This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 11th of February 2019.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
This week I’m responding to a question. A few weeks back at the community garden we were in a group discussion about the impacts of climate change. Three percent of Tasmania had been ravaged by bushfires, large parts of the Australian mainland were and are under drought and some of those areas in Queensland had just been hit by a drought breaking weather event so large 100s of thousands of cattle drowned due to the suddenness and extent of the rainfall.
The question which came up in conversation was this: How do we convince the doubters? The individual asking the question had just been in discussion at his local golf club. The club in on the coastal plain near the town of Devonport. Tasmania is the island state of Australia. Every school child is taught that Tassie was once attached to the mainland but melting ice that marked the start of the current interglacial period caused sea levels to rise and the island was created. Starting at this point the gentleman then went on to point out that the body of water separating Tasmania from the mainland, Bass Strait would widen as the planet warmed. Melting ice, expanding water as it heated and so on. That final step was where the listeners had a problem. Past sea level rises were ok, another one seemed beyond their grasp.
He was, of course, using a logical argument. In Tasmania, the idea of climate change is closely associated with one political party: The Greens. Originally the United Tasmania Group, formed in 1972, they evolved into the Green Party, the world’s first such organisation. They arose to fight an expansion of the hydroelectric system in the state because a proposed dam was going to flood an area of outstanding Natural biodiversity and beauty. There were Federal implications and intrusions into the process. The mainland telling us what we can and can’t do with our state. That sort of thing. The state divided into pro and anti Green. This is still an undercurrent in the state. The dam was not built.
Not surprisingly this had political implications. As this all started back in 1972, several generations of resistance to and support of environmental programs has resulted in a divided opinion. Climate change and the more extreme prophecies of what it meant simply widened the gap between pro and anti. The pro Greens did themselves no favours by constantly implying the end of the world was coming and coming quickly.
While all this is a local summary, the patterns are repeated around the world.
Especially in North America and Australia the right of politics, increasingly, the far right are rabid opponents to the idea of Climate Change as a thing, ket alone doing anything to change the current situations. The fossil fuel industry, following the pattern set by the tobacco industry’s legal and “scientific” defence of its income, have been able to find useful fools to do its bidding. This has tended to reinforce the Climate Change is marker of political standing thought process.Or to be a little more blunt: If I can claim climate change is not happening or is natural others will know I’m not a greenie.
This brings me back to the original question: How do we convince the doubters? Or perhaps better reframed as: How do we convince people of what’s happening when they seem to not see what’s before their eyes? If we accept that Climate Change for many is not a matter of science but a matter of self description then no amount of logic, evidence or science will ever get them to change their position. Without a change in position, getting the numbers to elect individuals willing to take the necessary steps will not occur.
The other great divide the Green versus argument created was with farmers. Early attempts to stem deforestation led to legislation banning tree clearing. This led to some media exposure of the state controlling private property and the loss of rights without compensation. There is something to this and not at the same time. Instead of legislating alone, some sort of education program showing the value, the economic value to a farm of some tree cover and a financial incentive to maintain the tree cover would have had less negative effects. The Greens at the time were behaving with the single minded focus of a religious zealot and many saw the passing of the above mentioned type of legislation as for everyone’s good even if some suffered in the implementation.
So many of those emotionally and politically wedded to resistance to climate change ideas believe themselves to be on the same side of that divide as the farmers. Now “the farmers” are not an homogeneous group but that doesn’t matter in this case. It is to our advantage that they are seen as such and this will become obvious as we proceed.
I find the best way to change someone’s opinion is find a like minded individual who has already done so. The thrust is something like this: Your peer used to think just like you. They have changed their opinion and they tell me it’s because of X, Y & Z. Change the subject and come back to it later in the conversation when the idea has had time to settle. This may take a few moments, it may take a few months. Doesn’t matter, change occurs at its own speed.
To the matter of climate change and I hope you can see where I’m going. Most people who hold opinions against the science, don’t care about the science. Their belief is a psychological position. So arguing the science is talking at cross purposes with them. You may end up on the same page but you’ll both be in different books.
The way into their world is they way to change. As I stated above, most of the urban and suburban types fighting against useful change see only increased taxes, a system that benefits the financial traders who wrecked the world economy back in 2007 and a fall in their own standard of living. That continuation along the current path will led to the same outcome is irrelevant to their understanding of the world.
Some people will never change their positions. Understanding this will save us a huge amount of effort and psychic capital. I would argue that the majority of people are open to change when it is to their benefit and saves them from harm.
The Practical People
I use the farmers as examples. There have been a few key points that matter in these discussions, that I’ve had. The first is the change in timings. Silage and hay being cut earlier that a generation ago. I argue that farmers are practical people and won’t jump on a bandwagon of change for the sake of it as they are trying to make a living in the real world. Droughts, flooding rains, storm systems are all affecting farming and food prices. We had cyclone in Australia a few years back that destroyed a large portion of the banana industry and those fruits, yes I know they are technically herbs but those fruits went from a couple of dollars a kilo to $25 and more in places, a kilo. This is a direct to the hip pocket example of what one storm can do.
The other really good example of changes is the wine industry. In Australia wine growers and large corporations are moving further south to establish vineyards. Why? It is too hot a harvest time and some vinters have 130 odd years of records to prove the change. Setting up a vineyard is not inexpensive nor done lightly. This is a thing to point out. In the same way the US wine industry is moving north. From California to Oregon and even Washington. In the UK grapes are growing to maturity and I even saw them growing in Ireland, not the typical climate for grapes.
I’m sure there are other examples of this sort of change. The point is, the most practical people in the world, farmers, are reacting to the changes they see on the ground. They do not have ideological nor political reasons for so doing. They are dealing with reality, year in and year out. If they can sense a change then maybe it’s actually happening.
That’s the best I’ve and I have seen lights come on in people’s eyes. They don’t have a reason to know these things until they placed before them. All the news covers are the natural disasters and the political infighting and neither of these will change enough people’s minds to have a political effect.
I really hope this has been useful. It has certainly helped me to clarify my thinking in the writing and recording of it. Any thoughts, email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
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Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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