Home | About | Donate

Catastrophism Is as Much an Obstacle to Addressing Climate Change as Denial


Catastrophism Is as Much an Obstacle to Addressing Climate Change as Denial

Stephen Jackson

For a long while people have used the phrase ‘climate denier’ or ‘denialism’ as pejorative labels to admonish those who reject the reality of climate change. Whether it’s industry-funded disinformation spin doctors or members of the public who are perceived as dupes for believing that climate change is just a hoax, anyone who rejects the assertion that human-produced CO₂ emissions are dangerously altering the Earth’s climate system is frequently labeled in this way.


Imminent catastrophe won't spur the human race to action. Only actual catastrophe will.


The author clearly lives in the absolutely worst category of climate deniers - those who believe we have more time to avert the catastrophe. The catastrophe is upon us. Time ran out decades ago. Those of us who recognize this fact are not "climate inactivists" as the author labels us. We are the ones who have already begun the process of preparing for the inevitable. Minimized our impact. Encouraged others to do the same. Spent that last forty years warning people.

It's a pity Common Dreams bothers re-publishing such naive opinion pieces.


Fukushima, which killed about 19,000 people outright and will kill heaven-knows how many others over the next couple generations, did not cause changes in human behavior. Neither did Chernobyl, or New Orleans. Not even when the hurricanes hit NYC did behavior change. But it's too late anyway. The only comfort is knowing that the plutocrat/militarists responsible for this mess will only inherit a kind of Mad Mad/Soylent Green/Waterworld dystopian hellscape and will spend every hour looking over their shoulder for the barbarian hordes to cut them down.


"An end to catastrophism"?

Sorry pal, catastrophe is upon us, and will only accelerate and grow more acute going forward. We need swift action now (forty-five or fifty-five years ago actually) to reduce the negative ecological impacts of the economy, and support ecological recovery.

Much of the "division" among climate action theories is driven by "interested parties" who cannot bear to recognize that their economic interests must be put aside while humanity focuses on simultaneously getting right with the ecology, and on taking care of everyone in a framework of real social justice and economic fairness.

The "three laws of permaculture" are a great frame for prioritizing ecological and climate action:
- Care for the Earth;
- Care for the People;
- Fair Share for All.


From the article: "Obviously, street protest and detailed policy-making are different and complementary processes, and persuading millions of people to rally around anything specific is going to be extremely difficult"

As one might recall, persuading millions to lurch headfirst into the insidious military disaster that was the Iraq invasion and slaughter proved not so difficult.
Polling at the time placed those in opposition to the war at only about 5%, while the vast hoards panted for blood revenge.---it was a very dark time for those with courage to express criticism, concern, or urgings of reason and caution.
When sufficiently motivated, governments seem to have little problem mobilizing an impressionable public to action, which, being the case appears to negate the basic premise of Jackson's article.
Perhaps he should be inquiring how is it that our leaders haven't chosen to summon those resources of persuasion they manage so deftly to employ when inciting the masses to commit retaliatory genocide?


We know what a climate denier is, let's not start using that word to describe people who believe in climate change and that it is mainly caused by humans. The reasons for lack of effective action are so complex that 100,000 words could be written about them and that would still be inadequate. But let's make this simple. What is the most important thing Americans can do about climate change right now as we reach the latter months of 2016. It can be summed up if only four words. Vote for Hillary Clinton. Her opponent is a climate denier and has a long list of other negative attributes as well. The more votes that Hillary Clinton gets and the fewer votes that Donal Trump gets makes it that much more likely that attempts to fight climate change will be successful, or at least will be enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.


Too bad the author of this flimsy piece thinks climate realists are climate "inactivists" simply because we do not waste anymore of our energy on foolishness.


Do not vote for Killary Clinton unless you want war. And, oddly, if you want war, why bother reading Common Dreams?




Flagged as off-topic, since you are posting "Vote Clinton" in every thread about climate.


The author states as an example of effective framing that "if the primary end-point for decarbonization were to be re-framed as empowering people by having cheaper, cleaner and more abundant forms of energy" then people would be likely to rally together and actively behave in ways that would help stave off the worst effects of climate destabilization. I would argue that that is a standard part of the framing: that wind and solar energy will empower people by providing cheaper, cleaner and more abundant forms of energy. I hear that all the time. It hasn't seemed to make much of a difference mostly b/c it's not the people who are in control. My observation is that most people would be willing to take steps and even make sacrifices to prevent climate catastrophe. It seems to me that it is on the policy end of the equation that change does not take place and those sorts of changes are in the hands of corporate controlled politicians (a minority of the global population) who refuse to listen to the people they are supposedly working for.


