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‘Can Sandy Help Jolt America Out of Climate Change Denial?’

The question in the headline is posed by Mark Hertsgaard. I think it’s an excellent query. My guess as to the answer: A fairly skeptical maybe.

Why do ordinary people reject “climate change”? We know why so many Electeds reject, ignore or at least minimize it: money. Which comes from those for whom they work, to get or keep them in offices so they can keep doing that work.

But why do so many ordinary people deny climate change? What’s in it for them?
It’s a good question: “Can Sandy Help Jolt American out of Climate Change Denial?” Just as was “Can Katrina” do something similar. Sandy might be bigger, simply because so many more people — and more fundamentally yet, so many more Very Important People — were / are directly affected. But will the “jolt” be of the usual kind, following a disaster, the kind that disappears fairly quickly? In this case, there’s a scheduled “reason” to turn away, or at least to spin the story in one particular direction: November 6.

From Hertsgaard’s piece:

Sandy is short for Cassandra, the Greek mythological figure who epitomizes tragedy. The gods gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy; depending on which version of the story one prefers, she could either see or smell the future. But with this gift also came a curse: Cassandra’s warnings about future disasters were fated to be ignored.

And the warnings of scientists regarding climate change have, in fact,

… been by and large ignored–at least within the corridors of power in Washington. As in the myth of Cassandra, today it remains unclear whether even the latest catastrophe–the devastation of America’s greatest city, its center of commerce, finance and, tellingly, the news media–will cause the nation to wake up and take serious action.

Hertsgaard sees a “sign of hope” in Bill Clinton, campaigning for Obama in Minneapolis, “calling out”

… Romney for ridiculing the idea of fighting climate change, thereby becoming the first political heavyweight to explicitly link Sandy with climate change. …

Obama himself, however, has not linked Sandy with climate change, thereby continuing the climate silence that has characterized both his and Governor Romney’s presidential campaigns.

As Hertsgaard writes, “there is no reason to continue disregarding scientists’ warnings about where our current path leads.” For more reading along those lines, see George Lakoff at Alternet, “Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy”; Ruby Cramer at Buzzfeed, “Sandy Forces Media And Politicians To Talk About Climate Change”; and Paul Barrett at Bloomberg Business Week, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” also posted by Taylor here.

With the latest example of Sandy perhaps more people will move out of denial, or even just lack of attention. Hertsgaard:

The solutions we need–a dramatic increase in energy efficiency; a rapid shift to solar, wind and other clean energy sources; a reversal of our current government subsidy patterns to champion climate-friendly rather than climate-destructive policies; and much else–are already available. …

I come back to the “why” of denial, minimizing, inattention, by so many people. And at least in part, I think Hersgaard has one answer. It isn’t new or unique, but it’s one that’s made sense to me, and lots of others, for a long time. And it’s well said by Hertsgaard.

The challenge of climate change is no longer a technical one, if it ever was. The challenge has always been primarily … political and ultimately economic, as exemplified by the de facto veto power the richest industry in human history, Big Oil, has long exercised over US federal policy. …

The question Hurricane Sandy really raises, then, is how long Big Oil will be allowed to hold the government of the United States hostage.

Which leads me back again to the “why” question, and a follow up to “how long Big Oil will be allowed to hold the government of the United States hostage.” Two questions, actually. First, if by “government” we mean the Electeds, then why think they’re being held hostage? They’re complicit, willing partners. The second question follows: How long will it take the people to say “no more”?

Or, to go back to the question in the headline: “Can Sandy Help Jolt America Out of Climate Change Denial?” Only if we of America allow it to do so.

(All In This Together via OWS Photos)

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8 Responses to ‘Can Sandy Help Jolt America Out of Climate Change Denial?’

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter November 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Frankly those with functioning brains already accept the reality of climate change….but like those with functioning brains who accept that the Theory of Evolution dicribes the mechanics of the FACT of evolution the same people don’t “believe” them no pointy headed scientists!!

    • Joyce Arnold November 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      I hold out hope that there are more with “functioning brains” who simply haven’t been paying attention, and will start doing so.

      A couple of weeks or so ago, I heard someone — a very intelligent someone in many ways — express “disbelief” in climate change. It made me wonder, again, where the disconnect or whatever it is that happens that ends up assessing scientific investigation by way of “belief.”

      • secularhumanizinevoluter November 1, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

        Ask pat Robertson or any othe the other baying at the moon shit house rat crazy fundie/UBERChristians and telegelicals.

  2. Jane Austen November 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Americans plan only for the short term never for the long term. We don’t think what will it be like 50 years, 100 years down the line? That’s unfortunate because our children and their children are going to have a pretty messed up environment. I want to believe that we as a people have come to some kind of understanding about what we are doing to the planet and what is causing it. Only time will tell. The sad part of all of this is that we have the brains in this country to come up with all kinds of alternatives and answers but we continue to sit on our butts.

    • Joyce Arnold November 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      The “short term” attention thing is a big factor, I agree. Not that I’ll be here to see it, but I can imagine the conversations three, four generations from now , wondering how the climate change deniers managed to so successfully subvert and hinder common sense responses. Then again, there may very well still be people in those generations declaring it’s just all a part of the natural cycle and things will back to “normal” any decade now …

      • Jane Austen November 1, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

        Joyce – Something tells me many people just aren’t curious anymore. How many people are paying attention to what is going on with Curiosity on Mars? I have always loved the space program from the very beginning. We’re fortunate to have the NASA channel so we are able to watch the reports when they come in. But then I’ve always loved science; I married a scientist. Some days ago Taylor mentioned the fact that we don’t bury our electric cables. We could do that; it would cost money but isn’t there some enterprising person out there who could come up with an idea for doing that and making it inexpensive? We could create a whole new industry because it would take a lot of people. I’ve often thought about some form of radiant heat in the streets so we wouldn’t have to plow the snow. I was told this was off the wall thinking but if we can send a space craft to Mars why can’t we come up with some really great ideas for life on earth? I know I’m dreaming.

        • Joyce Arnold November 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

          Lack of curiosity surely does enter into things, too. I get it, that for many people, so much time and energy are spent in just getting through a day, a week, that there isn’t much time, money or energy left. I think that’s a factor, too.

          I’m still trying to process the idea that the U.S. is privatizing space exploration. Looking back, it sort of seems that once we “won” the race to the moon, and then especially once the “opposition,” the USSR disappeared, we couldn’t find the energy or interest to stay with it. Now if climate change could have a big, bad Other Guy to blame and “beat,” maybe we’d get more interest.

          Anyway, I like the dreaming you talk about. We need it :)

  3. TPAZ November 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    The only we hope have is if the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate stand on their hind legs and start introducing legislation on global warming. BTW, calling global warming climate change is like liberals calling themselves progressives; you’re defeated before advancing the argument in the affirmative.

    You don’t see conservatives calling themselves right-of-center moderates.

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