Facing Up To Stealth Denial


With comments by David Oldroyd regarding CASE’s contributions

A new Report from the Royal Society of Arts based on research in Britain about why we fail to act effectively on the ‘wicked problems of climate change and decarbonisation of our economy’ – extracts from the Executive Summary

 ‘Denial is due to a surplus of culture rather than a deficit of information … To a greater or lesser extent, we are all climate deniers.’This human response to climate change is unfolding as a political tragedy because scientific knowledge and economic power are pointing in different directions

To read the whole summary –>


2 thoughts on “Facing Up To Stealth Denial”

  1. It is interesting to investigate some of the reasons for our unwillingness to accept and deal with issues which are even now having a profound impact on all our lives. Climate change is much like the issue of smoking and health. 1. Smoking is extremely pleasurable once one becomes addicted. Burning fossil fuels has led to the greatest accumulation of wealth and comfort humankind has ever known. 2. There was an enormous amount of profit to be made in the tobacco business and that is true today in the energy sector. 3. Folks making such profits wish to continue this for as long as possible and use their wealth to influence legislation and public opinion. 4. Short of some miraculous new technology, or adaptative process as yet undiscovered, we can’t solve our problem unless we quit smoking or drastically reduce our emissions. 5. Drastic emissions reductions mean a simpler way of living for all of us, especially those of us who have acquired the most since we are the primary carbon emitters. Stopping smoking means withdrawal pain and deprivation. Both consequences will be very unpleasant in the short term.

    It took a very long time before the cumulative weight of scientific evidence and a supportive mainstream media persuaded most of us to quit smoking.

  2. David James sent these observations that question whether ‘saving the planet’ needs to be preceded by a shift in values away from stories of material progress towards stories about ‘being and meaning:“Martin Palmer, the renowned Sinologist, theologian, author of many books, recently gave a talk about the centrality of narratives to the way we live. He started by saying “people are converted / convinced by stories, not data”, which struck me as relevant to our discussions about why people aren’t engaging in the environmental debate. Stories draw us in, make us feel part of something resonating with our own lives. It’s important to use language we love, language from the heart, and not dry, technical language most people find off-putting.
    Palmer said that the language used by environmentalists shows a Judaeo-Christian heritage: time is linear and will end (in the Apocalypse); humans have a unique role in creation, as its summation (“the only truly sentient species”, etc) and the cause of its destruction; there’s a conflict between good and evil, expressed in terms of crisis; and people need to be converted to “the truth”.
    Furthermore, the dominant narrative of the last few centuries has removed us from nature; even environmentalists describe it in terms of what it provides for us, which is the language of economics. [= essentially the same point made by Paul Kingsnorth in his criticism of “neo-environmentalism”.] Science itself has a tendency to believe there can be only ONE narrative, dismissing other perspectives.
    I’m more reluctant than Palmer to attribute our thinking about the crisis to Judaeo-Christianity, because other cultures owing little to that heritage (Japan, China, India) are caught up in the same problem, which cannot be explained simply in terms of capitalism – hence my argument about Civilisation which I label the Machine-world.
    Palmer asked: what is the narrative that will make us want to go the extra mile (to use the Gospel metaphor)? My feeling is that it is more than “saving the planet”, which assumes we have the collective wisdom and humility to save the planet from ourselves! We first need a narrative focused on being and meaning, which in this culture is the realm of spirituality. I’m consciously telling such a story because I’ve realised this is what makes sense of our lives.”

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