And so this little adventure has come to it’s first real challenge: the conversion of my father, the climate skeptic.
Dad is semi-retired now, but worked for many years as a well-respected hospital administrator. His specialty was turning around failing institutions: he’d would get hired as a hospital’s president, spend a few years righting the ship financially and then swoop off to his next venture. He’s been pretty conservative as long as I’ve known him, and since he’s moved to the South he admits his beliefs have only been reinforced. He does however take special delight in telling me how liberal he used to be…a little jab to say I’ll eventually come around to his way of thinking.
The old man now lives in North Carolina, so this would be my first interview through the internet. Before the talk could be given however, we had to set him up on Skype. Now my father is a smart guy who can hold his own in many arenas, but he suffers from some of the same technological hangups of other people his age. So I got on the phone and began walking him through the setup (technically just creating his own account, since Skype was already installed), thinking we could be done in ten minutes or less.
Fifty minutes later I slumped in my chair in breathless, brain-dead triumph. If anyone out there has ever given tech support to a relative over the phone, you probably know this feeling. I was pretty spent at this point, and certainly wasn’t excited to open my mouth and continue talking for another 30 minutes. But somehow I powered through, and the talk actually went pretty well.
Below are the relevant excerpts from the Q&A that came after the talk. I apologize in advance for the quality of these videos, the connection through Skype was really poor and so Dad is awfully hard to hear at times. Also, be aware that we toss off a casual swear word here or there…something of an inevitability when you pit two headstrong Krasnauskas men against one another in rigorous intellectual debate.
We start off with Dad advising me not to focus my efforts just on educated elites. I agree with him, you don’t need a degree to understand the visceral threat climate change…fear is the universal motivator.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Dad doesn’t believe (I’m paraphrasing here) that science has a very good handle on climate change, and that their doubt is an open door through which many alternate theories could pass. I do my best to divorce the cause of climate change from the bare fact that the world is getting warmer, trying to get him to agree that no one wants to live on a hotter/more dangerous planet…
Dad throws the natural cycles thing out one more time and I make my stand, trying to convey the clear evidence that humans are the cause of climate change.
I test the waters of whether Dad actually feels threatened by any of the stuff I’ve laid on him so far. He concedes that he’s always seen nature as a “fragile” thing in need of protection, but doesn’t express much fear.
Dad’s major complaint with the U.S. government is the size of the debt and bloated entitlement programs, so we chat for a bit about what kind of changes he might like to see. Like the vast majority of Americans I agree with him, so we have a nice moment of accord and I toss off a few ideas of my own.
Dad tells me how science is still figuring things out and is too fallible to be fully trusted. In line with this the motivations of scientists (driven by glory) and the analysis of the CIA (pursuing their own agenda) are suspect.
Dad brings up the ozone layer as another possible explanation of why the Earth is getting hotter. I don’t really entertain the theory, but I’m only too happy to delve in to what I know about chlorofluorocarbons and why the fight to close the hole in the ozone layer is a success story that climate change could be modeled after.
Dad tosses chlorofluorocarbons out as another possible theory to explain earth’s warming, and I do my best to make him focus on carbon emissions and put some faith in scientists who study this stuff for a living.
Dad asks so I go on a little bit about the purpose of the website and the project at large.
I do my best to explain what I see as the difference between this project and others that seek to educate the public about climate change.
Dad is skeptical that humans are capable of acting rationally to address problems as big and far reaching as climate change. I admonish him for his skepticism and do my best to assure him that we have the capability if we can just find the will and the narrative.
Whoever pulls the Nazi card first wins the argument, right? :) Dad knows a lot about WWII, and Germany comes up in the context of human nature. I take the opportunity to compare 3rd Reich Germany and climate change…which might seem heavy handed but the parallels are quit apt.
Dad asks about what sort of climate change organizations I’m involved in, so I list off a few. At this point I’ve tuckered the old man out, I offer my gratitude once more and so we say our goodbyes. Thanks Dad!