Saturday, March 23, 2019

Climate Science can Bridge the Divides that Separate Us

Climate action is not only necessary to stave off a civilization altering threat, it can also build bridges between disparate groups of people by fostering ties around shared ecological values. Uniting around common goals helps us to move beyond tribal divisions.The first step is to acknowledge a common reality, and science is the best approach we have to do so.

Science helps us to expose and ultimately expunge lies but that is not to say that science is infallible. There are systemic weaknesses that need to be addressed. One of the most serious is industry influence which skews perceptions by introducing research that is motivated by commercial interests.

Perhaps the most destructive assault on science comes from politicians who undermine science with alternative facts. They not only deny science, they implement self-serving policies and they decry fact based news in an effort that frays the fabric of reality itself.  They do this because they know that facts challenge their false narratives and expose their policies and their efforts to manipulate public perceptions.  
According to a NBC/WSJ poll 80 percent of Americans think the US is divided. A PBS NewsHour, NPR and Maris poll indicated that around the same percentage of Americans think there is increasing incivility in politics. Regardless of which side of the political divide we find ourselves on, this division and incivility is destructive on a number of levels. It certainly does not lend itself to finding meaningful solutions to they myriad problems we face.

Whether on the left or the right most of us want a better life for ourselves and for our children. However, rigid ideological allegiances are preventing us from pursuing pragmatic solutions. Working together exponentially increases our capacity to respond to the challenges we face. So the question becomes how do we find our way back to each other? 

One of the first things we can do is scrutinize our politics and our politicians, especially those who use fear and division to gain and hold power. These politicians sew divisions to control the narrative and manipulate the public. This type of political rhetoric serves those who seek to be our political masters. If we reject self-serving politicians we can begin the process of working on solutions.

Ecological discussions can help us to delineate which policies and which parties are working towards the common good and which are not. That is not to say that we all need to walk in lock step, disagreement is good, as long as the goal is to allow the best ideas to win the day. This is about the competition of ideas not ideologies.

So many of us are rooted in dated political ideologies that no longer serve us today.  If we look around the world the most successful nation states have inculcated practical approaches to governance that transcend these facile divisions.

Bridging divides is both a national and and an international issue. The problems we face are global and require a multilateral approach. Many of the common threats are cultural issues that are not constrained by national boundaries. This includes things like rampant materialism, unbridled growth and over-consumption. These issues all feed inequality which is a cancer that spreads division and threatens our civilizations.  Finding common ground is crucial if we are to collectively address these issues.

There is reason to believe the scientific consensus on climate change is an overarching point of global agreement. Despite the rampant hyper-partisanship in the US we are seeing evidence to suggest that the climate divide is narrowing. The environment was an important issue in the US midterm elections in 2018 and climate change is expected to be a central issue in the presidential election in 2020.

The combination of toxic politics and digital media have pushed us into echo-chambers. If we can transcend the dated political divides of yesteryear we can break free of the silos of belief that imprison us. We can also make better use of depoliticized science to help us to find common points of agreement.

Once we embrace the facts, climate change can be a powerful catalyst that unites rather than divides us. Nothing is more unifying then coming together to face an existential threat.

Related
Climate Communications Strategy to Bridge the Political Divide 
The Art of Effective Science Based Communications

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