The Left – Environmentalism

The other day, I published a post about how stupid the Left side of the political spectrum is.  My point was basically that they fail to convince people of even the most obvious things.  I got a comment suggesting that I make the arguments.  I don’t get too many comments, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  Since the original post started off giving environmentalism as an example of liberal stupidity, I’ll see what I can do with it here.

The first thing we need to do is figure out why the Left seems so stupid.  What are they doing wrong in their arguments?  I think the two culprits are idealism and smugness.  Idealism makes compromise impossible because it makes the perfect the enemy of the good, to borrow from Voltaire.  Environmentalists have a strong sense of the final goal, but seem to think we should just jump right to it.  If someone says, “We don’t have the renewable capacity to power the country right now, but natural gas is much better than coal, so let’s use natural gas as a bridge,” it sounds reasonable to most people.  But the environmentalist will immediately point out that natural gas still releases carbon into the atmosphere and methane is released during the drilling process and fracking is evil.  What started with the potential to be a conversation is immediately squandered.

The smugness is probably worse.  It comes from the sense that anyone who fails to agree with the Left’s position must be a bad person.  A feeling of superiority is destructive to conversation.  No one wants to talk to someone who acts superior.  It doesn’t matter how right a person is, if they act smug, they will not convince anyone.  When an environmentalist acts like someone is a bad person because they buy conventional food rather than organic, it is more likely to send that person to McDonalds than Whole Foods.  So, the first step in acting intelligent is to drop the idealism and smugness.  Approach people, whatever their beliefs, as if they are smart and have valid concerns.  Also, be willing to compromise.

The next step is to know the audience.  This should be so obvious as to sound silly, but it isn’t.  I think it stems from the idealism, but remember that different people have different worries.  If you’re in LA on a smoggy day, fertilizer run off isn’t a big concern.  Save that for the gulf coast fishermen and talk to the LA commuters about particulate matter and emissions standards.

Don’t blame people.  Keep the discussion positive.  People won’t change their behavior because big oil is evil.  They will change their behavior if they can save some money or live more comfortably.  Tell someone that a regular car costs $150 a month to fuel, but an electric car costs about $40 and you will get somewhere.  Tell them that SUVs are bad for the planet and you will get nowhere.

Keep the discussions about the present whenever possible.  Even if everything you say is true about the droughts and famines that will hit in the next century, it is hard to care.  In fact, it isn’t clear that we should care, but that is getting off topic.  I need to get dinner ready and I have a conference call in the morning.  I’ll worry about next century when I have some free time.  For now, just tell me about how upgrading the grid will help keep me employed or how shopping at my local farmer’s market will make my dinner tastier.

This is just an outline.  I really do have a conference call in the morning, so I’m not going to construct a full argument for environmentalism.  But, this is a much better place to argue from than where we are now.

Choir Preaching

If there is one thing I hate it is preaching to the choir.  I don’t care if I’m the preacher, in the choir or just an innocent bystander.  It really bugs me.  I find it so distasteful that I have a hard time seeing how anyone could like it.  But, like it someone must since many people make a good living by doing it.

I should start out by saying that this doesn’t mean I have a problem any time two or more people agree with each other.  There is value in like minded people discussing topics.  No one agrees about everything, so when like minded people have a discussion, they can skip over the broad areas of agreement and focus on the areas that need work.  What I am talking about is when two or more people agree with each other and all they are willing to discuss is the things that they agree about.  And, not only that, they act very excited and threatened while having a discussion with people who agree with them about the things that they agree upon.  I’m thinking of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore (If you never noticed that Limbaugh and Moore are the same, you probably don’t mind choir preaching as much as I do).

One of the main reasons why I hate it so much is that it is completely pointless.  I know a lot of people on the left that think Rush and Bill O’Reilly are scary and that they are hurting this country.  My response is that neither one has ever made a difference.  No one has ever had an open mind about a topic (or a left leaning view) and heard one of them talk and said, “I see his point and it’s a good one!”  It just doesn’t happen.  The only people that like what they have to say are the people who start out with the same beliefs.  If they find it entertaining, so be it.  But, it isn’t anything to worry about because it doesn’t do anything.

Another reason I hate it so much is that it is so smug.  Whether it’s Christopher Hitchens railing against Mother Theresa or Michael Moore railing against GM, there is an incredible self-satisfied arrogance.  Since they are only talking to people who share their opinions, there is no need to reflect on those opinions.  Why should Hitchens try to see things from a Catholic’s point of view when he’s talking to a room full of atheists?  Why should Moore try to see things from management’s perspective when he is talking to a room full of union members?  And since their audiences never disagree with them, they naturally start to feel pretty smart.

And another reason I hate it is because it leads to sloppy thinking.  I’m not a biologist, but I have it on good authority that Richard Dawkins was one of the best once upon a time.  Since he published “The God Delusion” and it became a best seller, he’s more crack pot than thoughtful.  Charlton Heston was talented and engaging.  But get him in front of an NRA meeting and he was a raving lunatic.  People get a little success preaching to the choir and they squander their talents.

It is a free country, so if people enjoy feeling vindicated by ignoring opposing views, that is their business.  I just wish I didn’t have to witness it.