Sunday, October 24, 2010

Abandon All Hope, America

This is just depressing.  The NY Times article describes how denial of climate change is almost universal in the Tea Party universe.  And their reasons are just breathtakingly stupid:

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”

So Mr. Dennison, a local electrician, trusts Rush Limbaugh and the Bible on this issue more than he trusts the climate researchers.  I think one big reason the deniers are winning the debate is that the carbon industry – mainly coal and oil companies – have been running a successful propaganda machine.  And I don’t think the average Tea Partier realizes that he or she is being used as a stooge in this debate.  If we can just pretend that climate change isn’t happening, we can avoid the difficult discussions about what to do about it.  And coal and oil companies continue to rake in huge profits.

I think there’s also a populist mindset at play here.  It’s a classic case of “Us versus Them”.  Rush Limbaugh got rich by shouting that “they” are all conspiring to control our lives and take our money.  Part of the “they” are the pinhead scientists who have ginned up global warming as a way to promote a socialist agenda.  This plays well to a crowd that’s already suspicious of the “Academic Elite”.  And the right-wing has used this very effectively in the current election cycle.

So what to do about this?  Climate change is not going away just because a large portion of the population has stuck their heads in the sand about it.  How do we move the discussion from “is it real?” to “what do we do about it?”  I’d like to think that education is the key, but honestly, I don’t think the people being cited in the NY Times article will ever be convinced.  I mean, these are the same people who still deny evolution.  I think it’s going to take activism on the other side of the debate to mobilize voters and elect rational people into office.   This won’t happen during this election cycle, but as the effects of climate change become more apparent more people will start to demand action. Unfortunately this is a slow process, and not very efficient.  But it seems to be how things work in this country.

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