Climate Change: The Elephant in the Room

The elephant in the room is trampling all over us. Yet we’re still living, thinking and talking as though it were not there.

Climate change is so inescapable, so entangled within the definition of our politico-economic system, that to explore it, to educate about it, is to create a wide-spread existential crisis wherein the persistence of the very thing by which millions of us in some way identify and define ourselves – our culture – is perceived as both necessary for very short-term pleasure but morally abominable for the sake of those millions who have, are or will suffer and die as a consequence of it.

As such, discussions surrounding the climate breakdown are not being appropriately entertained by those in power (nor the media). They know that such discussions, if made publicly, would expose our economic system for what it really is (i.e., the root cause of the climate issue), and would certainly cause public outcry – they know that very well. However, maintained as a mere side issue, the realities of climate change will unlikely be exposed and the necessary changes never made. Those in power will retain their grip.

In reality, however, they are not psychopaths. They are not intentionally drowning, burning and starving people (though that is what they/we are all doing). They’re simply petrified to face up to the moral imperative. They’re fully aware of their irrationalities; they can feel the increasing pull of their inner cognitive dissonances. But to talk about climate change would require them to iron out their irrationalities, bring their subconscious biases to the fore, force them to realise their complicity in Othering, which would ultimately oblige them to change who they are. Regrettably, to many, that notion is more terrifying than the seemingly distant idea that our culture, in keeping with its very definition, is currently committing mass genocide (1, 2, 3, 4).

You see, it is not simply the case that people must accept climate change as a reality. We must also explore its causes and implications and talk about them and shout about them, and be outwardly furious with the forces that continue in trying to avert our eyes from them – even if this means that in so doing we ourselves suffer a little. For the sake of humanity, and for those you profess to love, be willing to challenge yourself. Be willing to talk about climate change. Further still, encourage it.

But the media is talking about climate change, is it not?  Yes, albeit sporadically and obtusely. The typical style of the ostensibly rare pieces of coverage concerning the relationship between climate change and, for example, Hurricane Irma or Harvey obstruct the wider conversation. That conversation would lead us to recognise that our deep-seated consumerism, our self-professed right to newer, better, more, is the cause of it all. (I suspect it’d also lead us to recognise that the depraved neo-liberal system in which we live is based on a theory of democratic “consent without consent”).

Many of the reports caveat that freak weather events are not caused by climate change (1, 2). This is extremely damaging for two reasons: Firstly, the inclusion of such caveats (regardless of whether such a report exaggerates that the increasing ferocity, frequency and consequent suffering to ‘natural disasters’ is directly linked to human-induced climate change) foolishly reassures already steadfast climate change sceptics. Secondly, and most importantly, this caveating deflects blame away from those who created the problem, i.e., us! – the post-industrial capitalist world. It serves to destroy our sense of agency, enabling us to reject responsibility. It solidifies climate change as a side issue, as something not deserving of inquiry or exposition, and ultimately promotes the damning political praxis of business as usual.

As long as the media persists in caveating, as long as we fail in holding those in power to account, and as long as we entertain the deluded idea that we and the culture by which we define ourselves is not the problem, the greater the catastrophes will become. It is our duty to start talking openly and candidly about the elephant in the room.


A.C. Stark

Recommended Reading
Introductory: 10 Billion;  2071: The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren
Advanced: Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations;  Fossil Capital
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6 thoughts on “Climate Change: The Elephant in the Room

  1. Right on the money, A.C. (sort of a pun, perhaps?) This ‘existential crisis’ which you describe is necessary to understand the politics of the day in New Zealand. To explain how a nobody like John Key could be so consistently popular for eight years while saying nothing all in that time is not so hard when viewed in the context you describe. This ‘existential crisis’ may be hard to intellectualize in the popular culture, but is still the overriding (underpinning) factor which has emerged over the last few decades.

    To say the media and power brokers are not psychopaths is a valid discussion point here. Psychopathology is a personal condition defined by psychiatrists, but the existential crisis goes beyond any individual. Individuals live within, and cannot be separated from, a social/cultural context (and even a historical process). To say our culture’s response to this existential crisis is insane would be a reasonable description if we allow extrapolation from a usually applied individual condition to a culture at large.

    As such, there is a question as to what is going on culturally here. I think that everyone has some kind of understanding of the existential crisis we are dealing with and all are in the play. Archaeologist Jared Diamond is known to have described ancient cultures which had gone through a period (periods?) of changing circumstances (tribal, climate, etc) where a fundamental decision had to be made (one way or another). Would they change and survive? Or would they decide it was more important to continue as who they had been, and how they did, even if that meant a catastrophic failure of the society and disappearance. That was their ‘existential crisis’. He observed this may be what is happening in our current history.

    So it is not just the media and power brokers making this decision; we are all already involved. And it is happening throughout western culture, of course, probably all cultures, not just in New Zealand.

    Thanks, A.C. for a great post.
    Richard

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  3. These things were predicted by John in his book The Revelation. This earth will pass away, a new one is being prepared. Our first priority is to ensure that we will be among thos granted access to that place. Our second concern should be to use as little resources as possible. Each of us has a responsibility. It starts with me.

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