I didn’t see Clay Pope’s heart-to-heart with President Obama when it was first posted on YouTube. I discovered the now famous video when I read Timothy Egan’s New York Times Opinionator Blog last week. The title, “Hix Nix Climate Fix,” offended me but it was a clever re-use of one of the most famous headlines in newspaper history.
Clay Pope Pope is a sixth-generation western Oklahoma farmer who is also the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Sixth-generation means he is not far removed from the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, a major disruptor of farming and existing farming practices, which he calls the greatest ecological disaster of modern times. His video called on the President to use his bully pulpit to bring the issue of global warming to center stage.
It’s a call that probably didn’t sit well with many of his friends and neighbors. Oklahoma ranchers are famous for their distrust of the issue and even more famous for their distrust of the motives and capabilities of the federal government. Most of them would rather be left alone to solve their own problems without ‘assistance.’
But if they want to call Pope a “tree hugger” or worse, he’s earned the honor of that title. He’s worked hard to help manage the things that can have a dramatic impact on American farming and that “vowel-crushing twang” mentioned by Egan masks an intense knowledge of how climate change can affect agriculture.
The heart of his message was a well-reasoned plea to stop the political posturing and sit down to discuss the problem. A respectful, adult conversation can go a long way toward developing a common sense approach to global warming. I spent about an hour on the phone with him and here is what he had to say.
Q. Clay, you created a bit of a dust-up with your recent YouTube video urging President Obama to take a more aggressive stand on climate issues in his State of the Union address. Before we get to the content of that video, let’s talk about your background and why you thought the weather was important enough to talk about in such an open forum.
A. I’ve lived in western Oklahoma my whole life. Western Oklahoma was the bullseye for the dust bowl in the 1930’s. We’ve always been in the bull’s-eye for extreme weather of all kinds.If you listen to the climatologists they will tell you that with climate change what have always been the extremes will now become more and more the norm. We’ve always had droughts and flash floods. The concern is that with climate change the droughts will be longer and hotter and the 100-year flood may become the 50-year flood. That’s somethingwe need to talk about.