Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

It’s the climate, stupid

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Something from my reporting on It’s Getting Hot In Here: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World (Desert Companion, Feb. 2011) kept nagging at me after the story was done.

I had to ask Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, how she would respond to those who don’t believe in climate change or its human-based causes to begin with – considering the report treats them as a given.

I felt stupid, maybe a hint of what a journalist would feel like asking the president of the Anti-Defamation League how he would respond to those who don’t believe in the Holocaust.

Her initial response was something like gasp-meets-laugh. Then, with a sigh, she launched into her I’m-sure-oft-repeated summary of the science on climate change. I pictured a thought bubble above her head reading, “Really, I have to go through this again? REALLY???” – undoubtedly from my own bias more than her attitude.

Asking the question at all wasn’t just an attempt at balanced reporting, but also a result of the immediate culture in which I live. Nevada residents regularly comment on environmental stories in the local press with wingnut talking points about climate change science. (Here‘s a recent example from the Las Vegas Sun‘s letters to the editor.) I have to take into account the beliefs of all my readers, regardless of my own convictions.

The really interesting part, though, came when Huta discussed the coalition’s Ten Things You Can Do To Help Imperiled Wildlife Survive Climate Change. She translated these 10 things into a local lexicon that transcends political and religious beliefs, focusing on fire prevention, water conservation and dust reduction as ways to preserve our desert landscapes.

Now that is something outdoorsy Nevadans can relate to, regardless of their stance on climate change. Whether campers and rock climbers, or hunters and ranchers, the people I’ve met and interviewed over the years who respect and rely on nature understand the interdependency of an ecosystem’s various elements (not including ATVers; I don’t know any of them). No reasonable individual wants to jeopardize the big picture for the sake of one activity or revenue stream.

If we start from that common ground, maybe we can agree on what we need to do to prevent further damage – even if we can’t agree on what caused it, god, man or Mother Nature.

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