When progressives are seduced by misinformation

“If you think that something in the cow’s digestive process changes the climate, there is something seriously wrong with you”

A social media friend posted this quote. She is someone who seems to care deeply about people and nature and is generally progressive in terms of politics.

This brings up a few things for me.

WHY DID SHE POST IT?

Why did she post it? I assume she may be one of the progressives naively seduced by misinformation. This type of misinformation often originates on the far-right and is – more or less consciously – designed to undermine sane collective action. (Anti-woke is another example of a far-right bandwagon that some naive progressives seem happy to jump on.)

Maybe she wanted to seem smart or anti-establishment? Maybe she wanted to fuel and present a certain identity?

Maybe she knows someone with that attitude and she wants to join in with them?

WHOSE INTERESTS ARE YOU SPEAKING UP FOR?

Here are some questions that come up for me…

Did you consider where that information and attitude come from? (You may find it’s most popular on the far right.)

Did you check to see if there is any solid science behind it? Did you consider if it would hold up in a court of law? (It certainly would not because it’s not funded in science or reality.)

Did you consider that you may be wrong if you see it one way based on whatever, and tens of thousands of scientists from everywhere in the world – who have spent decades studying it – have a different view?

Did you consider who you are aligning yourself with? Did you consider whose interests you are speaking up for? (In this case, it’s the beef industry. In a broader sense, it’s anyone who think they benefit from preventing a shift into a more sustainable civilization.)

Did you consider what those attitudes lead to? (Distrust of science, undermining of sustainable changes.)

Do you value staying close to reality, or something else like belonging or fueling a certain identity? (The second is fine, and it’s good to be honest about it.)

Did you consider that these attitudes undermine what you appear to care deeply about? (Taking care of nature and animals.)

If you love nature, why do you promote attitudes not supported by science that undermine sane actions to protect nature?

LOOK AT MORE THAN ONE CONNECTION

When you look at the connections between two things, it’s good to look at more than one connection.

In this case, what are some of the connections between cows and climate change?

An obvious one is that the digestive process of cows (the need for grass) destroys the Amazon at a rapid pace and that hugely impacts our climate and all of us.

There are more than one billion cows in the world. How can that not significantly impact our climate? They need an enormous amount of grass and grain, which means cutting down large areas of forests and vegetation. This changes the local and regional climate. It creates a dryer and hotter climate. When this happens around the world, it inevitably changes our global climate.

You cannot leave that out.

THE SPECIFIC TOPIC

To address the narrow topic she likely referred to: Methane from cows and climate change.

One cow can produce 250-500 liters of methane a day. With more than a billion cows, that’s a huge amount of methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas. It works like a greenhouse. It allows light through but not heat.

Light passes through glass / our atmosphere -> the energy of the light is converted to heat when it hits matter -> and that heat is then trapped in the greenhouse / our planet.

It obviously will impact our climate. It’s inevitable. It’s simple physics.

Our planet is small and the atmosphere is thin. It doesn’t take that much to significantly change our atmosphere, and with it our climate and all we know.

This is all simple. It’s what you learned in elementary school.

SANE ACTION

When it comes to cows, there is a sane approach:

(a) Reduce the number of cows in the world and (b) change the way they live and are fed.

Eating meat is hugely inefficient when it comes to land use. It’s far more efficient for us to eat lower on the food chain. It’s also more healthy for us. It helps the cows often living in terrible conditions. And it helps protect nature and our ecosystems.

It’s fine to have some cows, but it’s better – for them and us – if they live outdoors as much as possible, on land that’s managed well. (For instance, silvopasture.)

This is sane action whether or not there is climate change (there is), whether or not it’s human-created (it is), and whether or not methane from cows contributes to it (it does).

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Climate change or not: We need to transform our civilization anyway

THE ESSENCE: WE NEED TO TRANSFORM OUR CIVILIZATION ANYWAY

There is a simple common-sense approach to climate change:

These are changes we need to transform our civilization no matter what. Human-created climate change or not, we need to shift our civilization into being ecologically sustainable. We need to take ecological realities into account in every aspect of how we collectively live.

We use nearly two Earths’ worth of resources at any moment, which means all of the resources will eventually be depleted unless we make drastic changes. We use more resources than Earth has the capacity to regenerate, and we depend on those resources for our life and survival.

AND SOME ADDITIONAL POINTS

The discussion about whether climate change is happening (it is) and whether it’s created by humans (it is) has little to no practical relevance in this context. It’s a distraction and a side track.

