Tag Archives: conflict

Ways To Contribute

Contribution6I have my finger in a lot of pots these days, all in an attempt to find ways to contribute my skill set to the issues of global warming. Currently I strive to be a background resource to others as I generally exhaust myself when I over-commit myself. I generally function best as a devil’s advocate, gently challenging others to stretch into their own skill set; I don’t function well in groups unless I have designated tasks to complete (or can function as devil’s advocate).

It has been a while since I have done a post, and periodically I have thought to get back to same. Mainly I have been sorting how best for me to respond to issues, as noted above, above all seeking a way to be at peace with the stresses of modernity.

I do a lot. Amongst other ways to contribute, I do a Listening Ministry at one of the church missions of the Downtown EastSide of Vancouver, the major district of homelessness and drug crime. I’m also part of the Social Justice committee of the same mission where we are current advocates for drug decriminalization. I am engaged in an international men’s organization (Illuman.org) and promote a variety of virtual men’s groups orientated to vulnerability and spirituality. I facilitate a Soul Matters group at the local Unitarian Church, exploring a variety of issues such as Awe, Vision, and Mystery. And I contribute to a Suzuki Elder Salon development of how to engage in difficult conversations. I used to also provide low grade security in Vancouver via the Peace Bearers organization — usually for crowd scenes orientated to demonstrations regarding global warming (my low back pain unfortunately led to limitations here).

I do all this because I am deeply aware of how precarious is the nature of human survival in this super-wicked difficulty of climate change and ecological threat. I actually have little hope we will survive as a species, and no hope our civilization will survive.

But I do not function from hope — I function from intention.

High intention; low expectation

This is the only way I have found to stay out of despair as to what we are doing on this planet. I have said many times to myself and to others that, as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.

From my perspective, we need ways to shift this human dynamic at a species level. I have basically spent the second half of my life (from 40 to 65) as therapist learning to do so at the individual level, and in retirement wanted to tackle the societal level — wherein I came much more aware of my own limitations in contribution. But it did not mean that I would give up contributing.

I contribute because authenticity in relationship with others has become my best way to function with this insanity, and perhaps the only way in which we will find a path through the next hundred years. It is my wish that others find a way through their own despair and acedia so that we come to common ground in how we deal with the coming years.

The following links speak to these thoughts of mine.

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet (20181126)

An excellent report by Bill McKibben (350.org) regarding the current state of global warming as well as the complexity of human relations over the past 60 years.

Finding Hope in Hopelessness (20181123)

Margaret Wheatley reflects on loss of hope, and yet finding her own stance to contribute within hopelessness.

I’d rather die than feel this. (20180608, reprinted from 2014)

An excellent article on why some choose suicide as a resolution of their pain. It reminds me of the spate of celebrity suicides (Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain as examples) as well as the numerous deaths within the Fentanyl crisis.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Legacy Museum

I’ve currently finished a brief workshop on White Supremacy Culture, part of a presentation within the Unitarian Church I attend. I hate the term White Supremacy and yet I recognize that the destructiveness of the immense power and privilege issues that have dominated European culture (and thus world culture) for the past 500 years (or more, perhaps as long ago as the origin of what we call civilization). Somehow we need to do much more in the nature of multi-cultural restoration.

The Fortune-Teller (20181105)

“how to save the world” is a blog written by a local BC resident, often regarding his chronicle of civilization’s collapse. Overall I find it well-written with interesting reflections (although from the perspective of a staunch materialist — not my preferred ontology). I especially like his present comment: “Lemonade is everywhere. Wisdom is scarce.”

The Role Harassment Plays in Climate Change Denial (20181102)

We are becoming more and more divisive as a culture, especially in the United States but also Canada. I assume it is simply a harbinger of the stresses of our current world, but it does not bode well for resolution of issues. I have long maintained that cultural anger is the canary in the coalmine of our demise.

Is Civility A Sham? (201810 TED Salon)

Why It’s Worth Listening To People We Disagree With (201804 TED2018)

How To Have Better Political Conversations (201609 TEDx Marin)

Three brief videos that look at the difficulty of conversation in divisive areas. They stress the need for basic civility and meeting the other in their worldview, all important points in coming to common ground. They all seem to operate from the presupposition that if the other person/people feel respected and acknowledged, then the other will want to find common ground — likely true in many cases.

