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In short, it is apparent that a solid grasp of the basics (let alone the complexities) of these domains elude many people, and there appears to be a discrepancy between how much people know about social issues and their importance and relevance to one’s day-to-day life.
Energy and the economy represent just two self-relevant domains that people can feel uncertain about, both in terms of how they operate at a societal level and how people should act on them. This kind of unfamiliarity can be problematic for day-to-day functioning, and can also be psychologically stressful. Epistemic uncertainty compromises our ability to predict the future and our ability to act and engage in relevant issues. Furthermore, actions that are made under these circumstances are at an increased risk of being inappropriate or costly. Research has powerfully illustrated that a lack of knowledge in domains such as energy and the environment can lead to bad decisions and erroneous beliefs that hinder a society’s ability to create change in domains that require it. (links/citations in the original) [1]

Peak oil? Energy boom? Resource limits just around the corner? Resources to last us close to forever? Technology can only work within the limits of geology? Technology will always gain us more than we need?

How does the average citizen who might have a free minute or two each week to devote to energy considerations gain even a marginal understanding of issues which are so thoroughly  integrated into every corner of our society? The simple answer is that they cannot, and there’s no blame to be assigned for that. Most of us have more than enough to-do’s and must-do’s as it is. Adding vague conceptual matters which do not seem to directly and actively affect us at this moment are never high on anyone’s priority list. Duly noted.

But the other simple, much less appealing answer is that knowledge of these matters, matters … a great deal, actually.

No one on this planet can become an expert on everything. We’re each and all lucky to have  working knowledge on a handful or two issues at most. So what do we all do when confronted with topics deserving of at least some attention but not enough to immerse ourselves in? We turn to those who know. Who doesn’t!

But the pivot from realizing some information is needed/important to the decision on where that is to be found is a critical step in preparing ourselves for the challenges ahead. We will naturally rely upon those whom we trust. When those others have no personal loyalty to those dependent on their “expertise,” they nonetheless have an obligation to honor that trust. Honoring that trust requires both honesty and awareness about the need for and importance of information to be shared.

When self-serving motivations are the first consideration, those dependent upon and trusting those actors are immediately placed at a disadvantage—usually with no realization of that fact. The problems are compounded. When the full scope of accurate information is withheld, the results are (or should be) obvious:

[B]ad decisions and erroneous beliefs [will] hinder a society’s ability to create change in domains that require it.

Those consequences matter. It may not seem that way now, but that’s just now. What happens tomorrow when inadequate information and a lack of preparation are all we have available?

~ My Photo: Eastern Point, Gloucester MA – 08.04.11

 

* I invite you to enjoy my two new books [here and here], and to view my other work at richardturcotte.com :
 

       * Looking Left and Right

A blog examining the liberal vs. conservative conflicts in our society

 

       * Life Will Answer

Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name]

 

       * The Middle Age Follies

A column offering a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50.

 

Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas,
Envisioning Better Tomorrows

Peak Oil Matters is dedicated to informing others about the significance and impact of Peak Oil—while adding observations about politics, ideology, transportation, and smart growth.

 

Sources:

[1] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 102, No. 2, 264–280 0022-3514/11/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0026272: On the Perpetuation of Ignorance: System Dependence, System Justification, and the Motivated Avoidance of Sociopolitical Information by Steven Shepherd, Aaron C. Kay University of Waterloo; Duke University