That said, I will pretend it does mean something in the following points:

It makes sense to follow the precautionary principle. If something has potentially serious consequences, we need to take it seriously. We need to prepare for it. We need to act as if it’s going to happen. That’s what we do in other areas of life, so why not with something as potentially disastrous as climate change?

Experts in the field all agree: (i) We are in the middle of climate change. (ii) It’s created by human activities. And (iii) it likely has severe consequences for our civilization. In other areas of life, we listen to and generally trust experts, especially when they all say the same. So why not also here?

The ones disagreeing are typically not experts in the field, they are amateurs. Many are on the payroll of the oil companies. And we know that the oil companies have had an intentional disinformation campaign going for decades. So why trust what they say?

The changes in climate we currently see closely fit predictions from the early climate change models from the 1970s. They fit what we expect to see if (i) there is climate change, (ii) it’s human-created, and (iii) we don’t do much to change it. It does not fit natural cycles explained by solar activity etc. It does not fit what we would expect if it was natural and not created by civilization.

Although the climate is immensely complex, the basic principles of climate change are simple. Even a child can understand and observe it, and people predicted it more than a hundred years ago. In a greenhouse, short waves (light) enter through the glass, hit a surface and become longer waves (heat), and that heat is partially trapped by the glass. There is a net gain of heat. And greenhouse gasses do the same. Short waves (sunlight) pass through our atmosphere, hit a surface and become heat, and the greenhouse gasses trap the heat. Just like a greenhouse heats up because of the glass, the atmosphere and planet heats up because of greenhouse gasses. Our civilization produces a lot of greenhouse gasses and changes the composition of the atmosphere. What we are seeing is exactly what we would expect to see.

NOTHING NEW

This is not a new or uncommon way to look at it.

To me, it’s just common sense, and I have seen it this way since my teens in the ’80s. I remember a conversation with a teacher about this in my high school where I pointed out that climate change is irrelevant since we need to make the same changes anyway. (He disagreed and I probably remember it since it seemed odd to me.)

CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL TAKES DIFFERENT FORMS

For whatever reason, there is still a lot of denial around this.

In the past, some denied climate change is happening but that’s not possible anymore. (Unless you want to deny the climate data and what you can see around you with your own eyes.)

These days, some like to deny it’s related to human activity.

Why do some deny that it’s human-created? Because it’s too scary? Or require a deep transformation of our worldview and our civilization? Or because it’s a threat to your identity to admit that scientists and progressives were right? None of those seem a good reason to me.

WHY THE SLOW CHANGE?

Even if most of us agree it’s happening and it’s serious, we collectively don’t do much to change it. We deny its seriousness and that we need a profound transformation in our collective and individual lives.

Why don’t we collectively do enough to change it?

There are many reasons for this.

Systems inherently try to keep stable. Systems stay dynamically stable until they reach a tipping point, and denial is an expression of the system trying to maintain its current (outdated) state. The denial and complacency are expressions of this dynamic inherent in all systems.

Election cycles are typically between two and six years, and addressing climate change requires planning on a much longer timespan – decades and centuries. If politicians do something now, we won’t see the effects until decades later so even if they personally would like to work on it, they don’t have systemic incentives to do so.

We think someone else will take care of it, either other people alive today or future generations.

We think the crisis will happen in the future, so we push the problem onto future generations. (Even if we are right in the middle of it already.)

Many are voiceless in our system. Non-human beings and future generations don’t have an effective voice in our society, in our politics, and in business decisions. The ones who have the strongest reasons to want a change have no voice. (We can give them a voice by appointing advocates for them who have a real say in politics and business decisions.)

We think someone will come up with a simple technological solution, so we don’t need any fundamental changes in our worldview and how we collectively organize ourselves. (We may find technological solutions, but they will never be enough on their own.)

Collectively and individually, we are busy dealing with our day-to-day life and challenges We may end up using most of our resources to deal with immediate climate crisis challenges, and find it difficult to make the real and systemic changes required.

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Historic shifts

We are always living history, any moment is a shift in history, and some shifts are more historical and significant than others.

I have written about the topics of this article in several other posts, mainly under the “Reflections on society, politics, and nature” collections. But I’ll repeat the essence here.

TRUMP ERA

I wasn’t really surprised when Trump was elected, mainly because I had followed 538 closely before the 2016 election and they gave Trump a 1 to 4 chance of winning. (Out of four times the polls looked the way they did, Trump would win one time.)