What is missing for me is what to do when the other has no interest in finding common ground — this is the central breakdown point for me, especially when the other has powerful influence on the outcome (corporations, the fossil fuel industry, et cetera). Our culture usually operates from the seeking of consensus — and the weakness of consensus is that terrorists are not interested in consensus.

In this regard, I am currently reading Deep Green Resistance, a book which delimits the need for resistance beyond the attempt to achieve consensus. It is quite a dense read, and likely I will eventually describe it in greater detail in this blog. For now, I recommend it as an important study in the complexity of change.

The Power Of Doubt

Doubt1

I have gotten into a bit of a funk since a recent David Suzuki article: Caribou science denial cripples conservation efforts (20180628). It underlines the power of doubt for me. The story links to a research article From Climate to Caribou: How Manufactured Uncertainty is Impacting Wildlife Management and discusses the many agencies (well beyond wildlife management, starting with tobacco and psycho-pharmaceuticals) that “employ a ‘multi-pronged strategy of denial’: deny the problem exists, deny its key causes, and claim that resolving the problem is too costly.”

What it raises for me is: Whom do I trust? And what is the nature of Doubt?

In the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed the nature and limitations of meaning, noting in particular that information is not the same as meaning and that too much information interferes with meaning. And as indicated earlier, one of the major ways we deal with this is to seek corroboration from a trusted group (the TIC process).

Another way we deal with meaning is by doubt, critically assessing the information as to whether or not it is consistent with what we already accept. Skepticism (specifically methodological skepticism) is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out truth from falsehood. In many respects, getting uncomfortable and willing to be uncertain, to not know, to ask questions, to err and to fail, is the best and only way to learn, and move forward. It is so much easier to be certain, and for some, being uncertain is a major source of anxiety — the underlying issue of fundamentalism of any kind.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes “Doubt is often defined as a state of indecision or hesitancy with respect to accepting or rejecting a given proposition. Thus, doubt is opposed to belief. But doubt is also contrasted with certainty.” Both aspects, belief and certainty, are fundamental to my concern. Doubt has been a basic structural component of the major ways by which we as a species have valued knowledge, especially in the past 400 years, that of reason (philosophical study) and expiricism (scientific investigation). Doubt was also a major vehicle whereby Socrates sought wisdom, and thus doubt as a useful process has extended throughout our recorded history.

The major difficulty however is that doubt require honesty! The essential problem of dishonesty is that it grossly exaggerates doubt, and thus the deliberate creation of doubt can become a weapon of discouragement. In our current Age of Information (and Duplicity), doubt fails us when our premises are distorted by dishonesty. We become overwhelmed by too much information, at the very least by the inconsistencies inherent in the processing of dishonest information.

I know of no way through this dilemma. I have also found it incredibly difficult to encapsulate this blog — an expression of how doubt impacts.

doubt2

I will fall back on two people:

  • Voltaire: Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd!
  • Christian de Quincey, especially his book Radical Knowing where he talks of other ways of knowing beyond rationalism (the way of philosophy) and experientialism (the way of science): that of participatory feeling and direct mystical experience.
    • Both of these other ways are disparaged in our culture of scientific materialism, yet for me, both offer a way of knowing beyond doubt and certainty.
    • I highly recommend the writings of Christian, a philosopher of great integrity and wisdom, and like those who step out of the box, not well recognized.

Enough.

Cognitive Dissonance

CogDiss02
Unfortunately not a metaphor

At present, I am experiencing cognitive dissonance as I survey various internet sources after the weekend. As I have previously mentioned I am enrolled in a two-year program of contemplative practice, attempting to access a deeper wisdom on the nature of the universe — you could call it seeking God, but for me, it is seeking a worldview that allows me to be at peace. Not easy!

First, I’ve had a great weekend with a men’s group, each of us (at various levels of maturity) seeking that sense of purpose; it was part of the illuman.org program for those who might be interested. Then I come home to the escalating rhetoric between dangerous opponents. Then I note some good news on the climate front — not great news, but news that might give us a slight delay in the tipping points of climate catastrophe. But hurricanes are obviously not waiting for us to sort our differences. Finally a link of how powerful our technology is, in that we might be able to feed the world via biologic manipulation (if we can overcome our reticence — and our immaturity — to be Gods).

