Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Little Victories: Conversion of a Climate Skeptic (Guest Essay)

I am happy to post a guest essay from my botany student Matt Spears! It is his story of how his father finally came to admit that humans are causing global warming. I think it is interesting that his Dad’s reasons for rejecting global warming previously had more to do with political identity than with an understanding of science. Working against science denialism is an uphill fight but we can be happy for little victories!

(Beginning of guest essay)

My 70 year old father considers himself a conservative.  He calls me a liberal.  I am 31 now, but when I was about 18 years old I began to learn about things that at the time “blew my mind.”  I was learning about things I had never heard from my parents.  I was so excited to share these new ideas with them, but quickly discovered why my parents never talked about these things.  My dad called my new realizations about the world, which included global warming, “horse shit” and no matter what evidence I presented to him I was wrong.  It used to make me so angry.  It seemed like all of our time together consisted of arguments, but I was young, full of energy and very passionate so I persisted until years later when I got tired and gave up trying to get through to him.  I read a study where “permanent” changes were observed in the brains of people who would play violent video games every day.  My dad listens to conservative talk radio and watches FOX “so-called” news every day so I assumed that, for the most part, he has literally been brain washed to only believe what the talking heads of conservative media tell him.

Two weeks ago, while I was at my parents’ house, I saw a flyer about a discussion on climate change that would be held at a popular local bar.  The flyers were passed out at the Rotary group he attends every week.  I couldn’t believe that in my very conservative home town of Sherman, Texas a discussion on climate change was happening outside of a college or university and, most of all, my dad had brought home the flyer.  He agreed to go and met us there at the bar.  Two professors from the environmental science department at Austin College and the head meteorologist at the news station KXII were there to answer questions that those of us in attendance would ask.  It was obvious nearly everybody there already understood global warming, but there were two whom I recognized that did not.  One of those was the owner of the bar who made a short rant about his freedom to do whatever is in the best interest of business.  I just happened to be in the rest room for that and only heard the end.  After a couple of pints I began to chime in with comments and my dad followed.  He didn’t have much to say and was really just there to listen.  The speakers were all very thorough in their explanations of global warming.  It couldn’t have been any clearer to all of us who attended, no matter what our views had been walking in there, that global warming is real and our actions are making it happen at an alarming rate.

So, on the way home I called my mom to tell her all about it.  While we were talking I heard a click like somebody else was on the line.  My mom said it was my dad.  I said “Dad, what do you think?”  He replied “We’re doing it.” That’s all I needed to hear and I guess that’s all he needed to say because he just hung up.  I almost couldn’t believe it after all these years.  I want to gloat and tell him I was right all this time, but I know better.  Now, I hope he realizes that it’s not me who’s full of shit, It’s Bill O’Reilly.

(End of guest essay)

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