by Alton C. Thompson
Global warming dwarfs—by far!—all other problems that we Americans—we humans, in fact—face today. Yet one would never guess this by conversing with others, reading a newspaper, watching television, etc. If anything, in fact, one is more likely to encounter adamant “deniers” more frequently than passionate “believers” (in global warming). Perhaps Sigmund Freud was right in asserting that we humans have a “death drive”!
We encounter “deniers” in large part because officials/investors in the fossil fuel business tend to be “possessed” individuals, with a fixation on the short-run “bottom line.” They are individuals who are somehow able, evidently, to ignore the fact that “we are all in this together.” As a result of their determination to continue in the fossil fuel business, they buy spokespersons—in politics, “journalism,” etc.—who are able to convince people in a certain category that they are hearing the truth. (Their susceptibility to this propaganda may directly reflect some of their personal characteristics, but the nature of the society—along with their “position” within it—may be more decisive in explaining this susceptibility.)
So far as “believers” are concerned, they tend to fall into two categories. On the one hand are those who are optimistic—overly optimistic, I would say—about our ability to overcome the problem of global warming; and on the other hand are those who realize global warming’s utter seriousness—the likelihood that it will wipe out most members of our species in a matter of years, with the possibility that it will render our species extinct (along with numerous other species, of course).
Those in the first of these two categories seem to be more numerous than those in the second category (perhaps because it is so tempting to be in “denial” regarding this problem!)—and to have a larger audience. These two facts—their over-optimism, combined with a larger audience—do not, needless to say, bode well for the future of our species!
The general public’s ignorance about global warming is undoubtedly a function of (a) a lack of media coverage, (b) media coverage that downplays the seriousness of the global warming problem, and (c) efforts by the fossil fuel companies and their lackeys to suppress accurate information about global warming, while publicizing misinformation regarding the subject.
There may, however, be an additional factor at work here. With individual problems—e.g., obesity, illness, unemployment—the problem is easily observable (with unemployment being somewhat of an exception). That fact does not, however, mean an accurate explanation can be given for the problem in question. In fact, the tendency, in explaining problems associated with individuals, is to use a “blame the victim” approach (which, of course, is exactly what one would expect in a “Christian” country!).
That is, if a person is obese, the explanation likely to be offered is that the person not only eats too much, but eats the wrong foods. If a person is ill (e.g., has some form of cancer), the explanation likely to be offered is that the person has chosen to engage in bad habits (e.g., smoking cigarettes, getting insufficient rest, bad eating habits, insufficient exercise). If a person is unemployed, “average” people may explain this by referring to the person’s alleged “laziness,” while employers may argue that the person lacks the proper training/education to obtain a job. In short, the onus—the blame—is placed on the individual involved: An individual with a problem is held responsible for having that problem.
Despite the fact that most in our society tend to use a “blame the victim” approach in explaining individual problems—which conveniently excuses them from trying to do anything to help those with problems!—a more accurate explanation in many, if not most, such cases would be that the society within which one lives is the real culprit. Such an idea is implicit in the phrase “diseases of civilization”—which suggests that the diseases unique to civilized societies are caused by the nature of those societies. And as a recent study argues forcefully, the inequality that is becoming such a prominent feature of our society is itself a major causal factor in explaining many of the health problems that currently exist in our society.
Most people in our society will not become aware of that study; and even if a person does become aware of the study, the person may find it incomprehensible, and so let the study’s findings “go in one ear and out the other”—i.e., have absolutely no impact on the person’s thinking about disease.
I suspect that the same is true regarding global warming—a problem for which we can identify real-world individual culprits, with a more realistic explanation, however, being that our way of life is the culprit, with virtually all of us being guilty parties.
Global warming is a relatively easy phenomenon to deny—which fact makes it easy those who assert vociferously that global warming is a “hoax” to be believed by many. After all, global warming is not immediately observable, for it has both temporal and geographical “dimensions.” Its existence is inferred from instrumental observations made at various locations around the world (the Mauna Loa Observatory in particular—with the late Charles Keeling beginning to make measurements there in 1958), over a period of time, in conjunction with a knowledge of physical laws.
The average person can observe vagaries in the weather from year to year at the location of that person’s residence, but relating those vagaries to “global warming” is another matter: Unless one has a certain level of education and reads some of the relevant literature—such as Prof. Guy McPherson’s “Climate-Change Summary and Update”—one will lack an understanding of global warming. As a consequence, if one hears one’s favorite “talk show” host state, with confidence, that “global warming is a total hoax,” and that host then quotes “experts” to support his claim, one will tend to believe what the host has said. And given that one doesn’t really understand what it is that one is accepting, one will tend to cling to that belief, and be resistant to claims to the contrary.
When it comes to perceiving a problem as having a societal, rather than an individual, cause, most people will have difficulty perceiving the problem from that perspective. Likewise, when a problem has a global scope—as global warming does (the reason for the “global” in the term!)—they will not only have trouble perceiving it as such. Because of that fact, in conjunction with difficulties they have in understanding the phenomenon, they will be rather easily convinced that global warming is a “hoax” being perpetrated on them by “pointy-headed—and also communist!—intellectuals.”
This is an unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless—and another reason why it is difficult to have any degree of optimism regarding the human future.
I’ll be interviewed on Radio Free Santa Cruz today, 29 April 2014, at 4:00 p.m. local time (Pacific). Find the details here.
Just aired: McPherson’s radio interview with Species Barrier recorded 17 February 2014. McPherson’s voice can be heard beginning at the 10-minute mark.
Just aired: Michael Welch’s radio tribute to Michael C. Ruppert. McPherson was interviewed a week ago for the show, which is linked here. McPherson’s comments begin at the 45-minute mark.
Also just aired, and embedded below
Please join McPherson in supporting Blazing Kat Productions. Click here for more information.
Wednesday, 30 April 2014, 1:15 p.m., Hartnell College, 117 North Second Street, Room 209, King City, California, “Abrupt climate change”
Thursday, 1 May 2014, 2:00 p.m., University of California-Santa Cruz, details forthcoming
Friday, 2 May 2014, 2:30 p.m., Forum Room, Cuesta College main campus, San Luis Obispo, California, “Abrupt climate change”
4 June 2014, Wyoming, debate with H. Leighton Steward, who often represents the fossil-fuel industry. Read about Steward here.
Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power and by more than two dozen readers at Amazon.