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What to Do When Encountering a Climate Denier

Simple lifestyle changes can help the environment

Ever meet someone who still believes that the weather changes around us are all natural? Someone who poo poos the idea that humans are changing the same environment on which they depend? Maddening isn’t it. 


How do you educate someone who has wrapped part of their identity around scoffing at environmental concerns? How do you cope with the frustration?


You look for softer targets, and there are many. Denial has a seat much closer to home. How many people do you know who would say they are supporters of the environment but are still flying every year, driving large cars and buying new rather than reducing and reusing? This is the audience where meaningful change can be made. Talk to them. Show them the lifestyle changes you are making. Make lowering carbon footprints the norm, not the exception.


When reduced consumption brings you financial savings, choose carefully what you do with it. Trading in an SUV or downsizing your home and belongings doesn’t help if you use the savings to fly to Hawaii or install a hot tub. Pay down debt (and keep it down), buy and plant trees, or donate to organizations that can multiply the environmental benefit. You may even be able to consider working less or retiring early.


I recently read Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. History is full of examples of disasters we failed to anticipate or mitigate. Humans sometimes fail. Full stop. It remains to be seen how well we will survive the growing environmental crisis. The good news is that mainstream awareness is building and every effort helps. Focus on those who are already understanding in spirit but have yet to make important changes in their consumption habits.

Amy Tschudin is a former finance and consulting professional based in the Washington, D.C. area.  She is an environmental activist and an increasingly concerned citizen.