The main risk of the Trump presidency is and was an erosion of democracy. Even before the election, it was clear that this was a man who did not respect democracy, democratic values, civil and grounded discourse, or a wish to create a society that works for everyone. His words and behavior legitimized bigotry, lies, polarization, anti-democratic views and actions, and much more. And that’s going to change the culture around politics. It’s going to legitimize this type of behavior on a larger scale, and that’s going to have direct and indirect ripple effects around the world. And that’s exactly what happened, and is still happening.

When Trump lost to Biden, I saw it as likely that the next election would be between Trump and Harris. Biden may be too old to continue, and Trump is like a pitbull who will never give up or admit defeat. He would love to come back and undo whatever any sane president over the last several decades put in place before him. Right now, he certainly has enough support in the US to do just that.

CURRENT MIDTERM ELECTIONS

Today is the midterm elections in the US, and Trumpists are likely to win several of the seats, and this will further change the political culture and erode democracy. (Including through gerrymandering, court appointments, and so on.)

It seems that these midterm elections, which usually bring only minor changes, may have larger and more lasting consequences this time. This may very well be a significant historical change in US history, and one that will have ripple effects in the world. (For instance, Ukraine may lose much of its current support from the US.)

US CIVIL WAR

There has been a lot of talk about a coming civil war in the US, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that will happen. (The seeds of it are already there and some, in their insanity, actively want a civil war.)

It obviously won’t be like the last US civil war. It will be a far less formalized civil war. It looks like it may be a kind of civil war between far-right militia groups and the rest of society, and they will target the ones they see as their enemy – progressive politicians, judges and courts that actually uphold the law, police that won’t allow renegades and violence, liberal community activists, and so on.

And who knows where it will go from there. It may be that mainstream society cracks down on it, although that’s not likely if Trumpists are in charge locally and/or federally. (I say “Trumpist” instead of Republicans since there are still some Republican politicians who favor democracy, although these have increasingly been squeezed out of the party.) This kind of low-grade but terrible civil war may continue for years or even decades.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Although Trump does influence politics and society, he is mostly a symptom. He is a symptom of white folks in the US feeling threatened because their privileged position may be lost. After all, the demography is against them, and many educated folks in the US actively promote a deeper and more real equality between this traditionally privileged group and the rest of the population.

And he is also a reflection of a much larger global trend away from democracy and towards authoritarian regime systems. The world is increasingly becoming less democratic. For me, as a Northern European steeped in democratic values, this is a strange and disturbing trend. I cannot see how this is going to help the majority of people, the world, and future generations. At least not in any obvious or immediate way.

And yet, it seems that many around the world actively hold anti-democratic values. They support authoritarian leaders. Perhaps it’s because they offer simplistic (unrealistic) solutions? Or because they share conservative values, often based on religion? Or because they offer someone to blame, whether it’s a minority in their own country, the west, or someone else?

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

For me, conspiracy theories are a part of this shift into a more uninformed anti-science and anti-democratic mindset and culture. That’s obviously the case when it comes to far-right conspiracy theories, and it’s the case with conspiracy theories in general no matter what flavor they have.

What conspiracy theories have in common is that distract from far more serious issues that we all face and can see are happening. The obvious one is that we live in the middle of a major ecological crisis that will impact all of us and may end civilization as we know it. (That is the case independent of the climate crisis, due to all the other kinds of damage to our ecosystems.) And we have a wide range of other and related crises including hunger, lack of clean water, preventable diseases, huge disparity between wealthy and poor, and political and social systems that holds all of this in place.

OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS IS OUR MAIN PRIORITY

Anyone who does not put our ecological crisis as their main priority in their personal life and in their politics has not understood what’s happening.

If you listen to the scientists and use a minimum of common sense (we collectively use far more resources than the Earth can produce), you can see the huge ecological crisis we are in the middle of. You can see where we are headed. And you’ll put that as the main priority in your life and in your political and social life.

Personally, I keep this at the forefront of the main decisions I make in my life these days. (As outlined in other articles.) It’s my main priority when I vote and support political parties and policies. (How can it be anything else?) And a large part of my working life has been focused on this. (I was the paid coordinator of a local sustainability group that focused on cooperation and solutions to the problems we all face together.)

Our ecological crisis is our main priority whether we notice or not, and whether we consciously have it as our main priority or not. Life is not giving us an option.

