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The Tough Choices Behind Positions on Responding to Climate Change
in the news: "Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1 million species with extinction'" screams a BBC News headline. And in other environmental news, no sooner has former vice president Joe Biden announced his candidacy for USA president in the 2020 election and vaulted to the top in public opinion polls, than many of his opponents in the Democratic party primary have begun attacking his failure to support the so called Green New Deal, a policy package which recognizes the seriousness of the global climate change problem and related tough choices. Here at Project Worldview we increasingly appreciate tough choices. In this regard we have recently announced the long awaited version 4.0 expansion of the Project Worldview theme structure, which began with version 1.0 publication of 26 themes in 1990. Now implemented online, it includes 104 themes, paired to make choices that fit on fifty two double-sided Choices We Make playing cards.
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): I have begun using this Choices We Make deck of cards to structure comments I make in group discussions and plan on using it in lectures I give / courses I teach.* (see note #1) Currently I am contemplating offering a course on climate change that builds on a "Climate Dialogues" offering I collaborated with others on last year. My tentative plan is to "tweak" the past offering by initially focusing attention on eight of those fifty-two choices in the card deck. While I think there are roughly sixteen of those fifty-two choices that relate to the global climate change problem, seems these eight are most fundamentally related:
Given the special place the words "freedom" and "economic growth" and "proud to be an American" and "dreams of being rich" hold in American hearts and minds, given what some feel is an ethical low in the current national leadership, many are skeptical that Americans can make the tough choices needed to adequately respond to the pending (or some might say eventual) climate crisis. Do Americans care enough about the kind of world their grandchildren live in to 1) make or accept changes needed in their own lifestyles for a sustainable world and 2) work to elect leaders who will pursue sustainable policies? Clicking on and reading the descriptions of the worldview themes above—which fit on reverse sides of the card identified with designation in the center column, —you'll appreciate the contrasting positions of two extreme camps. The one in the right column might be called "the right leaning Ayn Rand me first American Republican Libertarian camp", the one in the left column "the left leaning John Muir common good Global Citizen Democratic Green New Dealers."
BTW: the course I'm hoping to teach would be open to those in both camps. Besides requiring that participants abide by certain interpersonal guidelines (like treating each other with respect, etc), it will have as a pre-requisite that prospective enrollees agree with this statement:
While particular choices can be defended, I accept that certain choices we make as individuals and a society taken together can lead to environmentally / human quality of life nightmarish outcomes (i.e. widespread human suffering ==> our species extinction within a few generations), and in this sense they are collectively the wrong ones. I fervently hope these choices are not made!
Just as many teachers in general stress there are no stupid questions except ones you don't ask, many teachers of complex social issues stress there are no simplistic black & white answers—and in some cases no clearly right or clearly wrong positions. You'll note that agreeing to the above highlighted statement modifies this!
#1 My first such educational offering with respect to climate action involved a two hour lab session entitled "Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Climate Change". This was completed by roughly 3000 students during my the 1992 -- 1998 years teaching at Arkansas Tech University.
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