How to make sense of all this, and how to respond to it, is beyond me at present. My best case scenario is that mankind be removed from the equation asap — I don’t like this option, but I don’t foresee cultural maturity on the sounding board. What is needed is to take power over power for the greater good (and the resolution of what is the “greater good”).

My next post will likely be on the need to stage a coup.

North Korea accuses Trump of declaring war (20170925)

The escalation of rhetoric is a sad reflection of our immaturity as a species, and in that immaturity, the risk of irreversible consequences is high. My fear is that even if only one side believes their rhetoric, we are in grave danger.

New climate change calculations could buy the Earth some time — if they’re right (20170918)

Potentially good news (if correct), but so different from other models that it will require careful study to determine how well these calculations fit experience. The danger is that a) a more generous margin of safety may be used to justify additional delay, and b) the changing landscape will be used to discount the clarity of scientific consensus (especially as to the significance of man’s technology). Science is never able to prove anything; it can only test for the best and simplest explanation of experience.

This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About (20170921)

To quote: “Hurricanes are built to convert heat energy into wind energy, and seawater’s available energy rises exponentially as it warms.” This says it all — the more energy, the more damage when released.

Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal? (20170920)

If we persist in moving to 10 billion people, we need technology like this. The quality is improving markedly. Now the cost needs to go down, and the acceptance go up.

The Uphill Battle

Uphill1I am constantly amazes by the uphill battle that our species must take in order to manifest our greatness. I believe most people are good-hearted, yet we are constantly engaged in activist work, usually as a result of the power dynamics that drive our civilization.

I’ve previously written on the nature of power, and how I believe it to be the underlying characteristic for the development of civilization. Because our major relationship with power has been that of domination by a small minority, thereby imposing onerous consequences on the majority, we are constantly in this uphill battle. I wonder when we will learn, as a species, that it is not a very productive way to be.

For me, the most recent example of this is the interplay between the Trump administration and the leadership of North Korea, an interplay that brings us close to nuclear war. At some level, the issue is very simple — if North Korea attacks another country, it will be destroyed; it is simply too small a player to avoid this consequence. As such, instead of imposing more sanctions (which thus far have been ineffective), I would advocate for removing all sanctions, demonstrating that the rest of the world wants peace.

The current nature of nationalism does not allow a powerful international body, if there was one, to impose control on any nation, including North Korea (or for that matter, the United States), and as such, negotiation and threat are the only tools available.

Threat does not lead to peace; only peace leads to peace.

Power as a dynamic is no longer a useful phenomena in civilization; the world is too integrated, and the dynamics of power leads too much inequality. However, the world currently runs on power, and thus we must come to terms with having power over power.

The message can be very simple. If you attack another country, we will destroy you. Then, remove all sanctions; demonstrate that we want peace.

Even with this, defensive policies are still necessary. I would thus advocate for an international policy of forestalling the launching of any nuclear missiles by any country, while allowing for counter-measures by other countries. Such a policy might be that of destroying any missiles propelled (by any country) outside of national air space (12 km high), even those sent directly upwards into supposedly international space. This would allow maximal time for counter-measures to block the consequences of such missiles where it is feared that the missiles carry a destructive payload. (An exception would be the launching of single missiles following announcement of the intention to establish a  satellite for scientific purposes.)

In the following links, I suggest that this management of power is underlies what Naomi Klein and others are attempting in nonviolent resolutions.

Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now is the Time to Talk About Climate Change. (20170829)

Naomi Klein, as usual, speaks clearly concerning the issues that become hidden when we are in high anxiety mode responding to catastrophe. The usual stall is “We’ll talk about it later; right now, there is too much pain.” But amidst the next source of anxiety, later never seems to come.

Video: How to Resist Trump’s Shock Doctrine (20170613)

Some very good ideas on the politics of catastrophe, and of how to respond, but as a populus, we are not yet ready. I wonder when and how … (In the light of recent events in Korea, I also find it fascinating that she even names the possibility of war as a pretext for societal injustice, our current dilemma.)

Disturbing New Evidence of How the Trump Era Is Boosting Misinformation and Propaganda (20170907)

We must also come to terms with the age of disinformation.

