A funny thing happens when you’re sitting with friends at a restaurant and people start to talk about ecology. Somewhere between the appetizer and the second round of drinks, the ideas of “taking care of the environment” and “global warming” get conflated. A conversation about trash gyres, oil spills, or flattened rainforests quickly morphs into a conversation about rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere.
There are three major problems with this: 1) the two issues aren’t exactly the same and 2) talking about climate change requires a higher baseline knowledge than talking about how it’s a shit idea to have plastic bags floating in the ocean, and therefore 3) many of these conversations quickly devolve.
Perhaps the even bigger issue is that climate change (and science in general) have somehow become highly politicized. It’s a thing that some people believe in and others don’t — hotly debated (even if 97% of scientists are on one side of the debate). Ecological damage to our planet, by comparison, isn’t up for discussion. We have footage, we have pictures, we can see its effects — right now — literally everywhere. (The same is true for climate change, but people don’t really know how to parse pictures of melting ice.)
Which is why, if you believe in stewardship and care for our planet, maybe you shouldn’t even bother with arguing over global warming. Not unless you really know the science and can break it down in detail for the sort of person who might shout over you, “It’s freezing and snowing in New York — we need global warming!”
Maybe the answer — when the debate over ecology gets mired in the shaky scientific knowledge of non-scientists — is to shrug and say, “Okay, let’s say global warming doesn’t exist. Do you want to take care of the planet, or not? Can you agree that having the planet in good condition is a good thing?”
Because that’s perhaps the biggest question we can ask ourselves, unless we are real-live climate scientists: “Are we going to be protectors of this earth?”