Last week while running errands I tuned into the NPR program “This American Life.” I caught the first act of “Hot in My Backyard,” the story of how climate change is impacting Colorado and how Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken talks about it — or doesn’t.
It was an interesting story that left me thoughtful and sad. The reporter had interviewed three other scientists (not Doesken), none of whom will tell the public what they know about climate change. They are making plans to take care of themselves in the difficult future ahead, but they weren’t telling others how to prepare. And who can say that isn’t wise. In four states, climatologists have lost their jobs because they talked about climate change.
The state climatologist who was the focus of this story, Nolan Doesken, seems like a very earnest and honest person. He’s a conservative whom farmers and ranchers have turned to for years for the information they rely on. And he’s so fearful of talking that he’s avoided saying anything for years. When he does finally say something – and the reporter is there to hear it – it’s so little that people don’t even recognize the import of what he’s said.
It’s disheartening that someone who has the trust and respect of the community – someone just like them – can’t find a way to communicate the truth of this dire situation we all face. A person like myself could never reach those people. But when a person in their sphere cannot or fails to communicate the message, how can we hope for the situation to change?
Of course, I can say that because I believe the situation can – and must – change. He may not believe that. Bubbling up throughout the interview I heard what may be the underlying reason for this failure to communicate: a belief that there is nothing anyone can do. That would make sense. After all, why damage relationships, why make people mad, why risk one’s career if there is nothing anyone can do?
He may believe that – lots of people do – and that’s what makes me sad. We really don’t know what we could do if we threw ourselves at this challenge the way we did the space race or the fight for victory in WWII. However, if we succumb to the belief that there is nothing we can do, it ensures there is nothing we will do.