Do You Believe?

This is an excerpt from an article Calvin recently contributed L&NW (Label & Narrow Web). You can find the link to the full article at the bottom. Enjoy!


Do you believe your boss? Do you believe in our political leaders? (Don’t answer that one!) Do you believe that our country wants to make environmental improvement? Do you think our entire industry is committed to change for environmental improvement? Do the leaders in our supply chain get the message?

Sometimes in my frustration I want to shake people who don’t believe in climate change or renewable energy. I suppose it’s my intolerance for those who don’t believe, because in the case of climate change we have scientific fact developed by thousands of scientists proving – without a doubt – that it is occurring. Trust me, they can’t all be wrong. My intolerance is directed to those who base their belief on “ideological chauvinism” or a “reflective anti-science bias.” My anxiety and frustration grows and I find myself arguing. The ongoing debates don’t bring solutions, they merely bring confrontation. This isn’t the right approach. The right approach is to persuade change with patience, facts and respect for the other opinion. A great example of this is the story of Katharine Hayhoe, a renowned Texas Tech University climate scientist, who is also a deeply religious Christian, and her husband, an evangelical minister who just plain didn’t believe in climate change. The encounter led Hayhoe into a sort of  “scientific ministry.” Hayhoe’s story demonstrates that even the most cynical non-believers can be persuaded by clear facts, deep patience and genuine respect. Ultimately, these characteristics of listening and humility gain the day.

Hayhoe lives in Lubbock, Texas. If you’ve ever been there you’d agree it’s in the Bible Belt, very conservative, and certainly not eco-friendly. Hayhoe’s husband is Andrew Farley, who is the rector of a church called Ecclesia. Quite a marriage, right. Katharine, a scientist, focused on climate change and proving that much of it is man-made and Andrew, the evangelical, born-again Christian, following scripture very literally. Andrew was a skeptic and equated environmentalism with “the hippie, liberal-left agenda.” Wow, think of the relationship for the two of them. Love ultimately wins out which is great: happy endings are always comforting. But what really happened is the two sat down and Katharine, armed with her computer, went to the NASA website on climate change and guided Andrew through the information on global average temperature. Andrew “realized that he had to conclude either that the entire NASA organization had been duped, or that – maybe – the problem was me.” Ultimately, Katharine encouraged Andrew to do his own research and he became persuaded that the science was sound.

I really like Katharine’s response. She never demeaned her husband but engaged with him with patience and respect. It was a “revelation,” she said. “If you relate to the other person as a human being, then they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt.  They may say, ‘You know what? I don’t necessarily agree with you. But I like you. Let me try and figure out what your reasons are’.” Hayhoe used not just the NASA climate change website, but her own graphs and charts to explain the implications of global temperature rise. Her “one-two punch of scientific rigor and cheerful unflappability” convinced Andrew that he was wrong and needed to change his thinking.

Ultimately, the two collaborated and wrote A Climate for Change:  Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. While their book has been published for three years there is no clear indication that large numbers of evangelicals will do what Andrew Farley has done. The change is little more than regarding climate change differently from other issues that separate conservatives and liberals. “Thermometers aren’t Christian or atheist,” he says. He now admits that his doubt was the “residue of associative bias: he was convinced, as many conservative Christians still are, that by accepting the science on climate change he would somehow be ratifying other scientific assertions that may, in fact, contradict his religious faith.” So, love wins another one. Thank you, Katharine Hayhoe, for the use of scientific fact with patient persuasion.

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