Acedia and the Climate Lie, Part 2

The desire to give up! Caught in despair.
The desire to give up! Caught in despair.

The Climate Lie

I take this term from what I read in The Climate Mobilization website — it refers to:

Our society is living within a massive lie. The lie says, “Everything is fine and we should proceed with business as usual. We are not destroying our climate and, with it, our stability and our civilization. We are not committing passive suicide.

The lie says we are fine—that climate change isn’t real, or is uncertain, or is far away, or won’t be bad enough to threaten humanity. The lie says that small changes will solve the problem. That recycling, bicycling, or closing the Keystone Pipeline will solve the problem. The lie allows people to put climate change in the back of their minds. To view it as someone else’s issue—the domain of scientists or activists. The lie allows us to focus on other things. To proceed with business as usual. To be calm and complacent while our planet burns.

… [The lie is] sustained by people living within the lies. Our lie is a lie co-created by the government, corporations, the media, and the people. These organizations encourage the lie, but it only exists because we, the people accept it and choose to live within it. The basic lie is “We should continue with business as usual, for everything is fine. There are three  major ways that the Climate Lie operates: intellectual denial, emotional denial, and environmental tokenism.

I agree that all this is the climate lie, and I suggest the problem is even bigger — it should be called the Culture Lie, subsuming scientific materialism and consumerism.

The Difficulty of the Climate Lie

It is so hard to write about — it is so big, and so entangled, that I cannot do justice in this small space. Yet I strongly urge the reader to take the time to read the key documents on The Climate Mobilization site. They are well-written, but long, and require a lot to time to digest.

And that is the weakness — the intricacy of the Climate/Culture Lie is such that the average person is likely to give up — it takes too much effort. Frequently I give up — I am forced by time and despair to accept descriptions that I cannot adequately validate nor can I understand their complexity, but yet the descriptions seem to make imminent sense in how they describe the complexity. Examples for me include my attempting to understand the older Keynesian economics and how they were replaced by neoliberalism, both of which have led to the destructive consumerism of modern culture.

Acedia and the Lie

It is this giving up that pushes me towards my own acedia, and I suspect underlies the vast acedia of our culture. In my PhD research, I proposed that the internal conflict that precedes acedia is a force field of many factors. On the positive side are the processes that could lead to resolution (phronesis): wisdom (sophia), discipline, hope and playfulness, all of which are disparaged in our present culture.

A balance of forces, heavily weighted to acedia
A balance of forces, heavily weighted to acedia

On the acedia side are the ways in which we treat ourselves. Inherently we are pain avoiders (basic biology), but our cultural models generally push us to self-deprecation (especially self-criticism when we do not fit the cultural models of size, shape, success, etc.), familial trauma (as families struggle with many internal and external demands of success, personal satisfaction, finances, etc.), and cultural trauma (in the many subtle ways in which we struggle with the failed promises of technology and economic life). And from this stance, we treat the planet: we allow world hunger, the maltreatment of women and children, the subtle maltreatment of men (witness the farmer suicides of India), environmental disaster after disaster — the list goes on.

What a mess! It is the mess that requires long-term correction to take us to a culture that intrinsically values all human life, and all of creation.

But the first order of priority is to stop global warming, and its immediate antecedents, the fossil fuel industry in its many pervasive forms. If we do not do that, the rest doesn’t matter.

I have therefore joined the Climate Mobilization in its pledge of action.

Coming next: Acedia and Evil.

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