We … [confront] a previously unacknowledged factor that may contribute to the perpetuation of environmental apathy and inaction, namely, the motivated tendency to justify the status quo, especially in the face of threat. Confronting global warming and environmental destruction requires facing up to serious threat, not only because of the scope and unpredictability of the projected disasters but also because they pose a challenge to the very foundations of our socioeconomic system. This threat may stimulate defensive, system-justifying responses and, therefore, continued indifference and exploitation with respect to the natural environment, rather than commitment to recognizing and remedying the problem. (Citations in original)
THE OBVIOUS IS NOT SO OBVIOUS
Finding better ways to persuade those resistant to the information is of vital importance, but that may be more than a bit of a challenge. There are several other important factors involved in receipt and acceptance of the less-than-pleasant issues we’ll face in the years ahead, which may explain much about why there are such different perspectives on climate change and energy supply.
The more powerfully one conveys the severity of a given problem, the logic goes, the more motivated people should be to address this problem. Recent research on processes of system justification, however, suggests this may not be the case.
A nation with a substantial number of leaders untethered from the realization that science is not science fiction, and that the conclusions offered by the collective efforts of tens of thousands of trained experts actually merits consideration rather than denial, opposition, and a host of similar avoidance techniques, is a nation which had better be preparing itself for the Mother Of All Consequences.
We only exacerbate the risks when powerful voices start tinkering with evidence and facts so that they align more neatly with already-established, intuitive beliefs and values—or other motivations clearly unaligned with the public good today and tomorrow.
The rabbit hole of one insane theory leading to another moves its perpetrators and sympathizers farther away from reality and facts the more often they engage in their fear-inducing disaster concoctions. The point?
DENIAL & SYSTEM JUSTIFICATION
We obtained clear evidence linking system justification tendencies to the denial of environmental problems and failure to engage in pro-environmental behavior.
These findings are the first to provide direct empirical evidence that system justification is associated with denial in the face of problems that are endogenous to the social system; they also highlight the important role that denial (alongside rationalization) plays in the perpetuation of a problematic status quo.
This evidence may well constitute the most dramatic demonstration of the social costs associated with system justification insofar as people seem willing to sacrifice not only their own long-term self-interest but also the well-being of others and perhaps even the planet as a whole.
Such findings portend a destructive situation in which the psychological motivation to defend the socioeconomic system paradoxically leads people to ignore and therefore increase their vulnerability to events that threaten that very system.
By engaging in a denial of problems that are endemic to the system, rather than striving for clarity, understanding, and a change of course, negative cycles are perpetuated, and genuine change is stifled.
Our results therefore substantiate prior observations that denial is a powerful barrier to environmentalism (Citations in original).
Reality tends not to be particularly impressed with ideologies seeking to contradict what is and what is likely to be if nothing is done.
Reality is likewise reluctant in the extreme to halt its forward progress because some have labored diligently to convert reality to convenient opinions instead. It should also be noted that firmly-entrenched ideologies, denials, delusions, misrepresentations, and their assorted cousins will in time have absolutely no choice but to deal with reality in its unaltered form. What happens when the realization dawns on those who have worked so hard to avoid distress by denial that that same foolish, misguided denial has made life much worse for them and everyone else?
Do we really want that as one of our limited options in the years ahead? Tens of thousands of experts basing their conclusions on real-life factors … all are wrong? Really?
~ My Photo: Dusk at Good Harbor Beach, MA © 09.02.16
We face a choice going forward. There’s a kind of false dichotomy, a false choice that we’re being presented between policies on the left or policies on the right. It’s not left or right, it’s forward or backward. It’s a choice between investing in the future, leaving a better future for the next generation just like parents and grandparents did for us, or ignoring these hard choices and sentencing the next generation to a lower standard of living, to fewer opportunities, and a future that we could do better by. Former USDOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari
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Peak Oil Matters offers observations and insights about the realities of declining fossil fuel production, and its impact on our future well-being