“We are Prepared to do Whatever it Takes”
Last week students from 50 high schools protested the censorship of climate change in their curriculum, which conservatives are deeming a political subject not worthy of academic inclusion, despite the potentially catastrophic future it offers them. These students were proposing a Green New Deal for Schools.
Not all, but more, Republicans believe that climate change is a scam, although of the four recent GOP debate candidates, one sidestepped the issue completely, one accepted that climate change was real but that the United States was not a significant contributor, and one outright stated it was a hoax. However, the question was asked by a young conservative, suggesting that among more and more youth of any persuasion, climate change is viewed as both a significant threat and a major political priority.
There is, in fact, a more than 99% consensus that climate change is human-caused in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Many right-wing ideologues have been able to find lone scientists who stand against the consensus. However, in science, it is the consensus that matters. According to the wiki entry on scientific consensus “it is the generally held judgment, position, and opinion of the majority or the super majority of scientists in a particular field of study at any particular time. Consensus is achieved through scholarly communication at conferences, the publication process, replication of reproducible results by others, scholarly debate and peer review.” Therefore, trotting out for political purposes a scientist who does not accept the consensus is meaningless and an insult to the academics in their field.
We live in an era in which not just lone scientists with unconventional views are exploited (by both left-wing and right-wing ideologues), but in which political and cultural figures who are not themselves scientists can utter falsehoods about scientific facts in the media to prop up their political positions, which defies the five core principles of ethical journalism (public accountability, impartiality and fairness, humanity, truthfulness and accuracy, and objectivity).
They and the general population will also in selected cases turn to conclusions that seem in their view to best support their political ideologies, known as the confirmation bias. Such realities are troubling in a world in which anti-vaccine conspiracy thinking can cost millions of lives, and climate change denial billions. These individuals may not necessarily challenge science in general, but will when the topics seem to them more laden with political implications.
Climate change activists and movements are going to have to find other ways than spouting facts alone to effectively convince others of our need for a more sustainable society, such as by focusing on stories that everyone agrees with, and that can wrench others on a deep emotional level, such as how the crises will devastate economics, the richness and stability of nature, the quality of family life including the fate of our children, profound spiritual questions such as humans meddling so destructively with God’s plan (at least, for the religious among us), and confront our city dwellers about the choices they make and their effects, questions that will rile even the most doggedly individualist of Americans.
Which brings us back to the courageous and inspiring choices being made by more and more young people, such as the high school students protesting their curriculum, and the high school and college students who organized and led the recent Chicago climate change protest on September 15th. Using that quote in the title from a 17-year-old in the recent school protest, we are all urged to follow their example and support them, which is also supporting our own demand for a more sustainable future, to do whatever that might take.