In my last post, I said (in effect) that I sometimes think I should jump up and down and scream bloody murder about environmental dangers to get people up off their keisters and ready to act. I know, however, that terrifying people won’t work. When sensible people face a gigantic, horrifying opponent, they figure there’s no sense in fighting what is sure to be a losing battle, so they look for a means of escape.
Okay, now what I’m about to say is just a theory, but I think this response to trouble probably goes back to early childhood. After being beaten to a pulp the first time by a big kid from down the block, we quickly decide what we’ll do if there’s ever a next time: RUN as fast as our little legs can carry us. And where will we run? To someplace safe and comforting.
So now, when we’re faced with a problem like climate change that is much too big for us to cope with as individuals, we naturally want to escape the anxiety that comes with thinking about the scary facts; instead we turn to movies, social media, alcohol, video games, sex, food—whatever.
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S’okay, with that stuff said, let’s return to the part in my last post where I was imagining I was on a yacht headed for Niagara Falls.
As you may recall, I did try to warn the other passengers about the approaching danger. But not wanting to be a buzzkill, I dialed back the intensity of my concern and sauntered calmly from one group to the next, saying, “Uh, pardon me, but do you realize we’re headed straight for Niagara Falls?” much in the way I might have said, “Say, old chap, would you pass the Grey Poupon?” And surprise, surprise. No one on the yacht felt compelled to spring into action.
But if I had pressed my case more forcefully, if I had convinced my imaginary boat-mates that the danger was real, I strongly suspect they would have taken the necessary steps to solve the problem. And there would have been no need to tell the passengers that a plunge over the falls would be hazardous to their health or the captain that wrecking the ship and killing the passengers would be, at a minimum, bad for business. By virtue of being sentient human beings, everyone would know the probable consequences of that plunge, so merely convincing them that the falls lay dead ahead would be enough to motivate a preemptive action, especially one as simple as turning a wheel.
Well, in the past, attempting to deal with global warming (a.k.a., climate change, a.k.a., global weirding) has been a different proposition. Unlike a plunge over Niagara Falls, which everyone knows would be disastrous, the proportion of Americans who accept that global warming is even occurring—much less that its consequences will be catastrophic—has fluctuated for decades. From poll to poll, a significant percentage of people switch between “probably is” to “probably isn’t” and back again. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to sense that we’ve reached a point where acceptance of the unfortunate truth is solidifying.
And if that’s true then perhaps the time has arrived when it makes sense to start yelling: “WAKE UP! WAKE UP, EVERYBODY! It’s time to grab the steering wheel and turn this boat around!”
There’s no need to scare everyone by droning on about the gruesome consequences of global warming and thereby risk a stampede for the first available escape hatch. Now that we accept the existence of the danger, we don’t need to be horrified, we simply need to rally to the call and learn what we can do to turn the boat (I mean the ecosphere) around.