Recently, I received an email from a military officer who I happen to know because he is an expert on subversive warfare, which, in a way, was the subject of my last book. He is a Christian and, I’m pretty sure, a Republican. All the same, without invitation from me, he has become reader of No Impact Man.
He is not someone with whom I might expect agreement when it comes to climate change. Indeed, I am not even sure that he believes in anthropogenic climate change.
Yet, he wrote to me a kind email in which he remarked on how my attempt to live environmentally, during the No Impact experiment, ended with my discovering the shortcomings of materialism as a way of life and the strengths of living with contentment, gratitude, relationships, and love.
I’ve had many emails like this in the course of the last year from people who are as different from me politically as could possibly be. It has been very humbling. People are not so different, you know?
We are, most of us, just trying to do the right thing and get through this life. We, once in a while, get so caught up in things that we forget our real purpose but mostly we are good, I think.
The point is that, where people like my friend the military officer are concerned, when it comes to building a societal consensus on climate change, the science-based approach may not be the best. Arguing the ins and outs of greenhouse gases may not work. But a values-based approach may. Indeed, I think it creates a way to lovingly reach some citizens who don’t believe in climate change.
There is a tendency to think, among the progressives who have embraced climate change as their issue, that the job is simply to motivate other progressive voters to the polling station and then impose our climate change philosophy on those who don’t hold our views.
This is problematic and even dangerous for any number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that regulatory solutions can be reversed and are, in the end, not going to be sufficient. Yes, regulatory change will help, but if we impose the kind of change we need without working on a cross-aisle consensus, it may end up unraveling.
Ultimately, we’ll need to build broad consensus, as a society and as a culture. We have to talk across the aisle and, more importantly, listen. If people like my military friend are willing to reject overuse of resources because he finds it gets in the way of “contentment, gratitude, relationships, and love,” then why can’t those of us who care about climate change form a coalition with them?