There is little doubt that the air’s carbon dioxide concentrations have been increasing since the Industrial Revolution and there are few who do not attribute this increase to the rise in humanity’s use of fossil fuels. There is also little dispute that the earth has warmed slightly over the same period. During our interview Adam told me that he believes strongly in the dangers of global warming and feels great animosity towards critics of this theory. Our conversation had an angry tone as Adam explained his hostility towards those who “say that there is no compelling reason to believe that the rise in temperature is caused by the rise in carbon dioxide.” I spent the entirety of the interview trying to explore why Adam exhibited such strong resentment towards global warming's critics and why he felt so passionately about this topic.
I first asked Adam to tell me his definition of global warming and how he believed it is caused. He explained that he had been learning about global warming in school since first grade and continued to talk about these issues in collage classes. Therefore, he felt knowledgeable about the topic. The earth’s climate, he said, is changing because human activities are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. The heat-trapping property of this gas is undisputed. Energy burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are some factors responsible for the increased concentration of carbon dioxide. “Human beings are causing the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at rates much faster than the earth can cycle them,” Adam explained. Too great a concentration of greenhouse gases can have dramatic effects on climate and significant repercussions on the world around us.
Rising global temperatures, he explained, are expected to raise sea levels and could alter forests, crop yields and water supply.
I was surprised at how knowledgeable Adam was on the topic. While I also believe that global warming is a potential danger and disregard skeptics theories, my understanding of the topic is not as extensive as his. Adam and I went to the same high school and lived in the same town, so what set us apart?
This question was answered when Adam told me about the three years he lived in Pakistan between the ages of nine and twelve. It seemed to me that his village in Pakistan was more comparable to the horticulturist society of the Ifaluk and Miskito in their relationship to the natural environment than most towns in the United States. “We were much more in tune with nature,” Adam explained, “because we were dependent on our land and the food that we grew on it to live.” Just like the Ifaluk, Adam’s family was forced to exercise environmental control by engaging in practices that would not alter their surroundings. I thought about how in the United...