Us Vs. Them

We recently asked our readers to answer a question concerning climate change and its importance when compared to other, some would say more urgent, problems like famine, polluted drinking water, etc.

One particularly astute person made the following observation about our poll question:

"Your recent poll left out the most accurate choice of all, and one that Goklany and his colleagues ignore at their peril, i. e., the famine, polluted water, disease and other maladies that concern them are exacerbated by climate change. They conveniently overlook the fact that all of these factors are interrelated. Goklany’s point is not good because, in his eagerness to distract attention from the widespread impact of climate change, he fails to see this interrelatedness. But, did you expect scientific objectivity from the Cato Institute?"
AnnieLaurie Burke, PE

You ask a good question, AnnieLaurie, and it got me thinking about a different but related question.

For some reason, there are some really fanatical detractors of the idea that climate change exists. Mention climate change, and you can see the contempt and disgust wash over their faces. Suddenly the conversation turns, their expression sours, and a chill wind blows through the room -- you've become one of "those people." I have a couple of these people in my family. They talk about high gas prices and then blame it on "the environmentalists." Nice.

"There are bigger problems in the world," they say.

But rather than mount a counterargument of facts, figures, articles, and common sense, that, in my mind, are refutable proof of climate change, I've decided that my reply will now simply be: "Why not?"

Why not live our lives more conscientiously -- more keenly aware of our environmental impact? What's the harm? What possible negative outcome can there be in using less energy, recycling / reusing as much as possible, and otherwise just trying to reduce our "carbon footprint?" And while I'm at it, what's the harm in protecting as-yet-unspoiled land?

And perhaps the most important question: suppose I do believe that climate change exists and represents a real threat not just to my own way of life, but to every way of life in the world -- why does it anger some people so much?


So here's my challenge to you: Why does my desire to live a more conscientious life get under some peoples' skin so much? I mean, really, it's not as though I'm advocating banning guns or promoting genocide, or otherwise interfering with anyone else's life by living the way I do -- so why all the ire and vitriol?

Pro-business arguments don't count because I don't believe that we should live our lives in dedication to supporting the free market economy -- there are far more important things in life. I'll post any and all responses I get to the question. So let me have it…call me a dirty hippie or a treehugger or whatever you want -- I can take it, but just tell me why.


Great response and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been told that all it takes is 15% of the people to change their buying habits and industry will respond with sustainable products.

Jay, PE

Posted by Jason Goodman on May 13, 2008