by Alton C. Thompson
To continue with the question posed by my title:
- Recognizing Problem X, but not recognizing the problem’s degree of seriousness, and making announcements of one’s knowledge/research findings that lull those who hear or read them into a sense of complacency.
- Recognizing Problem X, even recognizing its seriousness, but being unwilling to convey what one knows about the problem to others.
- Not recognizing Problem X.
The problem to which I am referring here is, of course, global warming (which some prefer to call “climate change”—and I once termed “trendular atmospheric depatterization (TAD),” but have since abandoned, as a term that is a tad cumbersome). And what motivated this essay is my reaction to environmental organizations, along with weather reporting on television.
Let me begin here with some statements from environmental organizations:
KA‘ANAPALI, MAUI — In a galvanizing call-to-action, hundreds gathered yesterday outside of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to put out a global kahea (call) to stop the corporate assault on people and planet. The TPP is part of the TPP-TISA-TTIP mega-treaty package, which aim to lock-in international rules designed for and by the largest corporations and banks. At least four hundred people took part in a unified sounding of the pū (Hawaiian conch shell), setting a new world record that will be officially submitted to Guinness Records. Event organizer Trinette Furtado said that in blowing the pū, “we are putting out a mighty kahea (call), past the shorelines of Maui, to connect with others standing up for their ‘āina (land) and people.
The Obama administration recently gave conditional approval to Shell’s plans to drill in Arctic waters despite overwhelming risks to Arctic communities, wildlife and our climate.
It’s not too late. But we need to make our voices heard now.
After a public outcry, President Obama showed climate leadership in vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Now, we need to make sure he hears us again — loud and clear: No Arctic Drilling!
Ask President Obama and the Department of the Interior to show climate leadership and protect the Arctic by rescinding Shell’s Arctic drilling lease.
On June 18th, Pope Francis joined the moral call in the released encyclical by saying:
“We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels … needs to be progressively replaced without delay”
Pope Francis is crystal clear that the current development model based on the intensive use of coal, oil and even natural gas, must end. In its place we need renewable energy options and new modes of production and consumption that combat global warming. This is precisely what a growing movement of students, faith communities, socially responsible investors and everyday citizens are calling on individuals and private and public institutions to do: Divest their money from fossil fuels and invest it in climate solutions like wind, solar, and energy efficiency.
In the words of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, “Investing in fossil fuel companies and in eco-destructive projects is synonymous with supporting the destruction of our future. Divestment provides the means to change this status quo–to shift towards a system that will prioritize the welfare of the people and of nature over the relentless pursuit of profit.”
Many leaders have responded, with institutions like the Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, The Church of England, the World Council of Churches and recently the World Lutheran Federation committing to fossil fuel divestment. In June, the University of Dayton became the first Catholic University to divest.
The tide is turning. Now it’s time to divest the Vatican.
Let’s ask Pope Francis to make divestment part of his moral argument.
As indispensable to The Nature Conservancy’s success as our unifying mission, vision, goals and measures are our unique values—the distinguishing attributes that characterize how we conduct ourselves in our drive for tangible, lasting results. These attributes are not mere platitudes but deeply held convictions universally manifested by all who represent The Nature Conservancy.
Integrity Beyond Reproach:
We will meet the highest ethical and professional standards in all of our organizational endeavors and, in doing so, we hold ourselves accountable to our mission and to the public.
- Be honest at all times
- Earn trust by building relationships, being competent, and following through on all of our commitments
Respect for People, Communities, and Cultures:
Enduring conservation success depends on the active involvement of people and partners whose lives and livelihoods are linked to the natural systems we seek to conserve. We respect the needs, values and traditions of local communities and cultures, and we forge relationships based on mutual benefit and trust.
- Demonstrate respect by committing to local, on the ground involvement with people, communities and cultures, and with awareness and sensitivity to their economic realities
- Treat our partners and colleagues with fairness and honesty
- Work collaboratively with all sectors of society, including indigenous people, to develop practical conservation solutions.
Commitment to Diversity:
We recognize that conservation is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of men and women of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We will recruit and mentor staff to create an inclusive organization that reflects our global character.
