Inglis hoped to use traditional Republican values such as free enterprise, limited government, accountability, and reasonable danger avoidance to shape the climate dialogue in a way that would appeal to people in the reddest of the red communities .
His mission took him all the way from Antarctica to Tangier Island, Virginia, a small crabbing community in the Chesapeake Bay.
Tangier Island is perhaps best known as the situate for the battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner, ” but today, Tangier Island is losing about 15 feet of land every year from rising sea levels — and many of its 700 residents still don’t believe in the risk of being climate change .
Inglis thought that if they heard about climate change from a person who holds many of their ideologies and is just more like them, the residents there might say, “Yeah, we’re for that.”
With help from Tangier Mayor James Eskridge, Inglis arranged a dialogue with locals over a crab salad dinner.
He tried to appeal to them as a fellow Christian with an impressive resume of endorsements from conservative groups such as the NRA and the National Right to Life Committee.
The people of Tangier listened and responded to what he had to say, but they still was of the view that the island wasn’t suffering from climate change . It was just natural erosion or determine soil — nothing that needed a long-term answer except perhaps a seawall.
“When I assure the sea level rising, I’ll wailed it from the rooftops. But I’m merely not insuring it, ” said Eskridge. “I’m not lying about it or denying it, I’m just telling you what I see.”
When Inglis asked why, as conservatives, they didn’t want to listen to scientists, t he answer was simple: resentment.
“We’re nothing, ” one resident said. “They’ve attained fun, ridiculed. But you let a scientist talk, and everybody listens. Scientist is fine, but we’re forget the experience that people have.”
“With some of ’em you get a smart mouth, and we’re not into that. We don’t require a smart mouth, ” another added.
“We’re all about protecting the Chesapeake Bay. It’s more important to us than it is to any scientist or regulator, ” the mayor said. “But when they talk about fixing the environment, they go to extremes, and they leave the common guy out.”
Inglis understood this attitude. It was one he had himself back when he was still a party-line Republican in Congress .
“If you represented the reddest district in the reddest nation in the nation like I did, you only knew that Al Gore was for it, and so therefore, you should be against it, ” he says.
But now he knows: That hyper-partisan, us-or-them divide doesn’t solve the real problems we’re facing. It merely helps to stimulate the divide — and the rancour — dig in even deeper .
Inglis tried to explain to residents how conservatives could incentivize the right behaviour and steer the environmental dialogue without the federal government get in the way. He appealed to their logic by pointing out that even if they don’t believes in rising sea levels, higher tides still entail more erosion, so maybe there is something that could be done about it.
In the end , not many were persuaded, and merely one Tangier resident expressed that day that perhaps mankind had something to do with climate change.
But that doesn’t mean that Inglis’s mission was a failure .
Eskridge remained skeptical about the climate issue, for example. But he was still moved by the conversation . “[ Inglis was] very polite about it, ” he said. “We’ve had other folks come in, and because we had different opinions on the climate change and sea-level-rise issue, they actually get nasty about it . … Bob’s approach was the way you should approach these things.”