Home | About | Donate

Our Aversion to Doom and Gloom Is Dooming Us


Our Aversion to Doom and Gloom Is Dooming Us

John Atcheson

I worked for over 35 years in the environmental field, and one of the central debates I encountered was whether to "tell it like it is," and risk spreading doom and gloom, or to focus on a more optimistic message, even when optimism wasn't necessarily warranted.


Thanks for telling it like it is John. We need much more of that. How will we ever WAKE UP if there is no alarm?


In an obtuse way, the author describes the 1980 presidential election. The media mindf****s managed to convince enough American idiots that Carter was giving them the lie. That “Ronnie” would save them from evil while enabling them to go on their merry ways as professional consumers
I was 22 years old, and that election framed my lifetime disappointment in the United States. I sort of despise the country for it. Jimmy Carter was just soft pedaling suggestions that we would need to heed, and yet the immaturity of enough of the population rejected him as spoiling their big brat party. Screw most of those people. Those years just made what we are facing now that much worse. People should think of the DECADES we have lost. I don’t mind gloom and doom at all. I prefer reality over fantasy any day.


It is hard to face reality though when it is being more proven to point in the inevitable short term extinction of our species. Still we need to face it, no matter how hard it is. If we can’t save our species the best thing we can do is organize to face it not as a species that is under constant fear and hatred of each other.


I do agree with what the author is saying though if I can play Devil’s Advocate for a bit I think one of the reason we have such an aversion to doom and gloom is that we fear that if we make known the entire seemingly insurmountable weight of the climate change issue people might become despondent. However it is necessary for us to face what is coming because us avoiding the issue is just making things worse in the long run and making us turn on each other during these last handful of years we have left.


I think raising the alarm is the single most important thing that we can do to foster the actual reduction of carbon in the atmosphere. But there is gloom and there is doom and despite the two words being used together, they actually have different meanings for the future.

So very many good people have raised the alarm about global warming. It is the gloomiest of subjects without doubt. However there is a tendency for too many to sound the doom alarm and then start explaining why the human race will soon be undergoing extinction! Some whose hyperbole borders on hysteria claim the end of humanity is mere decades away!

Maybe you feel that they rightfully sound an alarm about extinction even if it doesn’t happen in the short time span that is allotted. But there lies the rub, at least for the people you are trying to convince. They look outside their door at green trees and meadows and while it is getting hotter each year, it is by fractional amounts and has the most effect in distant lands. For most people in the USA, they see the truth in gloom that global warming is actually happening but they don’t see the proof that we are soon to be doomed to extinction (not in their lives). So they stop acting on the gloom alarms and have simply tuned out the fatalism inherent in the doom alarms!

That is why they haven’t acted! They don’t see all the hidden damage that is steadily accumulating that presages our efforts to stop catastrophic climate change! They don’t feel the doom of extinction in the short term is real which is why people need to tone down their extremist predictions of humanity’s extinction. The gloom of a death sentence hangs over our heads but as yet we still don’t see the shadow of the executioner’s chopping axe above our necks!


I think doom and gloom is necessary for the purpose of urgency. Unless the urgency of the situation is understood people will not act with the urgency needed. Climate scientists in general have a much more dire view of the situation than the public. A nonscientific survey of climate scientists almost 10 years ago found that the largest number thought we would reach 4C. Some who said we could stay under 2C admitted it was mostly wishful thinking. Although we need more doom and gloom expecting it is not realistic. Politicians have to convey some sense of optimism if they want to be elected. In the US it is critical to evoke the “we can do it” phrase to give us hope no matter what the circumstances. Environmental organizations need to set strong goals to get people to join the effort. While these goals may be unrealistic they are necessary for successful organizing. I think the best strategy is to work to stay under 2C but begin planning for 4C, since I believe we should assume that temperature will eventually be reached. Of course even much higher temperature can be reached but I don’t think it is possible to turn into another Venus no matter what happens.


Frankly, I would, if I could have MY magical wish, that all the OTHER
species get a better shot a survival than we do. We have taken far too much
already. Would be wonderful to come back to visit and find mankind not
here, at the rate we are going. Why did we not start leaving other
organisms just be after say, the industrial revolution. What a stupid
genetic relative of the chimpanzee we really are. I don’t like it…


You give an excellent description of what has been so. What I find even more discouraging are those who do see the doom and do feel fatalistic about it, to the point that they hate talking about. Not denial at all, but an over-riding sense of powerlessness.

I can’t say I blame them. It takes extraordinary courage to stand up to TPTB, particularly given the violent responses we are seeing to protestation.

Nonetheless, people are waking up. I am hopeful (not optimistic, but hopeful) that the disaster of the Trump presidency and his withdrawal of ‘we the people’ from the Paris agreement are fueling an uprising of people who are starting to pay much closer attention, and demanding a reversal in energy policies.

Will it be enough? I don’t know. The Berlin wall did come down…


Good comment Walter! You had it figured out way back then.


I agree. My point was mainly about how some people go overboard about the possibility of human extinction happening in a short period of time! This is unsubstantiated and while certain scenarios could result in such an outcome, none are at all likely over the short term.

This hyperbole of doom turns off many people whereas the gloom of reality deserves to be stressed as it is a warning and the only way forward that will allow us to avoid the doom!


