Saturday, October 17, 2009

Taking Deniers Seriously

Ten years ago I started a Masters program on Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University. One of the issues I brought up was my concern that the program lacked visible diversity and could be perceived as a bunch of navel gazing white folks looking for something to feel good about. The truth is that most of my peers genuinely wanted, and still want, to create positive change leading to a more peaceful society that values cooperation over competition.

This article about climate change deniers reinforces my concern. These folks believe that those of us calling for action to confront peak oil and climate change really don't have a clue or a care about their lives. They are not about to give up their pursuit of the material comforts possessed by many of us (Al Gore and Hollywood celebrities are mentioned) and woe betide any who suggest they should. Those of us who believe we see the handwriting on the wall are indeed viewed as selfish navel gazers, with nothing constructive to add to the conversation on creating a better life for those on the margins. For these folks the American way of life, built on economic growth and material wealth, is truly non-negotiable.

We must craft a message that reaches the deniers at their core and convinces them that change is in their best interest. Otherwise I fear that the outcome will be social decay as each sets about protecting "mine" from "them" as the effects of peak oil and climate change kick in and become more pronounced over time. Will it be societal collapse? I don't know.

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