Finding Middle Ground: Conversations across America about Climate Change

Finding Middle Ground: Conversations across America about Climate Change

Meera Subramanian traveled first to Musella, Georgia, then to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. After that it was Gleason, Wisconsin then Sweetwater, Texas. Connect the dots between those places and you enclose much of the geographical heart of the country. 

In those places she became a fixture on Main Street and opened conversations to find the middle ground on climate change. She listened, questioned and listened again as she asked about the warming climate inside diners and orchards, gun shops and churches. She learned about the stuff of daily life—peaches and the winter’s chill, dogs and snow, floodwater and faith, the wind and the future. She examined what happens to ordinary people when the world they inhabit suddenly becomes unreliable—what they believe, and how they cope or seize opportunity. 

What is especially remarkable about her stories is that she writes them without casting judgment, fixing blame or asserting superiority—right from the middle ground of herself. It’s why she can see the middle ground in others, and as you read her stories you can’t help but recognize this territory in yourself.

Meera’s writing is not only healing, it is insightful and irresistible. Her storytelling catches you off guard. “For 120 years, the Dickeys have been producing peaches so juicy they demand to be eaten over the kitchen sink,” she writes. As you salivate, you’re compelled to keep reading about this family whose orchards won’t survive if temperatures continue to rise.

You learn from Meera, too, about James Beall, who escaped the path to jail he was walking because he became a wind technician. He often goes to work in a nacelle— the mechanical housing at the top of a wind turbine—and Meera makes sure you know how big that place is. “From here on the ground, the nacelle, perched on its 300-foot column, looked tiny. It was actually the size of a bus.” She knows because she rode up in an elevator with Beall, and walked into it.

And with her help, you walk into the shoes of Chad Dingess, an evangelical pastor, and catch a glimpse of the coming apocalypse through his eyes. “He could speak of the end of the world, but it was not his place to consider climate change.”

Meera captures the complicated connection that Americans have to the places that sustain them—and just how tangled their notions around climate change can be. Her stories are infused with rare talent and hard work that sets a high standard of fairness the public is hungering for in these uncertain times.