When they asked me how it was possible for me to have no opinion, I told them you can't have an opinion on everything. I have not done the research on the issue in question and I have friends and family on both sides. My life will not change because of this particular issue, either way it goes. It isn't my fight.
But, I reminded them there is an issue that is important to me and that I am informed about. They all know my stance on climate change. I also know there are those of my friends that agree with me, those that disagree with me and there are even those that have no opinion on the matter at all. I don't hold that against them. I respect their viewpoint and try my best to not get on my soap box about climate change when we are together.
This is my fight. I wish it was theirs also, but I am not going to force the issue on them.
This is the single most important issue of our day. It is more important than Islamic terrorism. It is more important than AIDS and Ebola. It is more important than Russia in Ukraine. It is more important than anything else you can think of. And, the reason is simple. This is the only issue that will affect every single human being on the planet. It will affect every single living organism on the planet. It will affect the very planet itself. There is nothing that measures up to that standard. Additionally, it will affect almost every other issue you can name, mostly in a negative manner.
Why get involved with the fight? That is easy and has been said better than I can ever say it. In addition to science, I enjoy reading about history and I am reminded of a speech I read many years ago given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris, 1910. It is formally known as "Citizenship in a Republic," but is more commonly known as the Man in the Arena speech. I think it says everything that needs to be said. Here are some excerpts:
The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twisted pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."
Wow! What a line. "The men who quell the storm and ride the thunder."
And, that is why I fight. So, where are you? Will you be the critic that doesn't count? Or the man in the arena? After all, it's only the most important issue humanity has ever faced.