Roger Helm is an instructor on global climate change at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville.
What approaches do you find to be the most and least effective within environmental activism?
Most effective: using my energy, passion, knowledge and teaching skills to motivate inquisitive and concerned citizens to engage in addressing the existential challenge that is global climate change.
Least effective: making assumptions about a person whose ideas/perspectives I disagree with, or trying to sway a person’s opinion based on facts or data and arguing over whose facts are correct. Sometimes it’s best to just say, “I see,” and move on.
What motivates you to stay involved?
I now know way too much about the reality of the global climate change challenge to simply hand this existential burden off to my daughters, whom I love. The boat we live on is on fire: Either we burn to death, drown or we put the fire out; there are no alternatives.
How should young environmentalists be thinking about the future and their role within it?
Every generation has had to overcome significant challenges: finding food without being food; escaping attackers, plagues and contaminated water; economic calamities and world wars. Young environmentalists have been “blessed” with a real doozy in climate change. But by going all in to address this challenge, there is a reasonable expectation that a healthy Earth with all its beauty and wonder awaits in the future.
What gives you hope?
I take hope in the realization that it’s been bad, if not (depending upon your skin color, sex, religion and other factors) much worse in the past. The very same adaptiveness and resiliency that made humans such a plague on the Earth can be flipped on its head to reenergize people to restore, reclaim and rebuild that which is in peril.
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