Dolores Huerta is done being edited out of her own history (20170905)

A more classic way in which disinformation has functioned — ignore the contributions of minorities and women.

The Healing Of Wounds

Wound2
A minor wound; others are major.

For about 25 years, my career was that of a physician, principally as a specialist anesthetist. As such, I was frequently exposed to the consequences of trauma, and the healing of wounds.

The ideal example, for me, of healing would be that of elective surgery in a healthy patient, say someone coming for knee surgery. There are not major compromises of health; the skin is prepped and draped to optimize sterility; a clean incision is made with a scalpel; the tissues are gently handled; the necessary corrections are made; bleeding is controlled; the tissues layers are repaired; and the skin is closed with minimal trauma. A bandage keeps the area clean (although it is mainly to keep blood off the clothing). The area is rested, and gently exercised in progressive manner.

Time passes; a scar result as the tissues heal. In many respects, the scar is stronger than the original tissue, although usually not as flexible.

Contrast this with a wound in an elderly diabetic, say a car accident where the patient has a broken leg with bone protruding through skin and the wound is contaminated with dirt and clothing. The healing will not be nearly as simple, and it is entirely possible that such a patient would require amputation; the patient might even die of complications.

Question: If you think of these two examples as two ends of a metaphoric spectrum, a spectrum of societal healing from trauma, where on the spectrum is the current emotional climate of healing after Charlottesville or the pardoning of the sheriff in Arizona? The following links speak to this for me.

When times get dark, we must shine brighter (20170824)

A good message, but lacking definition as to who and how. Unfortunately, it is simply an admonition of what we should be doing. And readers of this blog likely know how I feel about shoulds. We must come together for something other than more of the same ills of our civilization (my admonition).

The message is also based on the assumption that the alt-right is a last-ditch effort, and will die out soon: “the last desperate efforts of a minority of small-minded people to hold onto ideas and perspectives that history has proven wrong many times.“ I wonder. Our civilization has become so complicated and so dis-empowering that the alt-right may well represent a significant gap in the character of our civilization without a clear alternative. The following links are in keeping with this.

A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned. (20170824)

An excellent investigation into the milieu of the far-right culture, reflecting with compassion on the struggles that have led individuals into these stances. For me, the investigator recognizes that compassion does not mean acceptance; it means emotional acknowledgment as the beginning of resolution.

He also identifies the very real issue of the moderate’s message that we are all in this together, “and if only you people (the alt-right, for example) will get that, we will all be fine.” We must limit the violations (as unacceptable), and still include the validity of the needs of all parties (meeting in compassion).

A black man undercover in the alt-right | Theo E.J. Wilson | TEDxMileHigh (20170814)

An excellent TED talk by the same individual, emphasizing the need for human connection. Humorous at times, and very succinct as to need. Unfortunately, my usual concern is that we are on the knife edge of danger, and must resolve immense issues simultaneously and with only limited time — the usual super-wicked difficulty of our species.

On American Politics

Roger Stone promises a violent response if Trump is impeached (20170824)

On the flip side of healing, given the increasing appearance of the alt-right, is the risk of major escalation, entirely possible in that the situation is so polarized. It is so difficult to make sense of the confusion, … and life will be what it will be.

I was not around during the rise of Hitler in pre-war Germany, but I imagine such threats were common in that situation also. Potentially we are moving to dark times; it will not be fun.

Trump doesn’t seem to like being president. So why not quit? (20170818)

An interesting commentary of the skills required of a president, and the current mismatch. What it does not disclose is what would be required for him to quit by choice, rather than by threatened impeachment.

On Climate Change

The Trump administration just disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change (20170820)

A major set-back in American policy, easily lost amongst the hype and anxiety created by the emotional turmoil of the Trump administration. It may well be that such turmoil is deliberate to defuse responsiveness to more important issues such as this.

What Exxon Mobil Didn’t Say About Climate Change (20170822)

The duplicity of Exxon Mobil is now well-documented. I wonder if the consequences will be more than a slap on the wrist.

More Insanity

What a week in attempting to sort out what is important and what is fluff! Charlottesville and the terrorist attack in Spain are certainly not fluff, but they distract from deeper issues. One of the major difficulties of current politics is that there is so much rancor and uproar that it obscures the very real dangers that exist. This is the nature of more insanity — logical and ethical issues get lost in emotional issues.

