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.