The fossil fuel industry receives a lot of criticism these days, and rightfully so. But in the final analysis, we are the ones who support the energy industry and it is our standard of living that will need to change. So contemplate what you can do for the cause

Personal Actions
End our love affair with the automobile
Ride more trains and buses
Car pool
Walk and bike more
Turn off the air conditioner in the summer and dial the thermostat down in winter
Become vegetarians or vegans
Refill plastic bottles with tap water
Discontinue using aluminum cans with and without carbonation
Maximize use of reusable bags and products
Recycle junk mail
Forego fast junk food
Go to “slow food”;
Recycle maximally, especially aluminum cans
Drive and accelerate more slowly
Climb more stairs
Plant more trees
Forego use of spray cans
Ride more trains and buses
Repair, mend and alter as much as possible
Buy solar panels
Compost as much as possible
Last person out of the room turn off the lights
Eat and farm organic
Ride more trains and buses
Fly fewer planes
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Use manual tools instead of power tools
Share more
Use rakes rather than leaf blowers
Decrease use of bottled water and refill plastic bottles with tap water
Maximize reusable bags and products
Push rather than power small mowers
Replace lawns with vegetable gardens
Stop fertilizing and mowing lawns
Compost as much as possible
Minimize use of disposables (Pampers);
Maximize high efficiency LED and solar powered lighting;
Limit endless gadgets
Use motion lighting, where appropriate

Local Government Actions
Reorganize cities, building taller residences with a smaller footprint (the end of suburbia)
Institute a carbon tax
Promote car pooling subsidize and expand mass transit
Expand bike paths
Have shareable (zip) cars
Ban electric outdoor signs;
Eat and farm organic
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Eliminate approximately 50% of all street lighting and office lighting in unoccupied buildings
eliminate “fast junk food”; go to “slow food

Federal Government Actions
Ban gasohol
Rein in the militaries for defense only and outlaw war
Discontinue night baseball
Make electronics, house wares, furniture, etc to be as durable and long-lived as possible
Recycle maximally
Make appliances to be as energy efficient as possible
Discontinue aluminum cans
Ban electric outdoor signs
Maximize solar and wind power;
Change from petroleum based fertilizers to regenerative agriculture
Reverse deforestation, plant more trees
Restrict spray cans
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Promote zero population growth with free condoms and family planning world-wide
End yearly auto model changes;
Proscribe junk mail
Scrap the mission to Mars


Thank you for a very comprehensive list of reasonable changes in our lifestyles and habits, that if widely adopted and practiced could and would make a difference, not just in slowing climate change,
but would also result in a better way of life.


Wereflea, the executioners come with two faces; one is climate change and the other is nuclear war. Both are being ignored, or at least shied away from the reality. We have wasted 40 years with regard to climate and we dodged one very close encounter with nuclear destruction. Our youth do not have another 40 years and our luck just might not hold. If government is unwilling to recognize this and is willing to lead us toward nuclear annihilation for the the sake of empire and hegemonic power what the Fuck good is government!


I think we would have had another 40 years with regards to mutually assured nuclear suicide except for Trump and Kim! They don’t compare well with JFK and Kruschev. Who knows now? Trump is an aberrant personality and Kim is a abused one.

All this is so f’n complicated by global warming. Everything - every stress factor gets maximized under an overheated and overpopulated planet. You almost have to wonder if there are those in governments already writing out their excuses for how bad it is going to get when the climate hits the fan! Wars and famine plus massive population dislocation. Geez!

Good luck Kiddies! You are going to need it!


It sort of does not matter, in a sense, how much time we have a species. Sure, we could go on for quite a while, with half the landmass resembling what China urban and otherwise is becoming. Do you want to actually live in a world like that, even for a year? You and everybody else would behoove yourselves to the worst case scenarios. Then something MIGHT get done. We’ve tried soft pedaling it for decades to no avail. And believe me, the idea of species going like dominoes is perfectly (and likely) possible…


You do realize that you are virtually asking whether the chinese want to live the way they do now?

They would like to live better to be sure but none of those urban chinese wants to stop living even under those conditions either.

People adapt. Ours is a world population beyond belief to people only a couple of centuries ago. When I was a teen there were 1/2 as many people (actually even less by a billion). There was an electric sign at the Worlds Fair showing population figures by the minutes etc. There was a big to do when 3 billion was reached.
We are nearly at 8 billion ( it needs a couple or three more years). A billion more a decade ahead. Every decade another billion.

How’s that for finding a parking space?


I am not asking any such thing. This assumption circulating around about ethnic/cultural groups and what they may or may not want, and that all these people might have all these choices. No. They were just born into it mostly. Do they want to continue living that way? I have no idea and never will. All that I know is what it means to me.
If you want adapt to Bejing, be my guest. I was raised in LA and HAD to leave for my bronchial health. I was lucky, I had the choice. Most people in general do not have all these “choices.” Probably the biggest joke in the joke of a “philosophy” that is Libertarianism.
I know for myself, I don’t see myself adapting to smog in Shanghai daily. Nor probably a lot of people. Give it a try if you want to find out…


I also had to exit California due to air pollution. Adaption is not an option for me. The changes we are seeing require that we mutate to adapt.

Unfortunately human reproduction cycles are too long to enable us to mutate to adapt to the changing conditions like air pollution. For insects, mutation works fine…for humans, only a few of us can mutate to adapt to pollution.

Failing to control human population control has always been the root of this problem.


Look you posted to me and I thought I had responded to what you were saying? I see now that I made the wrong guess as to what you might be talking about. If you could make your point clearer or ask your questions without adding in commentary it would help.

In other words …what were you talking about?