Years ago, when I was working as an anesthetist, especially when I was doing intensive care, I was very aware that bad news usually came quickly, and good news only slowly, if at all. I certainly wonder at the possibility of good news following all these cultural and political machinations; we live in such strange times.

In any event, I’m going to start with a couple of positive links this time, then global warming and politics.

Time for Truth and Reconciliation (201708)

As usual, Jack Kornfield speaks from compassion and wisdom; such is needed in our culture (internationally) at this time. If we are to survive as a species, we must learn compassion and cooperation.

This Technology Could Stop the World’s Deadliest Animal (20170814)

Modern technology astounds me at times — this is an example, the management of the mosquito. As well, the article details the attempt of the scientific community to act into a cooperative ethical stance — I applaud this.

Wildfires are a climate change wake-up call (20170817)

Definitely a call to action in British Columbia (where I live), and it should be a call internationally since fire knows no political boundaries. Greenland is an example.

There’s an Unprecedented Wildfire in Greenland. That’s Bad News for the Arctic. (20170811)

Yes, Greenland. I’ve been to Greenland; I’ve never thought of it as having forests, let alone forest fires! Nor had the scientific community to any great extent. Such is one of the unexpected outcomes of global warming.

Trump’s embrace of white supremacists eclipses his blow to U.S. climate resilience (20180818)

A fairly good review of the current climate situation, especially in geopolitical terms.

The other terrible thing Donald Trump did yesterday, you know, plus the neo-Nazi stuff (20170816)

Beneath the angst and conflict is the reality of how destructive our political environment has become. We humans care about the angst, but the science of global warming does not!

Interactive Timeline: Everything We Know About Russia and President Trump (20170807)

A detailed look at the complex issues (for those who want to track them)

A Guide to Russia’s High Tech Tool Box for Subverting US Democracy (20170813)

Again for those interested, this seems to be a good review of the current complexity in Russian international politics.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 7

The need for distrust: betrayal.
Modern complexity is so disruptive of trust.

This is my final post exploring a précis I did of George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome. The bottom line is how we deal with trust.

Chapter 42. In a nutshell. Some personal and highly biased ideas for digging our way out of this hole. Climate change is a scientific fact. Psychological obstacles are also a scientific fact. A large body of rigorous research based evidence suggests that we need to overcome numerous biases against threats that appear to be distant in time and place. We need to make these obstacles explicit, and recognize that many may be subconscious.

Marshall then offers approximately fifteen suggestions based on the extensive research he has personally done, interviewing many diverse groups as to what has been effective in mobilizing response to global warming, and what has not. [Unfortunately, I find this chapter to be the least useful of the entire book, partly because Marshall’s suggestions have not created a large frame for me — they are more a compilation of suggestions, all pointing at climate disruption. What follows is my attempt to give a frame.]

  • Trust is more important than information; emphasize qualities that create trust by telling personal story, and being emotionally honest.
    • Be honest about the danger, while encouraging positive vision. Activate cooperative values, and stress what we have in common. Relate solutions to climate change to sources of happiness.
    • Recognize people’s feelings of grief and anxiety; mourn what is lost, and value what remains.
  • Build a narrative of cooperation. Accept the spectrum of approaches that all parties bring. Create a heroic quest in which the enemy may be our internal weakness rather than an outside group.
    • Follow narrative rules to recognize the actors, motives, causes, and effects. Resist narratives of in-group and out-group; be wary of narrative takeover.
    • People are best motivated when action reinforces identity and social belonging. Emphasize action that makes us proud to be who we are. Enable communications with built-in interaction.
  • Resist simple frames, and be open to new meanings. Be sure that a wide range of solutions is constantly under review.
    • Never assume that what works for you will work for others. Close the partisan gap by affirming wider values.
    • Keep an open mind; be alert to your own biases. Remember experts can also be biased. Learn from your critics.
  • Never accept the frames of opponents: do not negate, repeat, or structure arguments to counter them. We all contribute to climate change; argument simply detracts from narrative.
    • Argument does not establish trust! The very word “opponent” suggests argument! Work to find a way to include the frames presented.
  • Emphasize the climate change is happening here and now. Be wary of creating distance in time and space.
    • Develop conversations about long-term preparedness, emphasizing a narrative of positive change.
    • Recognize moments of proximity that create symbolic moments, adding to emotional narrative.
  • Present climate change as a journey of conviction. Be prepared to learn from religious sources, which are frequently journeys of conviction; invoke non-negotiable sacred values.
    • Remember that how we respond now will provide the template for future responses.

