Are Environmentalists and Climate Scientists in Denial?
Climate Change Recognized as Primarily a Psychological Challenge
28 May 2019 – Produced in memory of the neglected “human” dimension implied by the original United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972)
The key to any viable strategic response to the planetary environmental tragedy is as much a psychological matter as one of constraining carbon emissions and other excesses. This was originally recognized to some degree in the UN Declaration on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), but was no longer held to be significant in the establishment and subsequent operation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), especially with respect to its psychosocial implications.
Much is made by environmentalists and climate scientists of the degree to which others are “in denial”. The question here is whether those groups have the right to use the term, since it relates to insights outside their respective domains. Essentially, with respect to their areas of expertise, they lack any formal qualifications to refer to that phenomenon – being a matter for the appropriately qualified social sciences, for which historically they have little regard.
From the perspective of the relevant social sciences, can it then be said that, being “in denial”, environmentalists are projecting onto those who disagree with them a condition from which they themselves are suffering? Again, neither “projection” nor “suffering” are phenomena which are comprehensible or meaningful to those engaged in such projection.
Given the manner in which the “disconnect” from nature is now widely noted and deplored, it can be argued that those preoccupied with the natural environment have lost the capacity to communicate meaningfully with humans. Given the suppression of “human” from the title of the United Nations Environment Programme, the situation could be caricatured as one of the “chickens coming home to roost“.
This argument can be readily framed as trivial and irresponsible in the light of the gravity of the planetary condition – at a time when those most sensitive to it are calling for “action now”. Potentially worse however is the manner in which many are reinforced in the belief that someone else is responsible and should be immediately called upon to act (Responsibility for Global Governance Who? Where? When? How? Why? Which? What? 2008). Those failing to act are readily condemned, in principle if not in practice.
It is of course the case that “action” and “responsibility” by collectivities are not concepts which are defined in any relevant manner by the natural sciences with respect to the environment. It could be argued that until environmentalists understand how they are part of the problem, they will be unable to understand the nature of the viable solution required. This concern follows from a previous framing of the challenge, using a different form (64 Questions for the Environmental Conservationists of the World — raising the question as to why they are not effectively addressed, 2017).
In the spirit of the communication challenges posed by this argument, a psychosocial case study is presented separately (Enrolling Winnie-the-Pooh’s Companions in Climate Change Discourse: key roles in the environmental psychodrama of Hundred Acre Wood, 2019).
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