Some folk live in denial. It can’t be helped. It’s become a part of their identity.
Some folk encourage other folk to live in denial.
That’s because they want a culture war.
It acts as a shield.
They’ve something to hide.
So they hide it in war.
Stupid, stupid war
But wars are invariably stupid:
– They create reasons for more war
– They legitimise aggression
– They generate resentment
– They suppress rather than resolve
This applies to any kind of war.
The Iraq war? Hm. That was hardly a success….
The Russian and US wars in Afghanistan? They were triumphs of failure and disorder…
The War on Terror?
The War on Drugs?
Neither have much to crow about. In fact, the very reverse. It’s possible the War on Terror and the War on Drugs perpetuate precisely what they attack: terror and crime.
Culture wars are just another kind of war. There’ll be victims and casualties – and they’ll be the powerless, the vulnerable, the gullible and the poor.
Meanwhile, our culture war leaders get what they want: increasing authoritarian control and a last ditch defence of neoliberalism.
You see, neoliberalism is a religion. Consider the HQ of any bank or hedge fund and tell me you’re not looking at temples to a higher power.
But it’s a higher power that’s dying.
It’s on the defensive.
And it’s working on the basis that the best form of defence is attack.
Neoliberals… You’ll find one in every crowd. But what do they stand for?
The answer is simple. They believe
- Greed is good
- Greed is the key driver of human behaviour
- Encourage greed and you get growth, wealth and a trickle-down prosperity which benefits us all.
There’s more. Neoliberals also believe
- Markets should be given free rein
- Unrestrained markets will auto-correct
- Unlimited growth (industrial and economic) is both possible and good.
The death cult
For neoliberals, the invisible hand of the market has replaced the will of God.
But why do they hate the idea of climate change so desperately? Why have they made its denial or trivialisation a weapon in their culture war?
It’s because climate change blows their religion apart at the seams.
Well, unrestricted growth is killing our world.
Greed is good?
Well, corporate and nation-state greed is destroying the human environment.
Our free market economy is correcting our species towards extinction…
From an environmental perspective the unregulated free market is an enemy to us all.
The denials of the denialists
So, with their religion threatened, neoliberals deny or trivialise climate change and attack those who express environmental concern – just as they did with coronavirus when the 2019/2020 pandemic began.
But their denials are often absurd.
Let’s consider just a few.
😱“Global warming isn’t caused by us…”
It’s not? But 97% of all publishing climate scientists agree it is… Wouldn’t it be a little strange for them all to be wrong? What with peer reviews and all that data and research behind them?
Let’s suppose, though, that these scientists are wrong about the causes of global warming. Well, so what?
Caused by us or not, the impacts of warming look pretty damned scary… so let’s take action to limit the risk of human mega-death, just in case.
😱 “Global warming won’t be such a big deal…”
Won’t it? A lot of scientists are putting their careers and reputations on the line to say that the impacts for our civilisation and species could be very dire indeed. So why not take precautions? Isn’t that plain common sense?
😱 “Global warming’s natural…”
Is it? This time? Even with humanity pumping 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year?
And even if global warming were natural, so what?
‘Naturalness’ doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to slow the warming down, to protect our species from its potentially appalling effects…
😱 “The climate’s changed before. It’s always changing…”
Again: so what?
That doesn’t make it safe, and doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act. And the underlying trend at present should mean we’re cooling; yet, because of human activity, we’re not. So let’s act now to limit a warming climate’s effects.
😱 “Global warming isn’t happening as quickly as many people claim…”
Ok, prove it. Prove it can’t happen quickly. Prove tipping points and domino effects aren’t coming into play.
And, if there’s even the slightest risk, shouldn’t we act anyway, just in case? You don’t wait until you’re sure your house is going to burn to the ground before putting out a kitchen fire….
😱 “If the climate’s getting warmer, how come we still get blizzards and snow?”
Because you can cook a Baked Alaska and still get cold ice cream in the middle.
When our coldest places or seasons stop getting snow, our warmest places and seasons will already be well and truly baked – and our goose cooked.
😱 “Why should I personally worry about climate change? As individuals, we can’t make a difference…”
Of course we can.
It’s a numbers game.
Big numbers of us are making bad things happen. Big numbers of us can make good things happen, too.
Add yourself to the good numbers.
😱 “Climate alarm is just job creation for climate scientists…”
But our climate scientists are putting their reputations and careers on the line – and you don’t get work if your reputation is trashed… Why would they risk it? Particularly for something they didn’t believe in? I wouldn’t. Would you?
😱 “Climate activists should stop being alarmist – they’ll put people off.”
- How can you be ‘alarmist’ about a threat to our species and potentially to all complex life on Earth?
- Alarmism is good when appropriate. Please be alarmist if my house is burning down… It won’t put me off!
😱 “Don’t tax us to pay for fighting a myth…”
- It’s not you who needs taxing, it’s the corporations and the rich.
- What if it’s not a myth? Wouldn’t you want to pay extra tax if you had to, to protect our children’s future?
- Investing in energy efficiency and new, sustainable technologies may in fact make us all richer… Don’t businesses invest to generate profit further down the line?
😱 “I hate climate activists! They’re all X, Y or Z” – where X, Y or Z might be ‘young and stupid’, ‘middle class and entitled’, ‘too white’, ‘too idealistic’, ‘a bunch of hippies’, ‘students’, ‘tiresome school children’ etc…
But, even if any of this were true (which it clearly can’t be, given the huge numbers of diverse activists all across the world), so what? If the message is true and urgent, who gives a damn about the attributes of the messenger?
😱 “Climate activists shouldn’t interfere with us ordinary folk getting on with our lives/jobs/holidays/etc…”
What? Your car journey or flight or getting to work on time is more important than trying to persuade governments to protect our children’s future?
Get your priorities right!
😱 “We don’t like being preached to…”
Here’s the scenario as I see it:
Man steps into road.
Activist: “Watch out! There’s a juggernaut coming!”
Man: “Don’t preach!”
Please preach to me if you’re warning me about danger!
😱 “Climate activists are hypocrites. They drive/fly/take holidays/eat burgers/etc/etc.”
- Hypocrisy isn’t great – but ignoring climate change is worse.
- Don’t be small minded. We need BIG changes, so who cares if some activists have human weakness?
- Activists are at least trying. What are you doing?
😱 “Climate activists are extremists.”
Warning others about a clear and present danger isn’t extremism: it’s common sense.
Ignoring the problem is the ‘extreme’ or irrational response….
There are more, but I’m bored of denials.
Let’s get on with fixing the problem, not hiding our heads in the sand…
A good person
Let’s conclude with an important question: Are climate change deniers bad people?
Well, I don’t want to be judgemental, so let’s ask another question: If there’s ANY risk of climate change destroying your children’s lives or your grandchildren’s lives, why would you seek to deny or trivialise that risk?
If you really cared about the people around you, about the future of our planet, wouldn’t you say, “Let’s take precautions, just in case”?
Isn’t that what any good or decent person would say and do?
Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives.
This article comes from his 2020 book, Short Conversations: During the Plague.
His new book, Short Conversations: During the Storm, comes out this month.
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Luke is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal collective and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).