Despite the abundant evidence of climate degradation, public opinion continues to do nothing. How to explain this apathy?, The Ecologist
Far from being pushed to accept reality, people must on the contrary be torn from it, ”says Stanley Cohen in his remarkable book States of Denial, Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering [Conscious negation in the face of atrocities and suffering]. According to him, the capacity to let things happen and the refusal of awareness are deeply rooted in a society saturated with information.
Its analysis is ideally suited to the current reaction to global warming. “Awareness” of the problem is ingrained at all levels of society: in public opinion (according to polls, 68% of Americans see it as a serious problem); in the scientific community (as evidenced by open letters regularly issued by scientific institutions); in companies (with strong statements from the CEOs of oil companies); among many heads of state (speeches as pious as they are regular on the imminence of the disaster).
But on another level, we pointedly refuse to admit the implications of what we know. As Bill Clinton called for urgent action, his negotiators were busy torpedoing a deal that was only a pale reflection of his own warnings. The newspapers constantly publish grim warnings about the changing climate, while offering articles a few pages down that enthusiastically invite the reader to take a weekend trip to Rio. People, including my friends and family, may express their concerns with seriousness and then forget about them, buy a new car, turn on the air conditioning, or take a plane to go on vacation.
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