Monday, July 17, 2017

Is fear the underlying reason for climate denial?

This author thinks he's got an insight behind climate denial: people fear what they can't control (e.g., Ebola more than heart disease) and we avoid bad news (e.g., don't go to the doctor when we suspect something might be wrong.) If he's right, the solutions should be easy: show what we can do to control this and share success stories.

He might be onto something but there have been a lot of examples of positive stories and how-to advice. So I suspect the reality is more complicated. Those strategies are still important to pursue to help sway people for whom that is the main barrier.

But I think identity is also embedded in this. When Al Gore became the face of climate change, people who identified with the other political party went running in the opposite direction. Deeply religious Tea Party members may be more concerned with God than God's creation, viewing this as the predicted disruption before they will be called to heaven. Lower and middle class White males have lost ground, both relatively and in real terms, so they are focused on making ends meet. Long term concerns about climate change seem distant indeed. And if you are surrounded by a community that doesn't believe in climate change, do you have the fortitude to be the outlier and speak out?

What do you think?

For a fascinating perspective, read Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. This Berkeley sociologist went to Louisiana to try to understand the Tea Party, and why people whose lives have been disrupted by environmental disasters just suck it up and continue to support polluting businesses and lax regulation. If you don't have time to read the book, at least listen to this podcast on Inquiring Minds. 

Surrendering to fear brought us climate change denial and President Trump | John Abraham - the guardian

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