The essential means of communication is personal story. Good communication is meant to be a sharing which leads to change in both originator and recipient. Modern communications, especially media, have been very effective in creating personal story, but usually have minimized the resources of logic and ethics. The modern means of communication whereby individuals leave comments, often anonymously, has generally become a means of diatribe, rather than dialogue. It is the means by which individuals discharge their emotional energy, but unfortunately is usually ineffective:

  • the individual does not fully release their energy, and
  • generally neither originator nor recipient learn from diatribe.

For effectiveness, personal story must be combined with good information, information that is logical and ethical, and which meets the recipient in a manner that the recipient trusts. Unfortunately, this kind of communication is uncommon. Thus it is essential that communicators work to include the frames of “opponents” — those who, often, are simply attempting to include their frames, and come from a position of argument.

From my perspective, the major need is to find promote cooperation by inclusivity. This requires both personal contact and time for relationship to develop. Given that evolving climate disruption has a time frame, I attempt to work in a manner that hopes/trusts that this effort will be enough! It has been my experience over my lifetime, especially in my career as a therapist, that change often comes in totally unexpected fashion, sometimes in what seems miraculous fashion.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 6

The need for distrust: betrayal.
Modern complexity is so disruptive of healthy living.

These posts explore a précis I did of George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome.

One more post to go to complete this series — it has seemed long, but I believe the ideas to be important. The next post, on the final chapter of the book, will summarize my thoughts as well.

Chapter 38. Intimations of mortality. Why the future goes dark. We all know we are going to die, and we used to be able to cope with the thought that our life was contributing to something larger that would survive this. Now even that has been taken away from us. [Such losses overwhelm us.]

One of the destructive aspects of scientific materialism. Human beings respond to emotional narrative — the glory of the material-based cosmos thrills us with its complexity, but does not provide a sense of purpose. This is one of the reasons I ascribe to panpsychism (philosophically) and panentheism (spiritually) — they offer me greater depth of awe.

Chapter 39. From the head to the heart. The phony division between science and religion. Conviction is a condition of strongly held opinion, reached through a personal evaluation of the evidence. We know what needs to be done, and we know how it must be done. Yet, despite the information at our disposal, unfortunately very little is done. It is a long journey from the head to the heart; and an even longer journey from the heart to the hands.

Both science and spirituality seek to honor the cosmos, and are not opposed (although they have been interpreted as such) — the historic division occurred largely because of power politics of the 13th century, sustained since by the self-righteous struggles of both ends of the spectrum. We need a narrative that includes both, but most importantly we need to stop arguing details when we do not recognize the centrality of our ignorance. Then perhaps we could treat the world, this planet and its biosphere, with the respect it deserves.

Chapter 40. Climate conviction. What the green team can learn from the God squad. Climate change appears to be hopeless because people will never be prepared to make a sacrifice based on rational calculation, but this is not the case with religions, which contain sacred values that are so fundamental that they are entirely nonnegotiable. In religion, the reward for belief comes from belonging to a community of believers, and the cost of disbelief is social rejection. The language of climate change is strongly based in guilt and blame, and contains no language of forgiveness. Not surprisingly, people either reject the entire moralistic package, or generate self-forgiveness to ingenious licensing.

What will it take for we humans to know and honor a value system that treats the world appropriately?

Chapter 41. Why we are wired to ignore climate change . . . and why we are wired to take action. The issues of climate change are difficult to challenge; they are complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, invisible, and intergenerational. They require certain short-term loss in order to mitigate against uncertain longer-term loss. They challenged deeply held assumptions about comfort, about gases that we have considered benign, and that our familiar environment has become dangerous and uncertain. Cooperation amongst large numbers of rival social groups is required for a distribution of losses, and thereafter the allocation of the greatly diminished shared atmospheric commons. We all contribute moral responsibility together with the powerlessness of individual action. Climate change is exceptionally multivalent, lending itself to multiple interpretations of causality, timing, and impact. This leaves it extremely vulnerable to our innate disposition to select information so that confirms our pre-existing assumptions. These constructed narratives become so culturally specific that people who do not identify with their values can reject the issue they explain. The bottom line is that we do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates, and the deep changes it requires.

