25 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Tuesday

My husband suggested that I choose a different name for my theme week. Something like "Climate Change Wimps Week." As in, what's driving the denialists and their denialist campaign is their fear; they are afraid to face what we're doing to the atmosphere and hence the biosphere. 

I actually like the sound of "climate change wussies" but I'm going to stick with "selfish %$#@!" anyway. 
However, the idea must have been rolling around in my head last night, because I woke up with this thought:

People who are working to slow global warming and to mitigate the climate change emergency are people who know that any "costs" involved in doing this will be miniscule compared to what it will cost if we don't stave off climate catastrophe. We've looked at Pascal's Wager, and we've made our decision. (See the video below.)

Our fear is grounded in deep care and concern for our children and their future. But where is the fear of climate change wussies grounded? I'm afraid it might now simply be a deep-seated fear of being wrong.

As I stated earlier this week, I would LOVE it if we climate change activists were wrong. The BEST NEWS IN THE WORLD would be finding out that the denialists were right. I would gladly trade my years of learning all this stuff, writing about all this stuff, crying about all this stuff for the news that it was all unnecessary.

Tragically, risk assessment won't let me give up. (Nor will my love for life.)

Risk = Probability x Magnitude.

Probability? It's already happening. Northern British Columbia's forests are orange, not green. Hells bells, even the cedars in my front yard are dying! University of British Columbia professor, Lori Daniels, says the death rate of cedars corresponds with the rise in average temperatures in the past few decades [pdf], and the ensuing longer dry periods and drought stress.

Scientists have been loathe to blame climate change for any one specific weather event — until now. According to a new computational approach, there's an 80% chance that climate change was responsible for the Russian heat wave of July 2010, which killed 700 people* and was unprecedented since record keeping began in the 19th century. "While the influence of climate trends on weather is recognized as 'loading the dice,' making extreme events more likely, individual events are still described in general terms of fitting patterns."

And magnitude? Oh my gosh. This is where I get really upset. I can see denialists not looking out the window, not following the news, not giving a damn about the more vulnerable populations in the world who are already suffering from climate change-related disasters. But I cannot fathom them being unable or unwilling to look to their own (grand)children's future. Why do they not want the best for them? And by "best" I mean food and water security. Why are they willing to gamble with their (grand)children's future for the sake of giving up some creature comforts today?

Our generation (at least in EuroAmerican cultures) has had it the best of any generation in human history. Hands down, no argument. And that has turned us selfish and lazy — but do we truly not give a damn about the future? Are we just lacking in imagination, and can only picture more of the same for them (which belies complete ecological illiteracy, sorry)?

Or are most of us afraid? Afraid of the monster our culture has created. Afraid to admit to it, to face up to it. And afraid of the consequences of not facing up to it, but afraid to admit they've been wrong?

Alas, maybe I'm overstating my case. Perhaps they're all just selfish %$#@!, and this has nothing to do with fear.

Time for some soul searching on the part of climate change denialists. Some heavy-duty, what-do-I-truly-value soul searching. Some "what do I want my legacy to be" soul searching. Some "my parents don't control me anymore so why am I still afraid of being wrong" soul searching. Some "do I believe in heaven or karma" soul searching. Some Pascal's Wager soul searching.

And if, after all that soul searching, the denialists still want to deny, may they please do it over a beer at the pub, instead of in forums where they're going to look selfish and mean-spirited. Cuz don't forget, we're trying to safeguard the future for your (grand)kids, too.
p.s. Here's one flaw I see in Greg Craven's version of Pascal's Wager. Costs. How come building new coal-fired plants and digging new oil wells (and cleaning up after them) and putting in new highways is never considered "costs" — but doing stuff to protect the children's health and future is "costs." That just doesn't make sense.

* The heat wave in Russia in 2010 didn't kill 700 -- I really don't know where I got that number from. It's estimated to have killed 55,000!

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?