WE NEED REALITY ORIENTATION TO DEAL WITH OUR CURRENT CRISIS

Trumpists politics is obviously very dangerous just for its anti-democratic orientation and effect.

And something is even more dangerous there, and that is that its anti-reality. They don’t care about what’s actually happening. They don’t care about science. They don’t care about experts. They don’t care about the numbers. (If they don’t like them.)

And that’s the case with conspiracy theories in general. The vast majority of them are inherently anti-reality. They are founded on bad logic and bad data.

People mostly go into conspiracy theories for emotional reasons and then rationalize to make bad logic appear like good logic. For whatever reason, it feels emotionally satisfying to them to go into conspiracy theories. They generally don’t care about science, experts, real logic, history, or whatever else we as a society need to base our decisions on.

And that’s very dangerous. Especially in a time of collective crisis, we need to base our collective decisions on solid science and data. It’s the only sane approach. It’s the only approach that has any chance of working.

THE NEED FOR PROFOUND SYSTEMS CHANGE

I have written about all of this in several other articles, including our need for systems change. (I wrote about this in my teens as well, long before blogs.)

The cause of our ecological crisis, and a large number of other problems, is the way our social and economic system is set up.

It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological dynamics and limits into consideration. For all practical purposes, the resources of nature were unlimited, and the capacity of nature to absorb waste was unlimited. It made sense, at the time, to ignore it. We ignored it because We could.

We still live within these outdated systems.

And now, we can’t ignore ecological realities anymore. We are well past the time when we had that luxury.

We need a profound change in our systems of economy, production, food, water, education, and so on.

We need to create systems in all areas of human life that deeply and thoroughly take ecological realities into account.

We can definitely do it. There is no lack of solutions and grounded visions.

And it’s very possible to find attractive solutions that help us thrive as individuals and society, even more than now.

What we lack is a collective will. Are we going to find that collective will in time?

We are already past the time when we could prevent major ongoing ecological crises. We’ll have to live and deal with them no matter what. The question is how serious it will be, not whether it will happen.

Will we find it at all? I am not sure. It’s possible, and we’ll have to live and make decisions as if it’s possible.

NOTE: Just to mention it – Biden is currently president of the US, the democrats have the house and senate, we are just out of a regularly scheduled pandemic and there will be more to come, there is a war in Ukraine impacting the whole world, scientists and the UN say that it’s the end of civilization unless we engage in major rapid and collective changes, and most people continue with business as usual as if we are not in a disastrous ecological crisis.

Here are a couple of recent mainstream media articles on these topics:

World is on ‘highway to climate hell’, UN chief warns at Cop27 summit

‘These are conditions ripe for political violence’: how close is the US to civil war?

UPDATE: It’s now a few days after the mid-term election in the US and it seems the Trumpists didn’t do as well as expected. That’s good news for democracy. Maybe it shows that many people in the US still are sane enough to choose a more democratic and inclusive approach. Nothing is linear, and politics and society would move away from Trump at some point. Perhaps that’s now?

I lived in the US for twenty years which is partly why I am interested in what’s happening there.

How to deal with climate anxiety & grief?

More people seem to experience climate crisis anxiety and grief, often from a combination of the changes we experience personally and what we know from scientists. And it goes beyond just the climate crisis, it’s connected with the larger ecological crisis we are in the middle of.

As usual, there are several sides to this.

An opportunity to heal person wounds

One is that our current climate crisis can trigger our own personal wounds. Some of the grief and anxiety we experience may have roots early in our life, and it’s good to address this. In this way, the climate crisis triggers something in us that is in need of healing anyway, and if we are willing and able to invite in healing for it, it can be a great gift for us.

The beauty inherent in our grief and anxiety

The anxiety and grief we experience from the loss of ecosystems – and the loss of them as they were – is natural and healthy. It shows we are consciously and emotionally connected to the wider living systems that we already are physically connected with, embedded within, and dependent on for our survival and well-being. It comes from love, so there is an immense beauty inherent in this anxiety and grief.

It’s important to acknowledge and honor our anxiety and grief, and see the inherent beauty in it.

Practical steps in the world

What practical steps can we take in our life and the world?

It’s perhaps most helpful to engage in a constructive way, even if it’s something small. It can be something local, doable, and where we see the effects relatively quickly. For instance, composting, eating more local food and lower on the food chain, switching part of the lawn to wildflowers or food-producing plants, make a habit of doing something else – dance, go into nature – when we notice an impulse to shop, joining a local group working on fun and constructive projects, and so on.

