Don’t let our stories crowd out facts
In the past 90 days, I have met weekly as a member of The Bee’s editorial board – the group that delves into community issues and tries to formulate an official opinion for the newspaper.
I never met anyone, in those 90 days, who had all the answers. But I met several who think they know it all. One of the biggest problems plaguing our community (and the world) is that so many of us often believe our opinions are facts. I find myself wondering if there’s a place for truth.
John Ott, co-founder of The Center for Collective Wisdom, says facts are verifiable; stories are what we make of the facts.
It is a fact we had a large music festival in Modesto. The stories revolved around whether it was good or bad for our community. It is a fact we have a large homeless population. Our stories to explain why and what we should do about it vary considerably. There’s little to no power in holding tightly to your stories, leaving us no room for discovery and crowding out the stories of others.
After the last 90 days, I’ve come to feel our collective stuckness. But I also still imagine a Modesto full of people asking themselves and each other to distinguish between facts and stories, yearning for a real conversation to begin.
At a quieter meeting, The Bee’s publisher played a song with the line “It makes me feel somehow as if the world is gonna break.” Songwriter Rodney Crowell named that song “Truth Decay.” As we look at the issues of race, local politics, the promises of those running for office, how we treat one another and more, that line too often fits.
We’ve all got stories. If we want answers, we should search for facts and the truth.
Kate Trompetter is a Modesto resident and do-gooder devoted to community and connectedness. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching truth about climate change
Last week, when I arrived in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins was first on my list. The exhibit is artfully executed, with caveman photo-bombs, scores of skulls from Homo’s past, captivating artistic renditions and examples of the challenges our ancestors faced. No corners were cut. Yet one challenge is stressed above all others: natural climate change.
Therein lies the problem.
Earth’s natural climate variability is displayed everywhere, while opportunities to highlight today’s human-caused climate change and our transition into the Anthropocene epoch are missed.
To the tune of $35 million from David Koch of Koch Industries Inc., Smithsonian scientists and curators are engaging in self-censorship, allowing thousands of people – many children – to be exposed to misleading subliminal messaging.
We all know Earth’s climate has changed in the past, and it will change in the future due to natural causes. But today, that’s not the case.
Back home in Modesto, I’ve seen firsthand how this plays out in public schools. Climate change and evolution are viewed as an educational third rails. Few mention either of them.
Even Modesto’s new Great Valley Museum doesn’t go there, save for a few clips on their NOAA Science on a Sphere. Steve Murov, MJC professor emeritus and member of Modesto Citizens’ Climate Lobby, explains this could change soon. Over a dozen new mini-exhibits are in progress at the GVM.
How can we expect to protect our children and grandchildren, even ourselves, from the risks of climate change if we can’t even talk about the causes openly?
Let us heed a lesson from the courage of our ancestors and defend integrity in science education.
Jody Strait is a Modesto resident, UC Berkeley student and member of Modesto’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Send comments to email@example.com.
Visiting Editor Program
The Modesto Bee is accepting applications to join our Visiting Editor Program in the final quarters of 2016. Visiting editors sit as members of our editorial board during our meetings with community news makers, elected officials and others. Our regular meetings are at 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays, but we sometimes schedule additional meetings or adjust the times as needed. Visiting editors serve for three months and are encouraged to write occasional editorial comments. If you are interested in becoming a visiting editor, or want additional information, please contact Opinions Page Editor Mike Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-578-2325.