The New York Times spoke to several people from different industries who all associated their conversion to climate activism as at a type of religious epiphany.
Many of the newly converted transitioned from extreme climate skepticism to radical proponents of the belief that global warming must be tackled before it’s too late. The retired coal miner, evangelical minster, and Miami mayor reporters talked to wrap their new-found position in religious overtones.
“I liken it to a religious conversion, and not just because I saw something I’d never seen before — I felt a deep sense of repentance,” Rev. Richard Cizik said in an interview with the TheNYT. He admitted to membership in the church of the “religious right” before hearing a Rev. Jim Ball, a founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, wax poetic about the climate activism.
“I heard the evidence over four days, did a fist to the forehead and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, if this is true, everything has changed,'” Cizik said, referring to a climate change conference he attended in 2002. He was hesitant at first, but began structuring his life around a new religious belief: climate activism.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado faced a similar experience. The Republican mayor, according to TheNYT, didn’t think much of climate change until his son, Jose, sat his father down, with a map, to proselytize.
“I realized that if this was happening somewhere in the Pacific, well, it could happen here,” said Regalado, who has waxed poetic about what he sees as the effects climate change has had on the coastal parts of his city. Recent studies show a different story, though.
A study Dutch Deltares Research Institute conducted in 2016, for instance, showed coastal areas had grown, on net, 13,000 square miles over the last 30 years. In total, the study found 67,000 square miles of water was converted into land, and 44,000 square miles of land was covered by water.
Research has also suggested that there are reasons other than global warming that help explain why Regalado’s state is experiencing coastal erosion.
Miami is three-feet above sea level and has an expanding population and industrial center, a reality that results in more water being drawn from the ground for industrial purposes. Water that once filled areas underground disappears, and soon settles into these new hollowed-out spaces.
Retired coal worker Stanley Sturgill experienced a similar religious awakening on environmental issues as Regalado and Cizik. Sturgill, who worked for 40 years in the industry, first learned about global warming in the early 1990s when he was working as a federal coal mine inspector in Kentucky.
He said he was “disheartened and sickened” when he understood the extent to which human beings were affecting the climate. “I knew we were polluting the Earth, but it took time to have a full understanding that what goes around comes around,” Sturgill added.
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