We can also engage in visions of the future we want, and share it with others. We can do this through writing, art, reading, learning about alternatives, and perhaps even get started on this in our own life. For instance, and if we wanted to make a bigger step, we could join an ecovillage or ecovillage project.

It’s equally important to work on stopping the destruction and although some are cut out for this, it can also be draining unless we are very conscious of how we approach it. The more we see people as enemies, get focused on the destruction, expect quick results, go into victimhood and hopeless thought patterns, and so on, the easier we get burnt out. And the more we can avoid enemy-making, look at all the constructive signs and movements, keep the big and long term picture in mind, celebrate small victories, stay connected with nature and have a sense of connections with future generations, and so on, the more likely we are to avoid burnout.

Exploring it further for ourselves

We can also explore this further.

What stressful beliefs do I have about the climate crisis or the larger ecological crisis? What do I find when I explore these? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

What fears and identities are triggered? What do I find when I explore them? (Living Inquiries.)

How would it be to make a habit of releasing tension out of my system around this? (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises.)

How would it be to deeply acknowledge what comes up in me around it and intentionally connect with nature and past & future generations? And to do so with a group of similar-minded people? (Practices to Reconnect.)

How would it be to notice that it all – my thoughts and emotion and the world and the crisis – happen within and as what I am? (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

Mia Werger: When our fight for the future is finally over, our communities will still be here – it will be a beautiful place to start

The world may be crumbling, but I am part of a generation—a community—that gets to tackle that problem. We get to take what we’ve been given, and design it in a completely new way. When our fight for the future is finally over, our communities will still be here. It will be a beautiful place to start.

– Mia Werger in How the Climate Change Generation Is Redefining Community in Yes! Magazine

My vision is of a world where we have passer through our current ecological-social bottleneck, and where our communities are stronger for it, at least in some regions of the world.

The other climate change denial

When we talk about climate change (or climate crisis) denial, we usually mean denial of it happening or that it’s created by humans. Although this gets a lot of attention, it’s fortunately not so widespread. When it happens, it’s typically fueled by money from the fossil fuel industry, based on misinformation, and mostly involves people who – based on what they have heard and emotional reasoning – think they know better than people who have devoted their life to understanding and studying it.

There is another climate change denial that’s as or more important. This is the denial of the seriousness of the crisis we are in. It’s a denial not only if the seriousness of the climate crisis, but of the wider ecological crisis we are in.

Here are some of the views characterizing this denial:

It won’t be very serious. For decades, this was the default approach. Some years ago, I read news stories about a 10-30cm ocean level rise while anyone who had thought about it (the amount of land-based ice that would melt) realized it could easily be in the several meter range. 

Other things are more important. Again, this is a typical default view. Short-term interest are more important. Group interests are more important. We sometimes also assume that issues that are important – education, healthcare, infrastructure etc. – are more important. They are obviously important, but to prioritize it over creating a truly sustainable global culture and society is misguided. Currently, the young climate rebels are among those who really gets this and act on it. 

We have time. No, we don’t have time. We needed to make the changes yesterday, or a decade ago, or several decades ago. We can’t put it off. 

It requires only a few peripheral adjustments. No, it requires profound and deep systemic changes in all social systems, including economics (how we think about economics and our framework for it), transportation, energy production and use, education, and more. It requires deep changes in how we see ourselves in relation to the world as a whole and how this is reflected in our intellectual frameworks and social infrastructure. 

Others will do it. Others may take the lead, but we – each one of us – are required to participate. This is about humanity as a whole. 

It’s mainly about climate change. No, it’s equally or more about shrinking natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, toxins in air, water and soil, lack of clean drinking water, and social injustice. 

It’s true that the denial of the climate crisis – or denying it’s created by human activity — is serious and needs to be addressed.

But the real climate denial is the one most of us participate in. It’s the denial of the seriousness and acuteness of the issue and that it’s about a lot more than just climate change.

Doing what’s easy and attractive

I watched the climate change episode of the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and was surprised that he named “greed” as the main reason for the problems we are facing.

That may be a small part of it. But it’s not the main part, and it’s also not a helpful orientation if we want a change. We have tried shaming and blaming, and it doesn’t work very well.

To me, it’s mainly structural. And it’s also about identity.

