It is very easy to write about ‘climate change’ and ‘denial’ in the same sentence. But, ‘denial’ is a human reaction to many things. When faced with a difficult situation or adversity, we first respond with denial. So, one of the usual cycles goes like this:
Crisis – anger – denial – acceptance – action – recovery – complacency – crisis.
Another situation in which we first respond with denial is when we come across something decidedly superior to our work and our knowledge, we respond with denial and then try to belittle it. When it fails, then we begin to accept it grudgingly. Perhaps, the ‘grudge’ never goes away.
So, the theme of this blog post is ‘denial’ in different contexts.
Here is a news-story on Miami going under water and how real estate agents are responding to it. The interesting lines that caught my attention are these:
The sea level in Miami has risen ten inches since 1900; in the 2000 years prior, it did not really change.
The second one that caught my attention is this:
This is the neoliberal notion, that the reasonable and mature way to think about this stuff is: Get more efficient and find the right incentives to encourage the right kinds of enterprise. But my friend wondered, what if the mature thing to do is to mourn – and then retreat?
I really liked this second one because it is in line with this blog post of mine, done a few days ago: ‘Problems and Solutions’. Humans do not or cannot have answers for all issues. In many cases, the ‘fix’ is to retreat, admit that we made a mistake and that we cannot fix it. Most of the time, the ‘fix’ is about continuing with our preferred way of living, not wanting to change it and that somehow we could have the cake and eat it too.
Closely related to this theme is the story published in FT is on a study by Blackrock that investors fail to price in the potential impact of climate change on their portfolios. No surprises there. The story has the link to the full study for those interested. [Link]
In the same issue of FT, there is also the story of the Great Barrier Reef slowly disappearing due to the effects of…….. ahem…. climate change. The first sentence of the article is a good-enough summary:
The damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef by global warming is severely compromising the ability of its corals to recover with a near 90 per cent slump in new coral growth last year, a study has found. [Link]
This is from the story in the ‘New Yorker’ on migration from Gautemala into the United States:
In a sixteen-hundred-page analysis, government scientists described wildfires in California, the collapse of infrastructure in the South, crop shortages in the Midwest, and catastrophic flooding. The President publicly dismissed the findings. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” he said. There was a deeper layer of denial in this, since overlooking these effects meant turning a blind eye to one of the major forces driving migration to the border. [Link]
Another sentence in that long ‘New Yorker’ article on Gautemala, climate change and forced immigration to the United States caught my eye:
When the program started, the names we took down were all men,” Loyda Socop, another staffer at the C.D.R.O., said. “But it turned out that it was mostly women who were behind it. They were the ones who wanted to give this a try.” [Link]
Probably, it is worth studying if men are more prone to ‘denial’ and all the dangers associated with ego and hubris than women and, second, if they are more willing to adapt and change than men.
If at all there is some hope for a resilient response and recovery from the ravages of climate change, does it lie with women than with men?
Not that I think Sapiens have left much room for recovery. I think we may have gone past the doomsday clock with respect to climate change. We may mitigate, we may delay but not deny the impact.
Lastly, an illustration of the other form of ‘Denial’ – intellectual and/or ego-induced denial. My colleague, Raghuraman, pointed the ‘denial’ out to me.
This is a (very) long-form article I read in the early hours of Sunday before going to bed, on the Asteroid strike on the planet some sixty-six million years ago – on the moment the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began. A young Paleontologist (Robert DePalma) may have discovered the ‘record’ of that event in a place called ‘Hell Creek’ (what an apt name?!) in North Dakota.
What comes through, among many other things, in that article is the reluctance of the scientific community that this young man might have discovered what they have not been able to:
All expressed a desire to see the final paper, which will be published next week, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, so that they could evaluate the data for themselves. [Link]
The article was published on March 29, 2019. The paper must be out by now. Those interested and capable can go through the paper and decide for themselves if the young paleontologist has indeed stumbled upon the most amazing recorded evidence of the asteroid strike on Mother Earth.
For those interested, Robert DePalma is related to Hollywood Director Brian DePalma.
Lastly, I read that young Republicans are forcing their elder counterparts to shed ‘climate change’ scepticism (or, denial):
Mr Gaetz said: “One of the problems Republicans have with climate change is they assume if you accept the science of climate change, then you are [required] to embrace the left solution set.” But he added: “I recognise the obvious science of climate change. I didn’t come to Congress to argue with a thermometer.” [Link]
It is not just the Republicans who are to be blamed for climate change. One should blame even central bankers. Low interest rates and high debt have brought forward economic growth mindless construction – think Miami real estate!) that did not exist and have brought forward climate change. So, solutions have to start from the pursuit of mindless and structurally unsound economic growth. But, it might all be too late.
Well, we are like this only. We need asteroids to start afresh.