How Bill Nye, Exxon, and others changed the Generational Climate Change Experience

The FORUM hosted a lively conversation William’s College Parent Weekend between students and parents about how different generations see climate change. The meeting opened with a clip from the little known show John Oliver by an un-noteworthy scientist by the name of Bill Nye announcing “the world’s on fucking fire.”

Jesting aside, Friday’s meeting hosted a thoughtful and provoking debate about how views and actions around climate change are connected to age, geographical location, economic class, and vocation. The primary question that arose was: How does an individual’s view of climate change vary on based on accessibility to scientific information? In turn, this led to noting how 21st century William’s students generally have access to much greater information on climate change than their parents did. 

Within the evening’s smaller breakout groups individuals who lived in different regions of the United States agreed that directly feeling the effects of climate change, such as fires in the west and  coastal changes, could cause party and socioeconomic divisions to retreat in the face of climate concerns. This sparked queries about how class identity, political identity, and certain types of work predispose individuals to oppose climate change. 

This led to asking how a global solution can understand the socio-economic complexities of climate change. How can government responsibility, corporate responsibility, and personal responsibility be encouraged without unduly impacting groups of color and low socio-economic standing as well as less advantaged countries? How does cognitive dissonance play a role in people choosing to dismiss climate change? 

We didn’t solve the looming crisis of climate change in our brief hour together, but we have a thoughtful dialogue about how each of us a voter, citizen, leader and wage-earner in America can help solve climate change. 



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