Years ago, when I first joined a social media site for writers called Gather, I participated in many a discussion on climate change. That site is long gone and my time is mostly spent on Abraham Lincoln activities now. But last night I unexpectedly found myself participating in a discussion about climate on The Talk on Main St., a Facebook page run by independent filmmaker Annabel Park.
I had been interviewed a few times before by Annabel, once specifically about Abraham Lincoln and what he might do in today’s society, which sadly, isn’t that far off from what he had to save the United States from over 150 years ago. The other two times, I joined Annabel and Bob Scheuplein for discussions more politically oriented. Mostly we discussed how to move forward.
Which gets me to last night. Annabel is now a co-founder of DIY Green, a non-profit organization whose goal is to “create media and organize webinars to encourage people to take action on climate change.” Scheduled to appear was none other than Bob, a fellow scientist and former colleague – we had worked many years together as scientists in a regulatory law firm. Because of COVID, I hadn’t seen Bob (or Annabel) for a couple of years, so decided to sign up for the program so I could listen to Bob discuss climate change books. Or so I thought.
When I arrived I was surprised to find myself joining Bob for the interview. For the next hour the three of us discussed not only books about climate change, but a far-reaching exploration into how we can better communicate the direness of taking action to a populace that has so often been lied to about science. Keep in mind we still have people refusing to be vaccinated for COVID because “freedoms,” notwithstanding that every single COVID-unvaccinated people has been vaccinated a half-dozen to a dozen times already in their lifetimes, not even counting flu shots. Vaccinations are how we deal with disease without having to kill off massive numbers of people needlessly, and yet there are people willing to risk their own lives and the lives of people they love, solely because they don’t want to admit been conned by their chosen political party.
And so we discussed options. At one point, we even got to talk about how Lincoln had been an early proponent of wind energy. Given his emphasis on infrastructure and internal improvements, no doubt today he would be pushing for the infrastructure bills currently being debated in Congress. To clarify that last point, that Democrats are debating in Congress; the Republican party refuses to even participate in governing, as has been the case for decades. In fact, as part of the discussion last night I related how this is the conservative strategy for the entirety of our national history – keep the government from working, then convince their voters that it isn’t working as an excuse to further erode the rights of those people most loudly screaming that their rights are being infringed. This is the Great Con, which I’ll probably do a post on when I can find the time. That said, the discussion wasn’t overly political. Mostly it focused on public communication.
As energizing as last night’s discussion was – and I always am inspired by Annabel’s passion for change – it’s been an exhausting week. On Monday I had more laid back participation in a discussion on how the North won the Civil War, put on by Christian McWhirter, the Illinois State Historian. On Tuesday afternoon I presented the second of my two sessions (“Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief) in a four-session course on Abraham Lincoln that a few of us are teaching for Encore Learning, which helps retirees continue their education. That night, as President of the Lincoln Group of DC, I hosted the business meeting and moderated questions for our guest speaker, the eminent Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White.
A quick note about the Lincoln Group meeting: Ron White was talking about his new book, Lincoln in Private, which delves into several of the 111 extant private notes Lincoln wrote to himself. Mostly these were “notes to self” to help him think through various issues (e.g., what is democracy; what to do about slavery; equality for African Americans; meditation on the divine will). Only in one or two cases was language used in the notes ever carried over into an actual letter or speech. It is in this area that I find one connection to Lincoln. I too am constantly writing notes to myself. Fragments that Lincoln would put in his hat or store in his desk for future use have morphed into emails to myself, most of which never get read again. For both Lincoln and me, the act of writing it down, no matter how fragmentary, helps stick the thought in our minds. Sometimes those thoughts leak out onto paper.
Today I managed to get a break from scheduled events, hence the time to write this ramble. Tomorrow I’m back on duty as the Treasurer of another Lincoln organization, the Abraham Lincoln Institute, which holds its twice-yearly board meeting. Now that I think of it, today isn’t so free; I need to read the next of about 39 books that are under consideration for ALI’s annual book award. I sit on the review committee for the third year running. Even there, my role might expand next year. Next week I have another meeting with the National Park Service as we plan for the centennial of the Lincoln Memorial in 2022. I had a call with a military group last night to discuss collaboration on an event next February. Next month I’ll be attending the Lincoln Forum, a week-long conference in Gettysburg, PA. I also write for the Lincolnian.org blog as well as my own author website and here on Hot White Snow. Somewhere in my schedule I’m writing a book I plan to self-publish around the end of the year, plus I’m researching another I hope to propose to a publisher early in 2022. Then there is the editing and market planning for the book already in a publisher’s hands.
Last night’s unexpected foray back into climate science and community communication (which you can watch here) is likely to stay on the back burner, or maybe the middle burner, for the time being. I’m still a scientist at heart even though most of my time these days is spent on Lincoln. Next year will see those two world’s meld together as my book on the importance of science and technology in Lincoln’s life is scheduled for release in September. I may find myself speaking to science organizations as well as Lincoln groups. Should be a fun (exhausting) year.
David J. Kent is an avid traveler, scientist, and Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World as well as two specialty e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.