- Respect and be open to a variety of viewpoints and diversity of thought
- Work in an environment that encourages each of us to achieve our potential and values the contributions of all
- Expand and strengthen the diversity of our workforce, trustee base, and board
I chose the above quotations at random, and would therefore assume that each represents its “home” organization reasonably fairly. In commenting on the quotations I would say:
- Although each of the four organizations is an environmental one, none of the quotations makes reference to the most important environmental problem facing us today, global warming (except that global warming is implicit in “350.org” per se, and in the quotation’s reference to the pope’s encyclical).
- I ask: Of what significance is it that “At least four hundred people took part in a unified sounding of the pū (Hawaiian conch shell) . . . .”? Also, does not the fact that this sets “a new world record that will be officially submitted to Guinness Records” indicate that the values of those engaged in this “sounding” are basically the same as those against whom they were protesting?! How is that good?!
- Granted that drilling oil in the Arctic would be tragic. But how will letting “our voices heard now” about this matter help anything? Is Guy McPherson wrong in declaring as probable that our species will be extinct by 2030 CE? If you believe he is wrong, present me with a reasoned argument that demonstrates that he is!
- If the Vatican has not divested, as requested by the .350.org organization (presumably it hasn’t), that makes Pope Francis a hypocrite—given that he has the authority to do so, I assume.
- The Nature Conservancy trumpets its integrity; respect for people, communities, and cultures; and its commitment to diversity. The quotation gives no recognition, however, to the fact that our species is “going down the tubes;” given this, what is the value of their integrity, etc.? (A rhetorical question, obviously!)
What we have, then, with these four quotations (and the organizations that created them?!) is:
- Actions of an inconsequential nature.
- A claim that it’s not “too late” to act—when it probably is!
- An effort to change the actions of some others.
- A pile of “fluff”—lacking in “sound and fury, true, but still “signifying nothing”!
One gains no sense, from any of the above four quotations, that the organizations involved are aware of the seriousness of global warming—the (a) likelihood that it’s now too late to halt, or even slow down, global warming; the (b) likelihood that if geoengineering measures are initiated, their unintended consequences may be disastrous; and (c) the high probability that extinction appears to be what’s “in the cards” for us humans in a matter of decades, even years.
As to those who report the weather on television, I assume that most of them have degrees in Meteorology (and in their course work learned about global warming), and have done some “outside” reading in the global warming literature as well—enough such reading to know, e.g., that extinctions are occurring at t rapid rate now (i.e., we are now in a period of the “sixth extinction”). Given that our continued existence as a species is dependent on the existence of other species (along with atmospheric conditions favorable to our continued survival), those who report on the weather on television should know not only that global warming is occurring, but threatens our continued existence as a species.
Yet here in Milwaukee (I live in a Milwaukee suburb), I don’t recall hearing a reporter of the weather ever—i.e., EVER!—making a reference to global warming—and I assume that the same is true in other parts of the country.
To return now to the three questions that I posed at the beginning of this essay:
- I assume that virtually all environmental organizations recognize that global warming is occurring. None of them, however, seems to recognize the seriousness of the problem. Is there a psychological explanation of this? If they are in denial about this, why is that so?
- Insofar as reporters of the weather are aware of the fact that global warming is occurring, and even (in some cases, at least) aware of its seriousness, in not reporting on global warming they make themselves intellectual prostitutes!
Because television stations are businesses, dependent on advertising for their existence, it’s possible that station managers have ordered their weather reporters not to mention global warming—fearing that doing so would result in them losing advertisers. But if that’s the case—and a given weather reporter knows about global warming and still does not report about it—that reporter lacks in integrity—for anyone with integrity would quit such a job.
- As a consequence of the mass media failing to report about global warming, a large portion of the population either (a) has not heard about global warming or (b) has heard about it, but (c) in some cases has become convinced that global warming is a “hoax.”
What we have, then, is a situation where:
- Most environmental organizations lack an awareness of the seriousness of global warming.
- People learn little or nothing about global warming from the mass media.
- What one may learn about global warming (that it’s a scam) is wrong.
Needless to say, this is not a good situation to be in! In a sense, though, none of this matters because it is reasonably clear that our species is on the road to extinction, and nothing can be done to prevent this from happening! It’s just too late to do anything of significance.
McPherson’s message was promulgated by the Eugene Weeklyabout three weeks ago. Yesterday it was picked up by the Tucson equivalent. You can read the story here. As usual, the comments provide the most and best entertainment.