Times are changing. Slowly but surely, people are starting to realize the real effects that environmental issues have on our Earth as a whole. It's a scary reality, and one that, as I'm sure you know, we must fight to reverse. I'm happy to say that many good people are already fighting, and have been for many, many years. Even so, in the face of this progress, there are still those who adamantly deny these issues, the major victim being climate change. Despite evidence from hundreds of scientists, and studies conducted over dozens of years, some people still choose to believe it isn't true. Sometimes they support their argument, sometimes they don't, but either way they remain unwilling to accept an idea counter to their own. So, a question I often ask myself, and the one I wanted to try and answer today is, why?
Quick note: this is a thought experiment. It is not supported by an actual climate change denier's viewpoint, nor does it attempt to mimic one. I thought it would be interesting, using my own observation, to try and identify the underlying reasons behind what to me is a mystifying phenomenon. With that out of the way, let's get started.
This one, to me, is fairly obvious. I find it fitting that a lot of big business men, or those who have invested a lot of money in big business, tend to deny climate change. Obviously, you can still have a business and believe in Climate Change, but the ones especially related to the harvesting and use of fossil fuels seem certainly more inclined to call it a hoax. Why? Well, I think the answer's simple: they're looking for profit.
These companies are built on the use of fossil fuels. It only makes sense that, if something comes up that threatens their ability to use them, they'd be quick to denounce it. After all, in terms of money, they have the most to lose, as a transition to better forms of energy would most certainly cut their profits. But they don't just deny climate change, they want the public to deny it too. In the past, companies like Exxon have spent BILLIONS of dollars in misdirection campaigns, attempting to convince the public that the conclusions found on climate change were still uncertain. Unfortunately, their ploys worked a little too well, and ever since the 1980s they've been profiting off of this misinformation.
Surprisingly, another mentality behind the denial of Climate Change I've encountered is apathy. This seems to be stronger in the older crowd, and their mentality does make a twisted sort of sense: If I'm not going to be around when these "effects" take place, then why should I help stop the problem? Why bother caring? Isn't it just easier to deny the problem outright, and enjoy the rest of life as opposed to worrying about it so frequently? I can understand the viewpoint, but it's one that selfishly forgets about the generations of people about to inherit what they've left behind.
Something a bit different that in my view stems from this belief is the thought that the younger generation should be solely responsible for solving climate change. While not in direct relation to the denial of the problem, I think it's still worth mentioning, as it does relate to apathy. Even though the older people of our Earth may not be around to experience the effects of this change, in my mind they should still help, not only because they were the ones who caused the problem in the first place, but because we need all the help we can get. The youth should lead the charge, but we need the wisdom and experience of adults and elders to really implement effective solutions.
Out of sight, out of mind
It's easy to say a problem doesn't exist if you've never seen it. At least in the popular media, this seems to be one of the most common forms and reasons behind climate change denial. In this case, the common mantra of "seeing is believing" remains quite dangerous. Yes, one may not see the most brutal effects of climate change in THEIR community, but that doesn't change the fact that others are still being affected. This issue disproportionately affects the rich and the poor, and so we begin to see people with more fortunate livelihoods doubt the existence of the problem, simply because they've never seen it.
But all it takes is a few simple Ecosia searches to realize that what we see isn't the same as others.
But, above all, I believe our denial remains rooted in something much more forgivable: fear. climate change is, at its core, an existentially terrifying problem: it threatens everything that we know and love. So, it only makes sense that there would be a lot of anxiety associated with it. Everyone I know, regardless of whether they deny climate change or not, fears the idea of it in some form or another. Change on this kind of scale, and with these kinds of consequences, is outright mortifying. I don't think I could ever fault someone for being afraid of climate change, because I myself am too.
Now, fear can be a powerful tool, but it can also do a whole lot of damage if we let it control us. Fear has fueled many of the recent movements toward a more sustainable future, but I think it's also caused a lot of people to turn away from it, hoping that the problems we fear most just aren't real. Truth is, I'd love for climate change to be fake (it would mean a lot less worry and work for all of us) but as our understanding of the problem increases, the possibility of this seems less and less likely. So, as it continues to bear down on us, some of us hold on tighter and tighter to the belief that it's not really there. This fear can even cause us to lose the sense of logic and reasoning that comes with a calm demeanor. As the world becomes more and more fearful of what's to come next, it also becomes more open to the hope that it's nothing bad.
But, whether we believe in it or not, climate change is real. It's here, it's now, and it's only going to continue to get worse unless we do something about it. We can use the fear we have to push us towards solutions, and work to create a future that's better, and even less frightening, for the next generation. But, if we continue to let this fear, greed, apathy, and short sightedness control us, then pretty soon the problem is going to be irreversible. Ultimately, in my mind the real challenges of climate change will not be solving the problem itself, but overcoming the anxiety and uncertainty associated with accepting the issue and implementing the required solutions. I really wish this wasn't a problem, but it is, and we have to accept it. So, I'll end with this thought for all the climate change deniers out there: do you deny because of a lack of evidence from untrustworthy scientists, or maybe because, just like the rest of us, you're scared?
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