One of the hard things about writing about clean technology is watching half the US population basically ignore what’s going on, or even promote and spread outright lies. This was particularly tough this past week as I heard from relatives who were freezing their butts off in Texas, only to be saved by some firewood my mom managed to line up for them, while Greg Abbott was on Fox News telling people that the wind turbines were to blame.
No matter how many facts we share, truths we tell to counter the lies, and other efforts we put in, we watch in frustration while so many people are just completely fact-proof. Falsehood flies while the truth comes limping after it, or in other words, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Mark Twain supposedly said that, but the idea has been around for centuries because it’s true. And frustrating.
When you get frustrated trying to share the truth around on social media and in conversations, keep in mind that putting in the effort every day trying to tell the truth does make a difference. It’s just hard to see because it can only change one mind at a time. To show how this works, I’ll tell my story.
I was raised in a conservative household. My family aren’t bad people, and they’re not kooks. My mom spent hours at a time making masks for people last year until her hands were hurting from all the sewing, so they aren’t QAnon followers or anything like that, but still, I was taught growing up that green energy was bad news. At best, it was ineffective and expensive while at worst, it could all be part of a plot to make the country poor, and maybe even let communism in the door.
We were warned on Fox to watch out for those “watermelon environmentalists,” because they’re green on the outside but red on the inside.
Global warming was a lie by people like Al Gore who wanted to take everyone’s freedom away. After all, scientists were telling us in the 70s that global cooling might be a problem, so obviously they don’t know what they’re talking about, can’t make up their mind, or are just lying. Fossil fuels were even called a blessing from God in some of the circles I ran in, and obviously God wouldn’t let us destroy ourselves. Except when he did destroy people in the Bible, but we aren’t bad like those people. We have morals and know who to vote for.
My point: if you feel like you will never change minds, that was me ten years ago. I was one of the deniers.
How did I get out of that? It wasn’t an easy process.
The first crack in the dam was in grad school. I was studying emergency management, and one of the professors covered global warming. At the time I was a doomsday prepper (I still am, but with more prepper and less doomsday), and disasters fascinated me. Six Degrees was an excellent book, and piqued my interest.
As I learned more and more about the preparedness that was needed for climate change, I had to start asking serious questions. Is there evidence to back this? Are the predictions possible? Is this all caused by the sun, or some other X factor that explains it all away so we can keep burning stuff? At the time, that wasn’t enough, but it got me to thinking about it instead of just blindly following the people I had wrongly put trust in at the time. A seed had been planted.
Later, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t straight, and coming from a religious conservative family, that entailed high drama when coming out of the closet. My own experiences growing up in the closet didn’t mesh with the outright lies that were being told about me. I even had an aunt who tried to convince my grandfather that I was joining a “radical homosexual” movement where I’d end up drug dealing to pay for transgender people to have surgeries (I’m not transgender, but that didn’t seem to matter to her because it’s all satanic and sinful). I was unwelcome at the church I grew up in, and there are still family I don’t talk to years later.
That made a crack in the concrete that the seed was sitting on, and the seed fell in.
After seeing just how awful and dishonest conservative Christians could be, I started questioning everything as they did their best to destroy my life. I lost my income as they destroyed my business, and ended up painfully losing the marriage I desperately tried to keep together for the kids. They’re fine now, so obviously the fears were unfounded, once again proving them wrong.
I’ve always been a car enthusiast, and still thought that the green people were taking things too far. How can we have fun if everyone has to drive a Toyota Prius? At the same time, though, I had been into hypermiling as a weird hobby since high school when gas money wasn’t very plentiful, and later on trips between El Paso and Phoenix.
During one reading session about hypermiling a VW Beetle I owned at the time, I saw a Tesla drag racing video on the side of YouTube. Some guy had taken his Model S and stripped it down as much as possible, and was eating muscle cars for lunch at the track. Now THAT caught my interest.
The seed that had fallen in the crack got some water.
I ended up test driving a degraded 2011 Nissan LEAF I had found locally, and ended up really liking it. The thing wasn’t fast per se, but it did manage to eat a Civic in El Paso, and that sudden torque was a lot of fun, even if there wasn’t a ton of it. Plus, the little tree game in the dash was a lot of fun. I ended up buying the car.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I realized one day that I had changed my mind about all that stuff. It wasn’t any one thing, but over the course of a few years I broke away from the things I grew up with and was able to take an objective look and even have a little fun with clean technology. At some point, that seed had grown and broke up the concrete that had kept it from getting to dirt and water.
When you get frustrated, keep in mind that people are dynamic. People may seem stubborn and seem like they’ll never change, but you never know who might be receptive in the long run. Don’t get discouraged. Keep spreading the truth around.
Featured image: The first generation Nissan LEAF tree game. Photo by Jennifer Sensiba.
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