|Reality is too real for comfort|
In the first post of this series, I wrote about a call a mayor received from our climate denier president (Don't Worry, Be Happy).
He was a mayor who supported climate denialism.
He was a mayor on a sinking ship, or to be more exact, an island a la Atlantis, yes, an island slowly becoming submerged below the waters of the Chesapeake Bay (66% gone).
Like thirteen or so islands that have already done so in that area (The Extinction of Chesapeake Bay Islands).
Some seven years ago I posted "Global Climate & Homeland Insecurity" which quoted military officials who indicated clearly that the greatest threat to national security was climate change caused by global warming caused by the promiscuous use of fossil fuels (cf. Don't Worry, Be Happy - 2).
Regular readers know that here at Dredd Blog we are not deniers, we just report what is happening, what is real, and that with no apologies (we didn't make this reality, but it is here: You Are Here).
III. It Is Now Cosmopolitan
The president I mentioned above, who called the mayor, is not cosmopolitan, even being the odd man out at the climate change agreement in Paris recently.
But, when it comes to posts or articles in a well known and cosmopolitan magazine, some degree of doomerism has now become Americana.
Not long after the first post in this series, a blockbuster of a piece, published in a well known magazine, caused an eruption of discourse:
"We published “The Uninhabitable Earth” on Sunday night, and the response since has been extraordinary — both in volume (it is already the most-read article in New York Magazine’s history) and in kind."(The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition, emphasis added). The reactions were in accord with the cultural amygdala realm of fear generators (Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala).
Fear brings on the need for the product called "security" on a scale called "national security" or cultural security.
Anyway, the impact of climate change discussed in the article is not socially acceptable to those who have a world view expressed by the phrase "don't worry, be happy," thus, the inevitable uproar of fear engendered denial ensued.
It was caused by group-think fear, which is an essence I have mentioned in the past here on Dredd Blog:
One of the most destructive and perplexing problems facing contemporary society is the pervasive tendency of people to respond with hostility and disdain toward those who are different from themselves. This tendency to reject those who are different is well-documented in the literature on prejudice (e.g., Tajfel, 1982), the similarity-attraction relationship (for a review, see Byrne, 1971), and reactions to deviance (e.g., Miller & Anderson, 1979; Schachter, 1951). A common notion in much of the theorizing concerning these effects is that people prefer similar others over dissimilar others because of the consensual validation of one's own beliefs and attitudes provided by similar others (e.g., Byrne, 1971;Festinger, 1954; Tajfel, 1982). The research reported in this article was concerned with the psychological basis of this need for consensual validation.(Convergence - Fear of Death Syndrome). The dynamics are well understood by those who study the phenomenon, however, it is generally not a treatable fear.
Put simply, people's beliefs about reality provide a buffer against the anxiety that results from living in a largely uncontrollable, perilous universe, where the only certainty is death.
Thus, as Byrne (1971) and others have suggested, attraction to similar others can be explained as resulting from the consensual validation of beliefs that such others provide. From a terror management perspective, then, positive reactions to similar others and negative reactions to dissimilar others occur partly because of the impact such individuals have on faith in one's worldview.
A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult for people to repress thoughts of death, and that they might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival. There is already experimental evidence suggesting that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.
IV. The Clamor
The author of the New Yorker piece soon experienced the dynamic, and wrote of it in his follow-up piece:
Within hours, the article spawned a fleet of commentary across newspapers, magazines, blogs, and Twitter, much of which came from climate scientists and the journalists who cover them.(ibid, The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition, emphasis added). And so, the cosmopolitan climate change green world meets the doomer world as clamor clouds the cognitive skies.
What are the risks of terrifying or depressing readers so much they disengage from the issue, and what should a journalist make of those risks?
I hope, in the annotations and commentary below, I have added some context. But I also believe very firmly in the set of propositions that animated the project from the start: that the public does not appreciate the scale of climate risk; that this is in part because we have not spent enough time contemplating the scarier half of the distribution curve of possibilities, especially its brutal long tail, or the risks beyond sea-level rise; that there is journalistic and public-interest value in spreading the news from the scientific community, no matter how unnerving it may be; and that, when it comes to the challenge of climate change, public complacency is a far, far bigger problem than widespread fatalism — that many, many more people are not scared enough than are already “too scared.” In fact, I don’t even understand what “too scared” would mean.
V. The Missing Groopie Psychoanalysis
Dr. Freud recognized the societal need to develop a treatment of groups, but also realized it would not be as easy as individual psychoanalysis and treatment:
If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities. [p. 39](The Authoritarianism of Climate Change). Indeed, the dementia caused by paranoid fear has resulted in the U.S. Government being currently changed from gung-ho "climate change is real" into gung-ho denialism.
Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature
to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this——hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension. [p. 40]
Americans have been conditioned to accept climate change as a cool thing, something chic and a way into the in crowd, but when the discussion gets too real the progressives become hostile along with the deniers.
This is real and serious right now (When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal Communities (2017), Union of Concerned Scientists).