The urgency with which the United States and the world treats energy issues has to do in part with whether the public thinks there is a problem. And, Americans don’t think there is a problem with low-priced energy as is evidenced by a political past
Across five studies in which diverse methodologies were used, we have provided evidence for a psychological chain of events that serves to increase system support and status quo maintenance in two related ways: first, through increased government trust and support for extant government procedures [my note: or their preferred media and other influential voices] and, second, through the avoidance of information that would challenge this trust and might otherwise educate the individual and lead to action as opposed to inaction.
Evidence for this model was found in the context of both novel and familiar issues, including energy technology, the management and depletion of oil reserves, and the 2008 economic recession.
INTELLECTUAL & EMOTIONAL GYMNASTICS
Facts—the kinds we have all used all of our lives to base all kinds of personal and financial and professional decisions from the insignificant to the magnificent—suddenly have limited application and utility when it comes to perhaps the two greatest challenges to mankind’s continuing prosperity we’ve ever confronted! Seriously?
Every piece of evidence, every observation, every expert, every real-life, on the ground experiences regarding our warming planet and the limitations inherent in producing finite energy resources—all of that and more—are simply opinions [at best], and not worthy of consideration at all?
Assessments of three key elements of the conservative personality are by now well established:
* resistance to change
* a strong need for closure
* greater reliance on system justification
As noted in an prior post in this series:
[I]deological differences between right and left have psychological roots: stability and hierarchy generally provide reassurance and structure, whereas change and equality imply greater chaos and unpredictability.
While the psychological and intellectual gymnastics to stay focused on ideological traditions so as to avoid discomfort or raise doubt about one’s chosen leaders and affiliations with like-minded others are genuinely impressive, at what point do those inclined to preserve the status quo no matter what begin to have a question or two about continuing along that same path?
PRESERVATION HAS ITS LIMITS
More generally, one could view, somewhat ironically perhaps, the tendency to treat data selectively and partially as a testament to the high value people attach to consistency….
Consistency is usually taken to be an important requirement of rationality, possibly the most important such requirement.
Paradoxically, it seems that the desire to be consistent can be so strong as to make it difficult for one to evaluate new evidence pertaining to a stated position in an objective way.
Doesn’t the overwhelming amount of information, research, and expertise about the production of finite resources and the troubling climate change observations merit at least some critical examination from those otherwise doing all they can to avoid dealing with the issues at all? What thought process is deployed to convince them that the wiser course of action is to keep making things worse for everyone in more ways over a longer period of time by doing nothing in the present?
Given the psychological discomfort associated with epistemic uncertainty, one appealing way to deal with the anxiety of being unable to comprehend or manage information is to simply out-source personal responsibility to supposed qualified others.
This strategy may, at times, be considerably more appealing than seeking out knowledge and information for oneself, which assumes that people have the time and ability to sieve through challenging, and potentially threatening, information.
While understandable that the distress of dealing with such potentially overwhelming challenges leads us to seek out external sources to manage and address those matters on our behalf, human nature notwithstanding, we ought to be paying at least a bit more attention to what those designated others are actually doing and saying—and why.
When Senator James Inhofe [R-OK], the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee—which has jurisdiction over matters such as climate change—strolls into the Senate chambers and offers a snowball as proof that there is no global warming to be concerned about, we have a problem. The ignorance, arrogance, and contempt for the citizens leaders like this demonstrate with such embarrassingly idiotic displays on behalf of their benefactors, we’re asking for a lot more trouble than we need. Certainly a lot more than we will be prepared for if we had someone of intellectual integrity acting on our behalf.
Although this form of outsourcing may be psychologically liberating in some ways, it may not be an optimal arrangement when it comes to issues that require behavior and change at the level of the individual.
Information may not (sadly) always be enough, but awareness and understanding can open doors which facts alone cannot do. What’s the benefit in not having solutions to urgent challenges because ideologies must be protected first…?
Is there an answer from the Right to that simplest of inquiries? By what form of magical thinking do they remain convinced that by ignoring reality, it will go away?
NO POST NEXT WEEK. Happy Thanksgiving!
~ My [wife’s] Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA © 07.25.10
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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