We have an economical system  that’s not aligned with ecological realities. It’s created as if there is unlimited natural resources, and unlimited capacity to absorb waste and toxins. And the same goes for how we have organized ourselves in terms of transportation, energy, waste, politics, education, and more. None of these systems have been designed with ecological realities in mind.

And there is a good reason why: they didn’t need to. When they were designed, or when they evolved into what we have today, ecological concerns were peripheral at best. Other concerns were far more salient and important. Ecology wasn’t important, since we didn’t have the technology to wreak the kind of havoc we can today, and we also didn’t have the numbers to make it add up the way it does today. Our current systems were designed in a very different situation than we have today, and they are outdated, and have been for a while now.

These systems were designed, unintentionally, so that what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and societies – often happens to be what’s destructive for the living systems we are part of, and depend on for our well beings and lives. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is right now. More and more people are waking up to this.

And we cannot fix it by patching here and there. We need to redesign these systems at a very basic level. We need to redesign them so that what’s easy and attractive to do, is what’s most supportive – or even restorative – for the Earth’s living systems, for ourselves and our families, for the global society, for non-human species, and for future generations.

We know quite a few solutions. One is to tax what we don’t want, and subsidize what we want more of. Another is to set product prices so they reflect an approximation of the real ecological, health, and human costs of the product.

This is also about identity.

If we see ourselves as an integral part of the Earth’s living systems, we are more likely to be concerned with this and support the solutions.

And if we are faced with (a) reasons to support these changes that fit into our existing values and identity, and (b) solutions that do the same, we are also much more likely to see this as important, and actively support it – through voting and how we live our lives.

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Conservative identity, climate change, and framing

Conservatives who reject the science of climate change aren’t necessarily reacting to the science, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University. They’re reacting to the fact that they don’t like proposed solutions more strongly identified with liberals.

– from Conservatives Don’t Hate Climate Change, They Hate The Proposed Solutions: Study in Huffington Post

There may be a scientific answer for why conservatives and liberals disagree so vehemently over the existence of issues like climate change and specific types of crime.

A new study from Duke University finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don’t, then they tend to deny the problem even exists.

– from Denying Problems When We Don’t Like The Solutions, Duke University

This can be understood through the lens of identity. Conservatives assume that the solutions to climate change don’t fit with their conservative identity, so they deny the problem even exists.

My uncle is a good example. He deeply loved nature and even taught biology at the university. At the same time, he deeply despised hippies and environmentalists. So he would take a position against sustainability and anything else he associated with dirty hippies and dangerously naive environmentalists. This included the reality and importance of climate change. It’s possible that the thought of agreeing with dirty hippies was too much for him, even if he loved nature and was an environmentalist at heart.

How can we use this understanding? For instance, how can  we frame the topic so it’s less threatening to the conservative identity, or so it fits well into and is attractive to the conservative identity?

Here are some ideas for framing and communication:

Highlight reasons for supporting sustainability that match conservative values and identity. It allows us to maintain our society and traditions. It’s good for business. (Opens for new business opportunities.) It’s good for our families and children, and their children. We take care of God’s creation. We are better stewards of God’s creation. 

Highlight solutions that fit into conservative values and identity. (See that there are solutions that are non-threatening, or even attractive, from a conservative view.) Reduce taxes on sustainable technology, products and energy. Subsidize businesses that move strongly in a sustainable direction, in how they operate and the services and products they offer. Emphasize business opportunities. Support innovation in sustainable products and services.

Highlight conservative business and political leaders who (a) acknowledge the need for sustainability, (b) support sustainability, and (c) embrace solutions to sustainability that fits into the conservative values and identity. (See that it’s possible.)

 And some research ideas:

Divide up in two, three or four conservative groups: cultural conservatives, old fashioned business conservatives, free-market liberals, libertarians.

Offer differently framed messages, and see if how they respond.

Different messages: (a) Connect it with traditional environmentalists and their message. (This would be a control group of sorts, and is likely to get an averse reaction from many.) (b) Highlight how it fits conservative values. (c) Highlight solutions that fit conservative values. (d) Highlight conservatives who actively support sustainability. (e) Combine b-d. (f) Possibly target the different types of conservatives within b-d.

The control group would receive an unrelated message before answering these questions. The other groups would receive the messages outlined above.

Outcomes: How important they see sustainability. If they see sustainability as desirable and supportive of families, communities, and business. Their support of solutions aligned with their values. How important it is that the solutions and approaches align with their (conservative) values.

