Much like the frog who will happily sit in a steadily warming pot until he boils to death, a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, finds that 3/4 of Americans think that Climate Change is an important issue, but don’t perceive it as an immediate threat. This Washington D.C based think tank tasks itself with gathering data and providing correlative info behind the issues, trends that shape attitudes in the United States and thus affect the rest of world. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, it turns out that Climate Change has ranked at the very bottom of a list of 20 issues that included Terrorism and the Economy.
The Environment rated abit better in this same 2009 report, at 16 out of 20, but also saw a 15 point decline from 2008.
Of course it stands to reason that building a better future requires a solid foundation, and it’s understandable why Americans would want to get their own household affairs in order before trying to reinvent the wheels of their economy and social fabric. But before a greater vision of the future can even begin to be shared, let alone put into motion, it seems that there are basic credibility issues to be ironed out on the subject of Climate Change.
Americans seem rather divided on the whole issue of Global warming with only 49% believing that it is the result of man-made factors and activities.
36% say warming is occurring “mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere.” About one-in-ten (11%) say “there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer.” There’s also a strong correlation between the results and respondents political ideology, with only 21% of conservative Republicans saying the earth is warming due to human activity, compared with the nearly three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats who see humans as a root cause of Climate Change.
Is this a cognitive disconnect caused by a partisan political outlook? Or are there other more deeply rooted Sociological or even Psychological issues at play here? Could there be a tendency for humans to cower in denial at the prospect of issues that they feel powerless to change? Or are we just incapable of grasping the big picture long enough to see alternate possibilities, and deeper causes ?
Perhaps like the doctors who treat cancer by killing the resulting tumorous cells, we’re just too fixated on alleviating symptoms (reducing greenhouse gases), to address the issue at it’s core.
But how can we achieve a collective consciousness of the root issues, if we are just fighting against the interests of Corporations? How do we supersede the selfish needs and greed of individuals, who are still being fed a high sugar diet of opiated bread, and sensationalized circuses by the powers that be?
Well-networked Communications, as always, will likely be the key to change, and perhaps all the hype about the Information Superhighway from the past decade will finally start to bear healthy fruit for everyone?
Luckily we still have political systems that WILL respond to the Electorate eventually, if first we can find a way to pull in the same direction, and resist the urge to be satisfied by token gestures and public postures. A grassroots movement would likely have to begin in new ways since our Town Halls and public spaces are now more gainfully employed employed by Property Developers, and Entertainment Holding Companies. Political and cultural change can still define our collective fate, but it will likely come about through unusual new vehicles. Perhaps we need to appeal to modern concepts and institutions to develop and share a collective vision.
The quicker we react to the threat (real, perceived, or otherwise) the less we might need to actually change in order to avoid a radical tipping point, and perhaps spare us a great deal of painful change to our lifestyle. So statistically speaking, even small shifts in public perception are better than expending large amounts of energy trying to swing entire, well-entranched segments of Society in this rather polarized subject.
“Divide and Conquer” as has been oft repeated. Perhaps solutions lie, in trying to shift the perceptions of smaller market/demographic segments first. Addressing issues at a cultural, economic, or poli-societal level to create a more ingrained awareness, and generate new demand that can then be tended to and then serviced within the resulting new markets. Anyone who’s interested in gambling would certainly see the potential for payoffs in a free and responsive market, no?
Perhaps treating this thorny ‘Climate Change’ issue like a game might indeed help draw some added interests into the subject. After all, healthy competition, and bold risk-taking is supposedly in the American DNA, so perhaps gambling might be a better sentiment to appeal to in the land of the brave.
Any good gambler will weigh the odds first, of course. What are the risks of say, action vs. inaction, as compared to the payoff? The risks of wrongfully reacting to a bogus version of Climate Change could certainly be onerous, (ie. burdensome regulation, wasted capital and industry, economic depression, downturn in national status, personal lifestyle, a long arduous recovery period), but the payoff could certainly be huge if you first consider assuring the basic survival of the species, teh gains to make of the enabling technologies, (or shorting the destructive players)and of course don’t forget the benefits of keeping insurance rates down on all that depreciated sea-front property in the process. If after taking the necessary precautions however, it indeed turns out that the whole climate change scare was simply nothing more than a natural cyclical phenomena (or something equally far-fetched), then there’d certainly be much gnashing of teeth. All those Creationists would finally get to lynch the Scientific community at last, and politicians would be falling all over their tongues (and swords) to backpedal from all the wasted resources that went into reacting to those bogus claims with such extreme corrective measures. But at least certain industries would have been given huge shots in the arm, and new wars could simply be waged to recover lost oil and political interests. Surely
The converse scenario however (where Climate Change is real) can play out in a wide variety of ways. Starting with the worst case scenario where very non-linear systems could suddenly create highly unstable geological, oceanic, and weather patterns that could then throw climate change projections right off their current curves, and we get slammed with much steeper changes, and far sooner than expected. This would be the result of an exponential curve, suddenly hitting a “tipping point” where the climate radically and suddenly de-stabilizes towards maximum entropy as it seeks a new functional model. Feel free to review the following lecture, if you want to go off the deep end of exponential curves:
Inaction of course is also an action (in and of itself), and is always a very real risk, especially when you consider that we’re already saturated with causes and issues. Recall that Human nature is to tend towards an insular outlook when under duress, and just take care of our most immediate needs while just quietly hoping for the best. Then there is also the very real possibility that we are simply acting far too slowly to effect required changes quickly enough, and in time to alter the course of history. While we deliberate and weigh various options, strategies, and consequences, the catastrophic spectre of flooding, droughts, famine, disease epidemics, and radical climate events that destroy infrastructure and Society as we know it – become all the more possible, all the time. If a Gambler where to look at the potential payoff between choosing action or inaction, then the risks of NOT acting would FAR outweigh the risks of acting in error. Seems like a pretty small and relatively safe bet to make (hedge?) against a far, far bigger loss. So why not take a chance on some new technologies and cultural perspectives. Maybe the nature of politics (if not Human nature itself) could change (evolve?) in the process as well. What have we got to lose?
The significant point, in all of this speculative rambling about playing games with the Environment, is that we we only get to play this game ONCE…None of us can just get up from the table and saunter over to the buffet while we sit out a round, and then get back in where we left off.
We all keep playing with whatever few chips we might have, even if we just get to ante up with nothing more than our taxes, over and over again.
The game will inevitably play itself out, one way or another of course. It’s up to every individual to decide what they’re playing for as it does, and what side of the table they’re going to place their bet on.