To succeed the people must discredit those who hold the levers of power.


i would add that simply switching to non-carbon energy will not "solve" the ecological catastrophe underway. By no means.

i've referenced several times here the report from a couple years back on the 50% reduction in animal wildlife on Earth over the 40-year period 1970 - 2010. This 50% loss of land animal population in just 40 years - the blink of an eye for life on Earth - was not caused by climate disruption, but was caused by human actions: primarily land use and destruction of ecosystems, primarily from agriculture, development, and transportation. That's just one report, touching on the fact that climate disruption is just one important aspect of human disruption of the ecology.

The human civilizational assault on the ecology is broad-spectrum, multi-faceted, and systemic, and must be addressed as such. "Clean energy" will not save us, and the author's proposed frame of "people... having more abundant forms of energy" does not address what needs to be addressed, if humanity is to avert the civilizational collapse that will result from the ecological dis-integration that is underway.

Sure the author would classify me as a "catastrophist." And, so?


It may be true that "the use of ‘denial’ has expanded to include people who do accept established scientific evidence about climate change, but who nonetheless devote little personal time and energy to engage with the issue through activism or changes in their daily habits and routines," but SO WHAT?! Too many "tipping points" have been crossed to make possible our survival as a species!


exactly ...


The hegemonic political modality of course has a commensurate mindset. Catastrophic changes will never be faced with the political "coherence" as currently recognized in the halls of (disem)power(ment).

The deleterious impacts of human activity are as varied as human areas of interest. Our challenge is to respond with engagement choices according to what most inspires and energizes when we think long term, personal changes in our lives. In so doing, the human spirit begins to sparkle and also will be made thirsty for wisdom - like the Tao te Ching, and so many texts - also incredibly DIVERSE.

The coherence needed, I would submit, can be recognized, as are indigenous efforts at the UN, in viewing this and numerous problems as a human rights matter - which is the window onto DIVERSITY. My weaknesses, if I am fearless about it, are the strengths of someone else. By being clear about my weaknesses, clarity opens onto recognizing those strengths in others and the formative seeds of DIVERSE COMMUNITY

As the momentum of the hegemonic modality flattens itself against the wall of realities of a limited planet fast being cannibalized, we can see, with Enbridge at Standing Rock emblematic of the centuries old deadly dissociative methodologies.

At this point, humility becomes the bedrock of the ages. It is not weakness, it where ears that have gotten rusty from jaw flapping can be re-tuned, energy not wasted, joy in discovery of concepts and modalities possibly previously unknown only short moments ago. Imagine that nutrition being available.

I'm reminded of Allen Ginsberg's "America

Related Poem Content Details
By Allen Ginsberg

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that jetplanes 1400 miles an hour and twentyfive-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers’ Ewig-Weibliche made me cry I once saw the Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Berkeley, January 17, 1956


My perspective on activism has always been the thorough discussion of what to do rather than protest what not to do. In other words, we need to understand what possible course of action taken produces the desired result. That said, worsening catastrophic destruction caused by flood, hurricane, tornado, drought and fire are too predictable not to consider an effective means to influence remedial and preventive action. Hillary Clinton may be the lesser of two evils, but the democratic party record doesn't come close to the nefarious crimes committed by the Bush Dynasty and the power mad, money-grubbing misanthropy of the republican party. Mister Trump will not be our next President nor will Jill Stein.


Interesting article, however, it could benefit with a more in-depth analysis of the different pathways that lend themselves to bringing about policy change. With regard to climate change the framing of the issue in catastrophic terms is merely an acknowledgement of the reality that many people in the world are all ready facing. The digging of mass graves in Pakistan this year in anticipation of deaths due to a heat wave is just one such example... there are many more like that.

The people on the front line grappling with the current impacts of climate change are keenly aware of the catastrophic nature of the problem and they are driven to act precisely because of this understanding. The success of shutting down of the Keystone XL Pipeline was because of the catastrophic GHG contribution it would be making to the atmosphere. Complementing that key message was the argument that there are renewable alternatives that we should be switching to. What galvanized a vast array of people (young, old, activist, non-activist, religious etc) to put their bodies on the line had to do with the catastrophic nature of the problem and not because there are cleaner alternatives. Without the catastrophic framing we wouldn't have gotten this far in the battle, notwithstanding that we haven't gotten very far in the larger scheme of things. Let's broaden the strategies by all means but let's not argue that we should shelve tried and tested approaches.


Agreed. And we will never have a more abundant energy source than the giant store of solar energy (in the form of fossil fuels) we have recklessly burned through in the past 100 years anyway. I am not a proponent of replacing one form of energy with any alternative source just so we can continue traveling the same destructive path we are on now. That's even if solar, wind, etc. could allow us to operate all the same systems we are operating now at the same feverish pace, which they can not.