For me, this was a big one. Jeff is my closest friend in the world…we’ve known eachother since high school, I’m godfather to his children, and he was the best man at my wedding (and I his). But more than that, for the stated goals of this project Jeff represents an important demographic: a suburban, middle class dad who is generally skeptical of climate change. He’d heard a smattering of the science and skepticism through the filter of mass media, and had reached the conclusion that the jury was still out on climate change’s existence and man’s role therein.
It was also good to have Toni with us, Jeff’s wife. Toni was initially reluctant to participate, as by her own admission she’s kind of a worrier and thus didn’t want the anxiety that comes with hearing bad news. Getting her join in took a mix of coaxing, favors, and explaining how much her participation really meant to me. I also fibbed a little and told her there wouldn’t be much in the way of doom and gloom. This isn’t a terrible lie since the talk isn’t overly depressing, but at points I do paint a pretty stark vision of the future as I try to get the point across. Also I feel that the urgency of the issue gives advocates some license to wield the big stick, to really force people to consider the issue whether they’re ready or not. If you care for someone, you’re honest with them…what good are friends but for delivering hard truths?
On the day of, Sarah and I got to their house pretty early to make dinner and hang out with the kids. We whipped up a mild curry dish with pork and rice which turned out a little bland, but it was still a hit with the godchildren. After we put the full-bellied little monsters to bed (and waited a while for them to actually settle in to that state), the adults opened some wine and sat down to the matter at hand.
For the talk itself, I didn’t think I did a particularly good job. I was nervous and sweaty (it was muggy that night), and I had to refer back to my notes a lot more than usual. I also tended to ramble and overcomplicate, in future talks I must remember to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). At the end I was afraid that I had blown a big opportunity, but as it turns out my worries were unfounded. If you poke around this site today you’ll see that Jeff is now its most active member! Part of this is just Jeff being Jeff: a good and loyal friend who is supports me in whatever I do. It goes further though, I believe Jeff is now something of a true convert to the cause of climate change. Of his own accord Jeff now scours the internet for climate information, often forwarding me stuff that I use in blog posts. Jeff, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), tell us in the comments what affected this change in you.
The Q&A was again the best part of the talk, both Jeff and Toni asked great questions. Check it out!
I like to get these things started off by inviting ridicule.
Jeff puts forward volcanoes as a major contributing source of CO2 to our atmosphere, and I do my best to explain natural carbon emissions in their proper context.
Jeff likes to play devil’s advocate, and I love him for it. He puts forth the range of climate’s Earth has seen over its lifetime, and rather than respond I make a fevered plea for Bruce Willis to save us from space aliens.
Jeff asks the question: if we need oil in the short term to help us produce renewable sources, how can environmental types be so anti-oil?
It comes up that over the summer the drought raised world food prices by 10%, so we get in to that a little. I rant about canned tomatoes, grocery bills are compared, and we explore just how much prices would have to rise before they became a serious family issue.
I joke about my dad a little, who thinks climate scientists are just in it for the chicks and the glory. Giving him the talk should be exciting…
We slide in to politics a little, and I think up a game where Jeff and I compare eachother against the political leanings of politicians and celebrities. It’s a fun diversion, but we spend most of the time struggling to remember the names of the people we want to reference.
If Jeff were ranking himself in the game above, he would put himself next to Ron Paul. Jeff asks me about Ron Paul as a “constituationalist”, and so I tell him what I know. This provides us an interesting segue in to Ron Paul’s successful effort to audit the fed, which was a important/interesting achievement that didn’t really get the press it deserved.
Toni asks about small steps people can take to start affecting change in their daily lives. I blather on for a bit about shifting the cultural narrative, and finally circle back to answer her question towards the end.
This is probably my favorite video of the bunch. Toni talks about the different recycling programs her friends participate in, and how it pisses her off when some towns don’t offer good options. She details some great examples of people who have gone from one type of recycling system to another, and how the different systems evoke different responses. Hearing about people being proud to recycle makes me really happy, and I try to frame the discussion in systems dynamics terms.
We discuss natural gas, fracking, peak oil, and how burning fossil fuels will end one way or the other because it’s simply unsustainable.
Toni asks about Al Gore and what he’s been up to, and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know. (I know now of course that he maintains a blog, does commentary for CurrentTV, and is starting the Climate Reality Project).
The larger point that Toni makes is a good one: without Al Gore around, climate change seems less real because there is no one to keep it alive in our consciousness. In Al Gore’s heyday environmental issues were everywhere in pop culture (remember Captain Planet, or Fern Gully?). But today the cause gets talked about a lot less, which makes it seem less real.
Thanks again to Jeff and Toni for letting me talk to them, and for being really great friends to me over the years. I couldn’t ask for two better people to have my back through all of this.