Skip to main content

UPDATE: Thanks for keeping it mostly civil.  The discussion of the diary includes comments from someone trying to refute what I think is scientific consensus, that the earth is warming and will continue to do so.  In reply to any of these comments, I'd like to ask everyone to keep in mind that a core point in the diary is taking a stand against getting abused for having an opinion.  I see lots of great, fact-based information about global warming, lots of links I'll add to my collection and refer to in the future - but also some personal comments that I wish were not there.  Thanks,

In February 1968, Walter Cronkite famously released an editorial deeply questioning the reasons for continuing to be in the Vietnam War, and advocating that we should seek a negotiated peace.  Prior to that time, it was generally accepted, at least in the MSM (sound familiar?) that continuing the war was our patriotic duty and only DFHs were opposed to it.

This "Cronkite Moment" is widely credited with turning the tide of public opinion in the US with regard to the war.  President Johnson supposedly said "If I have lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

We live in a world of simple narratives that fail to explain a complex reality.  This story, that one very intelligent and trusted man went to Vietnam and returned to open our eyes about it, is likely a type example of this kind of oversimplification.  Note the recurring MSM theme that we needed a wise moral leader to decide something rather than being able to make up our own minds.

The Cronkite Moment, if it really was as big an event as retrospective accounts make of it, could not have happened unless the underlying conditions were there; an emerging understanding that had not yet crystallized.  It could only have worked if it liberated knowledge that people had not yet given themselves permission to have.  The Cronkite Moment could not have occurred without the tireless and visionary work of thousands of people on a an individual, person-to-person level.

Global Warming is upon us.  The bright shiny objects swirl, kept aloft by professional bright shiny object swirlers.  What can we all do, right now, to create the underlying conditions to a new Cronkite Moment, this time with respect to global warming?

In the context of starting real action on climate in the US, three ingredients need to come together to make this cake.  The first is:

Helping a majority of Americans realize that in fact, a majority of Americans already are concerned about global warming and favor action.

What was that about again?  A majority, about a majority, or something?  Okay, one step at a time.

It's already true that a majority of Americans favor action on global warming.  Yep.  Even many Republicans.  We know that it's happening, that it's bad, and that it's time to do a lot about it.  So what's the problem?

That majority has been made to feel like the lunatic fringe.  This issue, which absolutely could be a strong winning issue for any politician running in much the country and certainly for the presidency, has been painted as radical.

The concerted attacks have been so successful that we have been bullied into silence.  The extent of vociferous, hateful, lying smears that can be expected from even mentioning global warming - it's astonishing, and it creates fear.  That's their plan.  When concerned people oppose even the worst of planet destroying ideas like exporting 2 trillion pounds of coal to China so we can get it all back in air pollution and plastic crap that we then owe China even more money for, the main issues raised are about local concerns rather than the obvious, bone jarring stupidity of the idea from a global climate perspective.  

We need to understand the power of the slim majority, in areas of opinion.  Remember when marriage equality, even in progressive states, was viewed by most people as a far off and radical idea?  Radical - because less than  50% of Americans supported it, even if just slightly less than 50%.  That's not true any more, and an important feedback effect is that once an emerging and positive idea reaches even a slim majority or plurality in support, people who know in their hearts about the importance of it, allow themselves to know something that they have actually known for a while.

Making sure it is widely known that a majority of Americans favor action on global warming - unleashing the power of that known majority - may actually be a more powerful trigger than discussing the technical details of the issue itself.

Picture talking to your congresscritter for a minute.  

You: Global warming, 390 parts per million, 3.5 degres centigrade, islands underwater, seashells dissolving, methane bubbling, famine and war!

Critter: Will any of these things happen before the next election?

You: According to this data, a clear majority of the voters in your district favor strong action on global warming.  They are especially supportive of the proposed new wind farm in the foothills.

Critter: Tell me more!

Picture talking to a (true and actually undecided, not paid) skeptic.

You: Here, check out this evidence about increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere and its connection to recent climate changes in the Arctic.

Cousin Bob: That looks like complicated stuff.  I heard that those guys just make it up to get research grants.  And besides, there's nothing we can do about it.

You: It's not just 96% of climate scientists who think this is important.  A majority of Americans are on board that we need to take action now to protect our crops, our seashores, and our homes.  The President of our regional electric utility is one.

Cousin Bob: Not just the tree huggers?

You: I'm proud to be one, but it's not just us.

Even defensively, it's the most effective response to a Faux-crazed father in law.  Not a bunch of numbers about climate change it self - that stuff is like water off a drunk duck's back.  More like this:

"If I'm crazy for thinking that global warming is happening, I guess I'm in good company with business people who are making decisions based on the reality of global warming.  You know, like the biggest insurers in the world, changing their business strategies due to climate change, or shippers making plans to send ships through sea routes that cannot possibly be open without global warming."

It's a strange and ironic thing.  Helping people see that they are not alone in their concern may be more important than arguing on the actual issue.  Is this really what it comes down to?  Creating a herd for people to follow?

It's more complex that that.  It is actually about creating conditions to allow people to think without fear, whether it's fear of being marginalized, or fear of having to confront some incredibly serious challenges ahead. We can face the truth together, we can solve it together.  You are not alone.  We are not alone.


It's just that these facts may not always be what you reach for first.

Headlines seem to rule our world, but the question of whether we take any effective action on climate may hinge on the lowest level of retail discussion.  If you talk to three people, and I talk to three people, and some of those people do the same, it can make a difference.  Climate change should be a regular, routine part of talking about the state of the world.  Don't be afraid to make it part of your regular conversation with your community.  If you've been bullied into silence on this topic, then score a victory for the imitation wildebeest crowd.

To that end, two other steps follow, which are for another night.  They are to show that:

2) Yes, there are real solutions which will leave us better off than ever before.

3) Remarkably, the costs of the solutions can be vastly lower that expected or even negative, provided you correctly understand what "cost" really is, because the solutions will shed immense silent costs that are strangling everyone right now.


Originally posted to James Wells on Sat Dec 17, 2011 at 07:31 AM PST.

Also republished by The Royal Manticoran Rangers, Climate Hawks, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site