Letter to the Editor: Climate change denial in southern UtahHey Steve,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m a graduate student in the environmental humanities program at the University of Utah and an organizer with a youth climate justice group across the Colorado Plateau called Uplift. This summer I’m bicycling across the Colorado Plateau listening to people’s stories of place, climate change, and environmental justice. I noticed that you organized the climate march in Kanab. I’d love to meet with you to listen to your story and hear your perspectives on local climate challenges. I’ll be in Kanab on July 7th. Let me know if you’re available to meet. I’m happy to give more info about my project and answer any questions.

Thanks!

***********************

Friends,

With the above email as an introduction, this graduate student and I did meet on July 7, and we had a comprehensive 2-1/2 hour discussion on these matters. For those of you who know me, I told it as I see it … frankly and honestly. Near the end of our conversation, I was asked how I came about my activism, and I shared that it did not happen until I moved to Utah over six years ago. It was the “old Utah” thinking that was highly troublesome to me.

Namely it was the EXCESSIVELY OVERWHELMING denial of climate change in rural southern Utah. The glaring denial was bad enough, but it was my being chastised for being so stupid as to “actually believe in climate change.” Further, I have experienced intonations of scorn and threats and ugly name calling in rebuttal newspaper letters, and I have heard many outlandish stories … one of the more preposterous being, “it would be an insult to God if we did not burn all the coal he has given us.” It became clear those in denial believed the climate science “expertise” of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump rather than the most acclaimed Einstein-ish climate scientist(s) on the planet.

I explained further that people in this locale who have an environmental bias were mistrusted and often despised by the majority of “old Utah.” Some even espoused hatred. I recall a local business person express that he “did not want anybody who even ‘thought green'” to come into his store. Despite my letters to the editor, my emails, and my invitations, I have discovered very few deniers want to learn about the bona fide science. Deniers seem complacent to allow the “junk science” mouthed by the Hannitys, et al, to prevail. In my six-plus years here, not a single denier has ever proactively asked me to discuss the topic. None! I can count on three fingers those with whom I have had discussions, but I was the initiator, and the discussions were brief. I can understand if a person is not knowledgeable on the science, that they might be reticent to discuss such matters. Again, the point is … there seems to be little desire to learn.

This past May, Kanab held its 11th annual Amazing Earthfest event. The event is geared toward respect of the lands and gaining a better understanding and appreciation for our environment. Sadly, few (if any?) of the “old Utah” people attend any of these events, which includes excellent educational (and free) documentary films; typically a dozen films are shown during the week. I have come to believe these people stay away because they do not want to be seen as “mingling with environmentalists.”

Now I must be fair to Utah. When I began sending my emails in this timeframe, I soon discovered many of my longtime friends and colleagues had similar denial thinking, and with this revelation I was spurred to “ratchet up” my activism. In so doing, I would receive emails loaded with erroneous “junk science,” and upon my refuting such junk, I found myself learning more and more regarding the authentic science.

With the election of Donald Trump and a dominant GOP congress and Supreme Court, America is now going in reverse on climate change and environmental initiatives. Witnessing Donald Trump denounce the Paris Accord while being cheered by his equally scientifically inept minions, was … for me … the moment of boldly underscoring that mankind was in deep s***!

Earlier today I sent this excellent article to the University of Utah graduate student with whom I met, and I decided I would pass it along to each of you, whether you believe or deny. I am reminded of the old saying … “It’s not as though one’s life depends on it.” Well, it does … and it will … in unimaginable fashion! That being the case, my goal is to encourage more people to “follow the science” (and not the money).

If one is not part of the solution, one is part of the problem.

My best!

Steve Hogseth

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