. . . and why we are wired to take action. Nonetheless, we are capable of dealing with all aspects of climate change. We have a virtually unlimited capacity to accept things that might otherwise prove to be cognitively challenging once they are supported by shared conviction, reinforced by social norms,  and conveyed in narratives that speak to our sacred values. We currently feel isolated and powerless, but could readily be mobilized if our concerns and hopes become validated within a community of shared conviction and purpose.

Unfortunately, it is not yet clear at what point we will fully engage in this process. Readers of this blog will know that I do not believe climate change to be a technological issue — it is an emotional issue reflective of our hubris as a species. We have much maturing to do as such.

To be continued.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 5

distrust03
The Central Issue of Our Civilization

These posts explore a précis I did of George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome.

Chapter 31. Precedents and presidents. How climate policy lost the plot. The issue of climate change emerged at the time of unusual optimism, when there were three very recent precedents of proven success and international cooperation: reduction of nuclear arms, reduction of ozone-depleting chemicals, and reduction of acid rain pollution. All were resolved with improved technology. In retrospect, these issues had such strong metaphorical similarities to climate change that policymakers failed to notice the glaring and important differences — the differences between solvable tame problems and multifactorial wicked problems. Unfortunately, these precedents were of an entirely more manageable scale than climate change. As with all frames, these precedents focused the attention, and defined the areas of disattention — thus, climate change could be defined entirely and exclusively is a problem of gases.

Precedents can be unintended disinformation. Only very slowly is our culture coming to recognize the complexity of climate disruption, especially the issues that relate to cultural maturity — my stance that global warming is not a technological issue; rather it arises from the underpinning of our civilization.

Chapter 32. Wellhead and tailpipe. Why we keep fueling the fire we want to put old. From the very beginning, fossil fuel production was outside the frame of climate change. The focus on tailpipe gases ignored wellhead production, including exploration and development. Because climate change is multivalent and wicked, it can have multiple interpretations, but exists only in the frame that people choose to have.

Climate disruption is much more than a greenhouse gas issue. How blind we are to our own follies!

Chapter 33. The black gooey stuff. Why oil companies await our permission to go out of business. The social construction of risk generates CRAP (a.k.a. compulsive risk assessment psychosis). This allows the fossil fuel industry to focus on the future development of technology, especially Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), as a solution to global warming — the optimism of technology and consumerism.

Again, our blindness.

Chapter 34. Moral imperatives. How we diffuse responsibility for climate change. The use of passive voice allows confusion of responsibility. Obfuscation allows governments to create the impression that something is being done, while simultaneously preventing anything from happening.

And unfortunately, some of the blindness occurs by deliberately putting on dark glasses.

Chapter 35. What did you do in the great climate work, daddy? Why we don’t really care what our children think. Professionals assume that their privileged position in the world will immunize their children from the worst impacts of climate change. The choice to have children compels those who have children to write a narrative around climate change in which the overall prognosis becomes more optimistic, their own emissions become less significant, they become less vulnerable, and they accept a world of extreme inequality of future outcomes on their behalf.

Wow. Our biases come to the surface in many diverse ways, especially moved by moralistic slogans.

Chapter 36. The power of one. How climate change became your fault. Climate change is unique in that our individual contributions can be measured down to the last gram; no other global issue has this characteristic. In reality, the promotion of personal responsibility was a narrative gambit to define climate change as a problem that lay at the very furthest end of the tailpipe in the purchasing decisions of the individual. Creating personal responsibility leads to blame and resentment. It is conservatives who have the greatest moral emphasis on personal responsibility; and it is liberal individualists, with their highly individualized values, who are actually the group least suited to working together for a shared goal. Small changes in lifestyle lend license to tomorrow, justifying excess in other areas. What is needed is the power of all, not the power of one.

