Global Warming & Our Commitment to the Future

By Rick Fullerton | Bio


Recently, I have been focusing more and more of my attention on
global warming and, in turn, on understanding my own reactions and responses to
what’s happening. The results so far have been both fascinating and
challenging.

One aspect of the global warming conversation involves the role
of the media in reporting scientific evidence and projections regarding the
effects of carbon dioxide in heating the planet. In particular, I have learned
about the disproportionate influence of a small number of people in sustaining
doubt about whether global warming is occurring and whether human activity is
the prime cause. The skill and persistence of these individuals conspire with
mainstream media, who espouse the virtue of balanced reporting while widely
publicizing the unfounded opinions of a handful of paid lobbyists and ignoring
the relative validity of thousands of evidence-based scientific studies.
Needless to say, there are lessons here for all in the power of
managing conversations
.

A related insight stems from a public lecture I attended last
week. A university professor, a key figure on the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, spoke as a consummate world expert on the science of
global warming, citing studies, data sources and complex projections. His
technical prowess was impressive. And yet, in response to questions from the
audience, he readily confessed his lack of expertise in dealing with
people—individually or collectively. Changing human behaviour was not among his
areas of competence.

Another surprising revelation to me revolves around the very
fundamental question, “Do we care about the future—of the planet, of life on
earth, of the human species, of our community or of our family?” As a grandson,
son, brother, father and grandfather, it is easy for me to take for granted our
place in the cycle of life. Similarly, as one with rural country roots, the
land and water have always been important to me. So it comes as a shock that,
for others, a commitment to the future is either qualified or even non-existent.
The challenge is that this commitment to the future shows up as choices about
the delayed consequences of toxic waste, rampant consumerism, deforestation,
and, of course, the rush to find and burn fossil fuels.

The conversation on global warming is about to get a lot more
attention as world leaders prepare for meetings on a post-Kyoto agreement. Of
course, it is easy to discount the significance of our individual
responsibility or action. There is some logic to the view that the small CO2
contribution of any decision one makes is irrelevant in relation to the Alberta
Tar Sands or the US war effort in Iraq or Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Yet for me, the congruence of my values and actions is central to my legitimacy as
a voice for change and as a model for others to follow
. This is, I
believe, as true for individuals as it is for organizations, communities and
countries.  

So what are the real choices I can make? Well, clearly one is to
use my voice, my writing and my actions to bring attention and informed choice
to global warming. I can choose to live more simply, to consume less—and to
encourage others to do the same. And, recognizing that global warming requires
more than individual action, I can choose leaders who care about the future of
the planet and sustainable life in all forms.

© 2009 Rick Fullerton. All rights reserved.

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