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Climate Change and Disaster Capitalism – More Than Math

Cognitive Dissonance:

We’re Facing Climate Catastrophe –

But Don’t Worry, Voluntary Market Incentives & Individual Virtue Will Do

But when you hold up a supposed emergency and actually don’t ask anything of people, anything major, they actually think you might be lying, that it might not really be an emergency after all.  Naomi Klein

Sunday night provided – back to back no less – two of the most important public affairs broadcasts I can recall.

Yesterday, I wrote about Ken Burns’ PBS TV documentary and Donald Worster’s book Dust Bowl  (see: We’re All Okies Now).

While Burns’ documentary can be seen as an important historical metaphor, there was an even more important message just prior to it, on Bill Moyers’ show.

Moyers interviewed Naomi Klein (watch it!).

Please watch the entire interview, because Klein did a superb job of discussing her work and explaining both the Shock Doctrine and the current Do The Math tour.

I am a huge fan or Klein’s work and assume readers are familiar with her arguments, so won’t go into them here. Instead, I will focus on just one key point she made – and attempt to connect the dots to relate it to her point about the decline in public opinion.

I don’t want this point to get lost in the larger argument – and it directly relates to what I wrote about yesterday regarding the Senate Environment Committee hearing: my frustration with the status quo in Trenton, where the discussion is mired in denial and continuing subsidies to cars and fossil fuels (and based on “domestic energy security”).

First, on the issue of public opinion:

BILL MOYERS: President Obama managed to avoid the subject all through the campaign and he hasn’t exactly been leading the way.

NAOMI KLEIN: He has not been leading the way. And in fact, you know, he spent a lot of time on the campaign bragging about how much pipeline he’s laid down and this ridiculous notion of an all of the above energy strategy, as if you can, you know, develop solar and wind alongside more coal, you know, more oil, more natural gas, and it’s all going to work out in the end.

No, it doesn’t add up. And, you know, I think personally, I think the environmental movement has been a little too close to Obama. And, you know, we learned, for instance, recently, about a meeting that took place shortly after Obama was elected where the message that all these big green groups got was, “We don’t want to talk about climate change. We want to talk about green jobs and energy security.And a lot of these big green groups played along. […]

BILL MOYERS: Well, I understand that but we’re so complacent about climate change. A new study shows that while the number of people who believe it’s happening has increased by, say, three percentage points over the last year, the number of people who don’t think it is human caused has dropped.

NAOMI KLEIN: It has dropped dramatically. I mean, the statistics on this are quite incredible. 2007, according to a Harris poll, 71 percent of Americans believed that climate change was real, that it was human caused. And by last year, that number went down to 44 percent. 71 percent to 44 percent, that is an unbelievable drop in belief. But then you look at the coverage that the issue’s received in the media. And it’s also dropped dramatically from that high point. 2007, you know, this was this moment where, you know, Hollywood was on board. “Vanity Fair” launched their annual green issue.

What explains this incredible decline?

Klein goes on to attribute the factors that caused this “incredible” decline in public opinion to elite top down communication, a decline in media coverage, and the power of the energy industry lobby and their propaganda campaign. All true, no doubt.

But, I think more is at play in the decline of public opinion. Something to do with the messenger, as much as the message.

Although Klein does NOT connect the dots between the drop in public opinion and the behavior of environmental groups, she certainly implies it (e.g. “environmental movement too close to Obama”).

I think Klein suggests just what that might be additional factors contributing to this decline as the final point of the interview:

BILL MOYERS: You wrote recently that climate change can be a historic moment to usher in the next great wave of progressive change.

NAOMI KLEIN: It can be and it must be. I mean, it’s our only chance. I believe it’s the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. And we’ve been kidding ourselves about what it’s going to take to get our emissions down to the extent that they need to go down. I mean, you talk about 80 percent lowering emissions. I mean, that is such a huge shift.

And I think that’s part of the way in which, and I don’t mean to beat up on the big environmental groups, because they do fantastic work. But I think that part of the reason why public opinion on this issue has been so shaky is that it doesn’t really add up to say to the public, you know, “This is a huge problem. It’s Armageddon.” You know, you have “Inconvenient Truth.” You scare the hell out of people. But then you say, “Well, the solution can be very minor. You can change your light bulb. And we’ll have this complicated piece of legislation called cap and trade that you don’t really understand, but that basically means that companies here can keep on polluting, but they’re going to trade their carbon emissions. And, you know, somebody else is going to plant trees on the other side of the planet and they’ll get credits.”

And people look at that going, “Okay, if this was a crisis, wouldn’t be we be responding more aggressively? So wouldn’t we be responding in a way that you have, we’ve responded in the past during war times, where there’s been, you know, that kind of a collective sense of shared responsibility?” Because I think when we really do feel that sense of urgency about an issue, and I believe we should feel it about climate change, we are willing to sacrifice. We have shown that in the past. But when you hold up a supposed emergency and actually don’t ask anything of people, anything major, they actually think you might be lying, that it might not really be an emergency after all. So if this is an emergency, we have to act like it. And yeah, it is a fundamental challenge. But the good news is, you know, we get to have a future for our kids.

Let’s repeat that very, very important observation, lest we continue kidding ourselves:

But when you hold up a supposed emergency and actually don’t ask anything of people, anything major, they actually think you might be lying, that it might not really be an emergency after all.


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