This isn’t the typical fare for WUWT, but in the spirit of Christmas, I thought this photo was worth sharing. Why, well it made me reflect a bit on the ongoing war – not the war between religions but the war between climate proponents and climate skeptics, which in some ways is like a religious war.
I was walking down Market street in San Francisco last night and spotted these folks out in front of Nordstrom’s. It made me do a double take.
I had just come from a two-hour climate skeptic bashing fest at #AGU15 where Naomi Oreskes and Michael Mann gave slide after slide of vitriol filled notes of why climate skepticism is bad.
I introduced myself to these caroling folks, shook hands with every one, and they were all very nice and wanted to know who I was. They were concerned about how Muslim Americans are being treated given current world events so they came up with this idea of going around to different places in SFO and caroling. Kudos to them for doing so as this little gesture helps break down some of the barriers that fear puts up.
Given what I had just sat through, U13A-02 “If you see something, say something…more” Moscone South 102 14:00-14:20, I could relate to how those Muslim-Americans feel.
There were a couple of bright spots in that session. First, before the session started, Dr. James Hansen sat down in the front row just a couple of chairs away from me. I decided to introduce myself and I got up, and said to him. “Dr. Hansen, you may know me, my name is Anthony Watts, and while we are on opposite sides of the aisle on many things, I just wanted you to know that we both agree on nuclear power“. He was pleasant. Dr. Mann was standing just a few feet away and observed that I had arrived, but I just could not bring myself to do the same for him. Maybe someday.
Second, blogger and science writer David Appell sat down just one chair away from me in the front row, saying (IIRC) “you are Anthony Watts, right?” I said I was, he seated himself then mentioned something about (again IIRC, i didn’t hear it all clearly) “should I grunt?”. This was referencing a tiff we had at AGU some years back where a slide of the WUWT website went up and I thought I heard a “grunt of dissatisfaction” from near me, and attributed it to Appell who was sitting just behind me then. Back then, he went a little over the top for such a simple thing. So, I answered “No comment David” and left it at that.
A few minutes later, I discovered that my hearing assistance device provided by AGU was DOA. And I dared to ask David Appell if he might have any “AA” batteries. To his credit, Appell rummaged through his bag and broke open one of his electronic devices looking for batteries for me. He didn’t find the size I needed, but I did thank him for his effort, and as the session ended, we shook hands and exchanged a cordial “have a good conference”.
The moral of all this? It’s easy to fall into hating/labeling/disrespecting people who differ from you in culture, or just even opinion. Whether you are a Muslim-American or a Climate Skeptic, tribalism often gets in the way of meaningful dialog and makes it easy to label and denounce the other side rather than listen to them. We all do it, and sometimes I’m just as guilty as David Appell or Michael Mann or Naomi Oreskes at getting tribal over things that have been said or done in the past. It’s why I couldn’t bring myself to introduce myself to Dr. Mann.
There’s an epilogue to what happened.
That evening about an hour after I encountered the carolers, I met with the co-producer of this film about Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jason Sussberg who wanted me to be in the film. I figured it was probably just a setup to once again make climate skeptics look bad since Mr. Nye has routinely used the label “climate deniers” in just about anything and everything related to his discussions about climate. Mr. Sussberg was pleasant, informed, and curious, and he assured me that the film was “About Bill Nye, not by Bill Nye” and that he’d offer me the unedited interview video to post on WUWT as a hedge against my worries about being misrepresented in editing.
I’ve decided to appear, and actually have a dialog with Bill Nye, assuming he can overcome his own tribalism. I might even wear this t-shirt that a dear friend recently gave me, it seems apropos.
Wish me luck.