Guilt is not an effective motivator. There are so many different factors in the way in which narrative is received, and these factors vary from group to group. My experience over the years is that what motivates people is a sense that they can do something in a way that is successful; unfortunately, the super-wicked nature of global warming is such that it will always be two steps forward, and three backwards, and only occasionally will it be four steps forward, perhaps to long-term success. This is not a recipe for engagement.

Chapter 37. Degrees of separation. How climate experts cope with what they know. They cope as human beings, with all the anxieties and inconsistencies of each of us.

As Pogo said: “We have found the enemy. And he is us!” The only way I myself have managed is to bracket my issues. Human like the rest of us.

To be continued.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 4

The need for distrust: betrayal.
Modern complexity is so disruptive of healthy living.

These posts explore a précis I did of George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of this information disheartens me, but it does offer clarity of the issues.

Chapter 22. Communicator trust. Why the messenger is more important than the message. If words are frames and metaphors are meaning, then the person who communicates them is the most important link. Trust is entirely driven by the emotional brain.

From my perspective, this is the essential dilemma — communication is an emotional process, and the messenger is more important than the message.

Chapter 23. If they don’t understand the theory, talk about it over and over and over again. Why climate science does not move people. Denial is due to a surplus of culture, the community one trusts, rather than a deficit of information. One of the best proofs that information does not change people’s attitudes is that science communicators continued to ignore the extensive research evidence that shows that information does not change people’s attitudes. It is personal story that engages people.

Indeed — personal story, but . . . . Over my lifetime, there has been a huge move to engage in emotionality, especially emotional opinion, This personal story engages, but has usually been accompanied by a diminution of logic and ethics. In order to be successful, personal story must be added to logic and ethics — an addition, not a replacement. In addition, because everyone speaks from their own frame with their own metaphors, there have been tremendous turf wars amongst the various contenders.

Chapter 24. Protect, ban, save, and stop. How climate change became environmentalist. The worldview of environmentalists creates a constantly reinforced schema by which climate change is detached from the many other issues (employment, economy, crime, defense) that people care most about. Environmental messaging is not deliberately exclusive; it would like to reach other people, but it is not interested in reflecting other people’s values — it thus excludes them!

War  does not create peace! The turf wars simply add confusion — somehow we need to come together in ways that recognize the commonality of our difficulties.

Chapter 25. Polarization. Why polar bears make it harder to accept climate change. Semiotics is the study of nonlinguistic signs. Climate change, an issue that suffers from a lack of proximity, has chosen an icon that could not be more distant from people’s real life.

The polar bear icon is ineffective! It becomes another component whereby climate disruption is an urgent, but not an important, issue, a distant issue.

Chapter 26. Turn off your lights or the puppy gets it. How doomsday becomes dullsville. There is no easy answer is to how best to communicate the serious threats contained in science in a way that people respect, understand, and heed. In addition, most people in Western culture have a large mental library of failed prophecies of collapse, and thus lose interest in another proposed collapse.

As well, guilt is not a great motivator. “How best” requires personal contact in a manner that the recipient will trust; this is very difficult to achieve in the immensity and complexity of modern culture.

Chapter 27. Bright-siding. The dangers of positive dreams. The downside of positivity, the idea of challenge and ingenious creativity, is driven by a terrible insecurity which requires a constant effort to repress or block out unpleasant possibilities. Bright-siding may promote an aspirational high consumption lifestyle while ignoring the deep inequalities, pollution, and waste that makes that lifestyle possible.

Indeed there are incredible possibilities offered by climate disruption, but the complexity is immense, and essentially requires a major change in our cultural models.

Chapter 28. Winning the argument. How a scientific discourse turned into a debating slam. Political theory is never a good venue for having a rational argument.

Politics is emotional, and usually a morass of turf wars, attempting to preserve the system. Neither scientific discourse nor current politics is prepared for the changes required.

Chapter 29. Two billion bystanders. How Live Earth tried and failed to build a movement. In the absence of a clear objective and a movement that can galvanize an audience into action, concert media creates a global bystander effect, with the audience waiting for us to see if somebody else will do something.

We need a cultural narrative that will motivate.

Chapter 30. Postcard from Hopenhagen. How climate negotiations keep preparing for the drama yet to come. “Setting the stage” is a narrative frame that means that, even when the meetings do not do anything, they are still preparing for the great drama to come.

When?

To be continued.