Setting the table, planting the seeds.

Gathering with friends and family (chosen or otherwise) is so important. Thanksgiving is an extraordinary day: a day in which we pause together, welcome one another and offer thanks together.

Some of us will find ourselves seated with people with whom we rarely agree. If your Uncle Hal is someone who believes that a good argument is essential to complete digestion, you’re just stuck.

On the other hand, if you’re simply sitting at a table with people with sometimes-oppositional worldviews, you don’t have to set yourself up for conflict, and you can talk about what matters to you.

Instead of leading with climate change, lead instead with your motivation. Why have you stepped into this work?   Reach to a more personal place than the dual call that all our faiths share to care for the most vulnerable people and for the earth and all that it holds. Have particular experiences in the natural world filled you with wonder and awe? Healing? Peace? Joy? Share those. Invite others around the table to do the same, or to reflect on what has opened the door to those feelings.

Or what about beginning with a conversation with what we truly value, what makes us feel content, or happy – those things for which we are thankful. Meaningful connection with friends or family? Health? Enough food to eat? What about the satisfaction of non-tangible experiences, like the chance to use our gifts in ways that make others happy? How could the people around your table help increase contentment and connection for each other? What about for others in your communities? What about people in vulnerable communities in this country, or around the world?

Fertile and responsive conversation can prepare the ground for conversation about climate change and urgent, faithful response, creating entry points that are about values and relationships instead of the high-conflict monologues that too often characterize the public climate change narrative.

If you need to respond to questions based on denialist claims, Skeptical Science is the best one-stop shop to get solid, source-cited information. It often identifies how facts may have been pulled out of context to create the misunderstanding. But be forewarned: there is no end to the assertion-rebuttal exchange, and once it begins that’s the conversation you’re likely to keep having.

If you’re beginning from personal, respectful discussion, there are other ways to help people trust your facts enough to shift the primary conversation back to values and actions — what do we care about, and what can we do? For people (like most of us) whose day job is not to keep up with climate change research, we can take a shortcut by following the lead of three entities that absolutely depend upon getting climate change evaluations right (and that do constantly review new information as it emerges). All three evaluate new findings carefully, and look to put the solid information to work. None has any interest in telling us what we want to hear.  All three are completely clear that climate change is real, is happening, and, if we fail to drastically change our ways, will continue to worsen.

  1. Many in the re-insurance industry (the group that insures the insurers – a group whose bottom line requires that they get this right) has been clear about climate change posing increased risk to property for years (or, in a few cases, decades).  Others have been warned by the S&P that they may be grossly underestimating their potential losses.
  1. The American Armed Services identify climate change as a “threat multiplier.” Every branch of the military is working to use less energy because it is financially costly, and being less dependent on fossil fuels is strategic as well. As an example, flexible solar panels built into cloth can power an entire hospital tent near the front lines in conflict, drastically reducing the need for fuel trucks to expose the crews driving them, and anyone in the vicinity.
  1. Former Homeland Security Chief (and former PA Governor) Tom Ridge has addressed climate change and national security as well, stating “It is in our national interest to confront the risk that climate change in vulnerable regions presents to American security. We must offer adaptive solutions to communities currently facing climate-driven displacement, support disaster risk reduction measures and help mitigate potential future impacts through sustainable food, water and energy systems.”
Bald Eagle State Forest, PA, Joe McDonald  image source

Bald Eagle State Forest, PA, Joe McDonald image source

Our best advice, though, has nothing to do with sources or weblinks: end your talk with a walk.  Outdoors. Preferably with a natural surface under your feet. Find the Light. Reconnect with the Source. Give thanks. Return to the ground you have tilled later on. Cultivate committed action with patience and love.

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AFTER writing this, we ran across this very well-done piece, by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  It’s easy, direct reading with helpful ideas.   We recommend it.