For many reasons, I try not to go down this road too often – attempting to understand, and then perhaps parse, why we have taken such gigantic steps in the opposite direction of Earth Day since what seemed to have been a collective awakening in 1970. As Cole says, the pollution issues we identified back then seem trite in comparison to what we face now, as we crank the atmosphere and the oceans toward higher temperatures.
So how have we been able to establish, project and re-enforce such a counter narrative to global warming that it, rather than the way of life that fostered it, now seems like an issue with a legitimacy problem? It brings to mind that cunning and incisive riposte from Tonto, “What do you mean we, white man?”
Because what was established, what is entrenched, is simply a hard corporate line. It’s in the short term interest of huge industrial, agro, and energy concerns to question the science supporting global warming. They have effectively conjoined our will with theirs, made us believe that it is an option to refuse to believe AGW and we have gladly, and with great relief, accepted. There is nothing individual or human about it, and they have curiously obscured any short/long term distinctions. And you see why I try not to go down this road too often.
Because it sounds like conspiracy; such is the power of this counter-narrative. We could say it is of a piece with the way people are conditioned to support, and vote for, candidates and issues that go against their own interest. There is profit in division – apply all cliches here. Because they are true. A plainly available set of established facts all flow in one direction. And yet the question wins the day; the science of global warming itself has been impugned as dishonest, corrupt, heavy-handed and coercive. I accuse you of what I am guilty. It’s tricky. And we’re vulnerable.
We are highly susceptible to corporate propaganda, to marketing, especially for what we want to believe about ourselves. Our ability to project wonderful images about who we are has far-outstripped our ability to be critical of this imagery, much less the ideas behind them. We’re afraid to ask who or what is behind them. And we settle back into a state of existential fear – not of what might happen, but fear of even thinking honestly about what might happen. At least during the nuclear age, everyone had a clear image of the mushroom cloud if not what it meant. The specter of annihilation remained abstract but, again, it was part of a plainly available set of established facts. Constantly invoked, and yes opening us to manipulation. But we reckoned with even this, and life went on.
Not reckoning with the specter of planetary peril puts the developed world in its greatest danger – as it threatens the rest of the world with utter catastrophe. This is a brutal and vicious calculation. But see it for what it is. By all means let’s pick up trash on the side of the street – today, any day. But there is all manner of detritus we are allowing into our homes and heads on a constant basis, supplying our own evidence to continue ignoring what is happening. It is a truly a form of darkness, though fortunately self-imposed. Unfortunately, portending an even greater one.
And so we need to turn on some lights. And so I have another reason to hate irony.