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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Do You Want to Solve Global Warming or just Dither? 
11th-Apr-2005 10:04 am
Inspiration
If you want to dither, then support the Kyoto protocol. It's wildly expensive, mostly unproductive, and pretty much a waste of technology.

If you want to solve it, then support research that changes our dependence on carbon based fuels. I admit I know more people who prefer to remain ignorant "environmentalists" than knowledgeable "ecologists" but then knowledge requires effort to gain, and environmentalism has always been an aesthetic, rather than an intellectual, choice.

Its background is evident whenever it is discussed, and eloquently evokes the "smug" mentality decried by Peggy Noonan:

In the twentieth century, certainly in the latter half of it, politics came to eclipse all other forces. It became more important than class, or region, or even religion. You might say that politics became a religion for a lot of people. When that happens, political views became so high-stakes, so important, that they seem like a declaration of your deepest self, your truest character. We all try to think of ourselves as good, and it's a small leap from there to seeing your political beliefs as an emanation of your goodness. It's another small leap from that to thinking that they guy with the "wrong" views on , say, affirmative action, is showing his badness. And if he's bad, you could treat him like ... well, you could put him in the stocks.

What is lost in the new smugness? When people display it, they're saying, in that tired but useful phrase, "Don't go there." Don't hold that view, have that opinion, argue that side. What happens when you don't go there? For one thing, you never learn what the other side really thinks and feels. You never get to change your mind, either, because most of us only change when confronted with new information, and smug people don't have information, they have attitude.


I believe she's overoptomistic about people changing when confronted with new information, but correct in her belief that they want to avoid getting information that might complicate their mental pictures of the situation. And I see this most often in "environmentalists" and in all the other untouchably important socital issues, down to Terry Schiavo. We want debate that declares us victors without the necessity of facts to argue with. That is a serious weakness, fought only by those who believe that they are not "good as they are" -- since most of those are religious, that is a key fact in the public support that needs to be in place for religion.
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