge that climate is changing!
The Third Act–is about writer turned activist, Bill McKibben. After writing about Climate Change and the need for the American Public and the Congress to react, he decided take the next step—become political. He realized that you need to have an organized campaign to educate people–to change their minds. He also realized that he needed to have somebody to blame. He has found his villains in the fossil fuel industry. They have control of the untapped carbon laden fossil fuels, that when tapped and burned it overloads our atmosphere with carbon which affects our climate.
His mode of operation is to get people politically active enough to convince large organizations to ‘divest’ their funds in the Fossil Fuel (Gas and Oil) Companies. He has been on speaking tours of colleges, urging the students to work on their colleges to divest their funds from oil companies. McKibben has motivated the many college students to become political activists! There have been over 300 college campaigns started and 5 small colleges have been convinced to actually divested their funds away from the Oil Companies. The story also tells of a students who organized a “Sit In” in the President’s Office at the Rhode Island School of Design. It describes the difficulty in divesting and the Sit-Ins’ results.
What I liked about this program is it looks at politics through a real situation. As I listened to this story on This American Life, it hit me that the same activities could be about many controversial political topics– background checks, universal health care, DOMA, hydrofracking, the sequester, and more. How do you change people’s minds? That’s the trick.
You can listen to this program at This American Life.org.
- College Divestment Campaigns Creating Passionate Environmentalists (wnyc.org)
- Bill McKibben: Since atmospheric CO2 at 350, ‘we melted the Arctic’ (junkscience.com)
- College Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns Heat Up (huffingtonpost.com)
- Green Mountain College to divest from fossil fuels (vtdigger.org)
- Carbon Bubble a Turning Point for Climate Change Action? (theenergycollective.com)
- McKibben’s Divestment Tour (counterpunch.org)