Nearly 70 percent of Americans now say that climate change is caused mainly by human activity, the highest percentage since Gallup began tracking it two decades ago. The number of Americans who say they worry “a great deal” about climate change has risen by about 20 percentage points. But people don’t change their minds easily about controversial issues. So what is behind this trend?
In order to talk about extinction anxiety I first need to address epistemological anxiety, otherwise, you won’t know if what I am saying to you is a bunch of ‘fake news’ served up by yet another privileged white male. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy concerned with how we come to have knowledge about anything at all. In the age of Trumpism, this is a question about truth and lies. Like the negative space on a painter’s canvas, Trump’s compulsive lying (averaging about five a day since he became President, according to the New York Times) brings into stark relief the question of what truth is and how we come to know it. It raises the question of our own critical thinking skills in assessing the veracity of information sources and our own predisposition to believe false information that reinforces our entrenched positions. Furthermore, Trump has introduced a new form of lying to the political sphere, lying as entertainment
The very sobering data of our planetary predicament
How Greed, Fear, And Our Own Biases Blind Us To The Reality Of Climate Change, By James S. Gordon, MD
But it’s the psychological factors, and the biology in which they’re grounded, that sustain denial.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lifton talks about how far into this swerve we are, how natural disasters are critical in changing people’s minds about climate change, and the losing battle the Trump administration is fighting by continuing to deny the science behind global warming. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to take the stand of climate rejection,” he says, “because there is so much evidence of climate change and so much appropriate fear about its consequences.”
To maintain our capacity to address climate change, we need to recognize and address the trauma it creates.
That’s right, folks. While the Search For Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) spent the last three decades fruitlessly scanning the heavens in search of alien signals … we’ve actually been surrounded by a miraculous variety of intelligence on the only planet we know for a fact sustains life.
I have to honestly think of myself as deeply cynical and hopeless in relation to what I believe our cultural systems and institutions can ultimately provide us. A new deal with the old dealers won’t save us. New dealers in the same game won’t either. A new game, or an assortment of new games, might. The needed change is fundamentally a cultural change, not a piece of legislation or a piece of technology, and it is a change that is struggling from many directions to break through. The mainstream culture is focused on news-making individuals, institutions and events – not systems – so this cultural shifting is relatively invisible and under-reported. Have faith in it, be on the look out and maybe even jump in somewhere
But action doesn’t depend on what might happen. The authors of Savage Grace want us to do the right thing, regardless of what occurs. In their previous book, Return to Joy, the authors advise seeking not “happiness,” a Jeffersonian goal, but a state closer to such virtues as equanimity and compassion, plus resistance to evil and devotion to service.
Introduction To Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night Of The Globe, By Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker
Let’s get real and face together the likelihood that the human race now has two possibilities before it: An extreme crisis that leads to the survival of a bedraggled and traumatized remnant in a vastly degraded world, or the total annihilation of that world. We can never rule out, of course, the possibility of a sudden evolutionary leap in humanity or even miraculous divine intervention, but we would be narcissistic fools to count on them. We have come to the current situation because we have drunk a deadly cocktail of illusion. Our only hope now, rugged though it is, is in daring to live beyond the need for any kind of magical thinking—beyond, in fact certainty of any kind. We must take complete responsibility for the horror we have engendered and for the response we are now called to make to that horror, whatever happens. Such a response demands of us something far deeper than what conventional religions and visions of activism call for–nothing less than living and acting from the Self, both without illusion and totally committed to compassion and justice even, if necessary, in hopeless situations.