Do preliminary studies and interviews to (a) identify types of conservatives, and (b) which types of messages seem to resonate the most for each of these types.

The message can be written, or audio or video.

It’s important to note that this is coming from an honest place. By framing the message so it fits conservative values and identities, it’s just made available to another group of people. They get to see that sustainability very well can fit their values. And, possibly, that it’s something they can support more wholeheartedly through voting, words and actions.

Note: What are the values of a green conservative? It will depend on the type of conservative, and there are probably books on the topic, and groups out there who define as green conservatives. And, of course, as with any greens, there are light (small steps) and deep (deep restructuring) variations, and also green-washing (sustainability in name only).

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Climate change

When it comes to climate change, it’s interesting how the public discourse has been derailed, and especially in the US.

It’s been derailed in a couple of different ways. First, through confusion about the science. And then, through framing it in terms of cost.

To me, another approach makes much more sense:

We need to align with ecological realities anyway, climate change or no climate change. We need to restructure our systems – in economy, production, energy, food, transportation and more – so they reflect ecological realities. And the sooner we do it, the easier the transition will be, and the less it will cost us. (Waiting costs us in terms of health, quality of life, natural disasters, ecological degradation.)

And this is an amazing opportunity. It will fuel innovation and new industries on a scale rivaling and surpassing the industrial revolution. The green revolution is an opportunity for us to intentionally redesign how we organize ourselves at all levels and in all sectors of society, in a way that improves quality of life, benefits our health, is deeply democratic, requires creativity and innovation, and fuels technology and industry. We have an opportunity to redesign our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do for individuals and corporations is also what’s good for the larger social and ecological systems, nonhuman species, and future generations.

Why has the public discourse been derailed? There may be several reasons.

The petroleum industry is intentionally muddling the water. One example is paying scientists from non-climate fields to pose as climate experts.

The topics may appear as a threat to those with a strong free-market ideology. They fear, perhaps rightly so, that the necessary changes will require strong political leadership and public institutions.

The topic may trigger anti-authoritarian or anti-elitist responses.

More generally, the topic doesn’t fit some people’s identity. They associate it with earlier generation environmentalists and hippies, and they don’t want to be like them.

There is a general misperception in several areas. There is a perception of….. (a) Disagreement among scientists, where in reality 99% agree it’s happening, it’s human caused, and the sooner we do something the better. (b) There being more climate deniers than there actually is. The reality is typically 8-5% or less. (c) It costing us and being a drawback, instead of an amazing and unique opportunity.

The topic may seem distant. It may seem overwhelming. It may trigger fear and guilt.

For me, climate change has been two things since I first heard about it. (a) A focal point for the changes we need to make anyway, for those concerned with climate change. And (b) an irrelevant distraction since we need to make the changes anyway. Which one I emphasize depends on the situation and audience.

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4C rise in global temperature – what does it mean?

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

Stern said he backed the UK’s Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: “It’s a very exciting growth story.”

Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’ – The Guardian

Climate change is a huge risk, and a huge opportunity. It’s a crucial opportunity for us to reorganize our lives at all levels in a way that’s more life-centered, more aligned with ecological realities, and better for ourselves, our children, and all Earth life. As Nicholas Stern points out, in the short run, it’s an opportunity to grow green technologies and businesses that will be vital components in a more green economy.

Another recent article:

Glaciologist Jason Box is racing to figure out just how rapidly we’re pushing the 7 meters of sea rise level locked up in the Greenland ice sheet onto our shores.

Why Greenland’s Melting Could Be the Biggest Climate Disaster of All – Mother Jones

And two important videos on this topic:

Climate change is simple: David Roberts at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege.

Climate Change and Intergenerational Evil with Michal Dowd and Connie Barlow.

Caught up in details, missing the big picture

operaen.jpg

There is a new opera being built in Oslo, and the big discussion is whether they should have used the white marble they decided on, which is great for statues and interiors but a nightmare for exteriors, or good old Norwegian granite, which is more appropriate in terms of maintenance and because it is local.

What very few has mentioned is the obvious question: what happens when the sea levels rise? If current trends continues, and the models are even close to being accurate, the sea level will rise several meters within a few decades, and it seems clear that the building has not been designed with that in mind. The architect’s presentation above is not after a several meter sea level rise, it is before, under current conditions.

I guess they built it on the same principle as sand art: something to be enjoyed very temporarily. How post modern of them.