Bum me out, and I’ll ignore you


in Politics, Psychology, The environment

My friend Lauren sent me a link to an article by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger entitled: The Long Death of Environmentalism.

It contains much that is of interest, but one passage stood out for me:

John Jost, a leading political psychologist at New York University, recently demonstrated that much of the partisan divide on global warming can be explained through the psychological concept of system justification. It turns out that many Americans have a strong psychological need to maintain a positive view of the existing social order. When Gore said “we are going to have to change the way we live our lives” he could not have uttered a statement better tailored to trigger system justification among a substantial number of Americans.

‘A strong psychological need to maintain a positive view of the existing social order’ probably contributes to the Lindzen Fallacy.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

anon April 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm
mek April 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm

It’s interesting how dated this essay is, two months later, due to Fukushima.

It’s also interesting how they have adopted “the outcome is constrained” as their conclusion, failing to recognize that the outcome is constrained merely by dominant ideology. However, the suggestion of a regenerative politics is a glimmer of correctness here.

. May 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Our Crushing Dilemmas
May 5, 2011

How do environmentalists fight without losing what we’re fighting for?

mek May 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm

UBC’s William Rees: “The real problem is that the modern world remains in the sway of a dangerously illusory cultural myth. Most governments and international agencies seem to believe that the human enterprise is somehow ‘decoupling’ from the environment, and so is poised for unlimited expansion.”

anon May 9, 2011 at 5:21 am

“believe that the human enterprise is somehow ‘decoupling’ from the environment, and so is poised for unlimited expansion.””

But unlimited expansion is the basic tenant of investment! How can I ever hope to retire if the world isn’t infinite!

mek May 10, 2011 at 5:27 am
Milan May 10, 2011 at 8:06 am

Anyone who still has ‘Just-World Beliefs’ can’t be paying all that much attention. There seems to be little or no connection between how ethically people behave and how much joy or suffering their lives involve. Completely innocent children are constantly struck down by agonizing diseases, while murderous dictators live long and lavish lives.

Sarah June 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm

So this article “Missing carbon reductions? Exploring rebound and backfire effects in UK households” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421511002473 and similar research is going to be ignored, then. *sigh*

. February 7, 2012 at 7:20 am

National political leaders influence how much Americans worry about the threat of climate change rather than extreme weather events, new research has found.

In a study of public opinion from 2002 to 2010, researchers found that public belief that climate change was a threat peaked in 2006-2007 when Democrats and Republicans in Congress showed the most agreement on the issue.

But public concern has dropped since then, as partisanship over the issue increased.

. March 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I say this to clear away the temptation of easy moralism, of making “true” seem like it would be the easy way to be right. For if truth and fiction are not black and white – and they are not – then it is simply not enough to condemn Mike Daisey for lying. Moralizing about that, after all, allows us to imagine a simplistic world in which telling the truth would have been the right choice. If you tell the truth the right way, we imagine – if you tell the version of Mike Daisey’s story that didn’t narcissistically mythologize – then the real problems that really do exist could be dealt with. But this isn’t the case, is it? If you tell the truth with scrupulous accuracy and breadth, people are as likely to doze off as be scandalized.

Milan July 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm

I think this phenomenon is broader than climate change denial. People believe (or choose to believe) that the world is essentially good and just. That clashes with apparent injustices they observe, prompting a variety of defence mechanisms, including denying that the injustices are real, claiming that they are inevitable or the alternatives are worse, or simply finding any reason, however flimsy, to discredit anyone calling for action.

Milan July 3, 2018 at 12:22 pm

In case anyone doubts it:

Premier Doug Ford Announces the End of the Cap-and-Trade Carbon Tax Era in Ontario
Fulfilment of election promise is the first step toward reducing gas prices by 10 cents per litre

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