An Honest and Open Dialog is Essential

We face one of the most polarized climates (a bit of a pun) in American discourse since this writer can remember. In my essay A Global Warming Primer, I make the case, essentially, that global warming is real, and a serious threat to our civilization. After all, you are here reading this at

I make no secret of my beliefs on this issue. Nonetheless, I attempted, in writing that essay, to pursue a moderate tone, in hopes that people from all sides of the issue might listen. Are we “the boy that cried wolf or a dear in the headlight?” as I characterized in the essay. Whichever side you find yourself leaning, I fear that this issue is not going away any time soon, and so it is one that needs to be discussed, one way or another.

An open and honest dialog is essential.

I have recently experienced two examples of dialog in the “debate” on global warming that I have found instructive. One is encouraging, the other quite the opposite. One shows an ability to listen and consider another’s views, to think, to learn, and to adjust an opinion in the face of what is learned. The other is steadfast in a stance based on emotional close-mindedness, unwilling to listen, uninformed, and exhibiting no desire to change any of it.

I am fortunate in that the first example I am experiencing personally, in an ongoing email exchange with a reader of This is someone who considers himself “a skeptic”, and while I do not agree with his fundamental position, I respect his views. They are derived from his own inquisitive nature to find out what he can on the issue, and in the short time we have exchanged emails, his opinion has been altered by his ability to keep his mind open, learn, and openly engage in dialog. He encourages me to do the same.

The second example involves a family friend recently going to see Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, and bringing the subject up to an acquaintance of hers. “Oh, don’t believe anything he says, it’s all lies” came the reply, and thus the dialog was summarily ended. An open-minded and thoughtful response based on intelligent curiosity and investigation it was not. It served nothing but this poor woman’s fears, prejudices, and desire to remain rooted in emotional darkness, because that is more comfortable than actually opening your eyes and thinking for yourself.

In the first example I find hope, even though the person does not entirely agree with my point of view. Perhaps through an open exchange of ideas we will find a solution to our problems, be it climate change or any other daunting problem that faces humanity.

In the second example I despair; I fear that we are all doomed. If global warming doesn’t get us, then our closed minds, prejudices, and hatred toward those with whom we do not agree or perceive “different” certainly will.

And another bomb drops in Lebanon, another rocket on Haifa. The world spins out of control and people would rather kill than talk. How, then are we to save this planet for our children?

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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