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)