Good Morning from Pasadena

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I’m here live in the morning session at The Environmental Wars Conference. It’s a hot day in Pasadena, but we’re inside an old, air-conditioned theatre with a sparkly ceiling that I’m not allowed to photograph.

The room is fairly full, with an interesting mix of people. A lot of older folks, retired couples by the looks of them, but also some young folks. It’s hard to tell from appearances, obviously, where people’s ideologies lie, but I get the impression that there’s a good mix of doubters and believers here. Most name tags are from California.

Michael Shermer opened the morning. He’s an entertaining speaker, peppering his talk with humorous cartoons, anecdotes, and a hilarious video for the LA County Fair featuring a gaggle of shopping LA girls and their discussion about wool from cows. He also showed a trailer from An Inconvenient Truth, which I haven’t seen (it opens next week in Vancouver) but gave me shivers.

He gave us a quick overview of his reasons for switching from being a skeptic to a “believer”, though he also commented that he is uncomfortable with describing it as a “belief”. He won’t say that he’s a believer in gravity, because it’s just a scientific fact. He says that the same is true with climate change, now. The scientific evidence is in.

For him, it was a convergence of evidence that convinced him. He cites a number of books, including Tim Flannery’s, and also Al Gore’s presentation (which was the basis for An Inconvenient Truth).

He also shared with us some of the letter he got from readers in response to his “flipping point” piece in Scientific American. Most of the ones he shared were from readers who were outraged that he would come out in favour of activism, but one was from a viewer enraged that it had taken him so long to come to his senses, and who advised him to do some introspection as to why, since his head had been buried in the “same sand that the average American has his head buried in.”

I had to laugh… and it’s very true. We desperately need to understand what keeps people from accepting the scientific certainty.

And so began our day at The Environmental Wars. Read on for more coverage!

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