Now would be an excellent time to ponder for a moment or two just how many more problems we want to create, how many more options we want to take off the table, and how many burdens we want to inflict on ourselves by continuing to roll down the same highway without full discussions and disclosures about all of the energy considerations we need to focus on. That won’t always be a happy tale to tell, and it won’t always flatter key players, but it will get more of us thinking and planning and preparing for a different but not necessarily “worse” future.
Conceiving facts as the currency of democratic citizenship directs attention to two conditions that a democratic polity must meet to avoid bankruptcy.
First, its citizens must have ready access to factual information that facilitates the evaluation of public policy.
This information should be specific to the policy deliberations taking place among political leaders, for domain-specific facts best enable people to “connect to” policy debates (_).
Second, citizens must then use these facts to inform their preferences.
They must absorb and apply the facts to overcome areas of ignorance or to correct mistaken conceptions.
The more facts they bring to bear, the better, and some facts are always better than no facts.
What is crucial is that preferences stem from facts, objective data about the world.…
If both conditions are met, the thinking goes, then representative democracy is on solid footing.
Fulfilling the first condition is a prerequisite to meeting the second; citizens can use facts only if the political system disseminates them.
Generally speaking, the American political system fares poorly on this count.
Those best positioned to provide relevant facts, elected officials and members of the media, lack the incentive to do so.
Politicians want their preferred policies to prevail, and so they employ manipulative rhetoric and create themes and images that will sway the electorate in the desired direction.…
When elected officials do cite facts, it is to dramatize their own cause, not to educate and elucidate.
In the same vein, television news, the dominant source of information in American society, seeks to gain and maintain its viewers’ interest.
Rather than present general facts and place them in context, it reports specific events and personal situations; and the more vivid, the better. (Citations in original)
How do we overcome human nature’s inclination to avoid the distressing? How can we help others to understand that what may be distressing and unpleasant now by beginning to address climate change and peak oil is going to get a whole lot worse if we continue to kick the same cans down the same roads.
For those casting doubt about a decline in the availability of fossil fuel supplies, the motivation is certainly understandable: we’ve always had oil at the ready, so the thought that this is not an endless guarantee is especially disturbing to those already averse to change and/or to anything which suggests the current “system” is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the future. As for climate change, even just being made aware of the suggested, potential consequences is enough to frighten even the most confident of confident individuals. Fear can thus easily overwhelm, and the first response—and second, and third—is to fight even harder to justify the system as capable, and they will do so by whatever means necessary.
Once a belief or opinion has been formed, it can be very resistive to change, even in the face of fairly compelling evidence that it is wrong.
Moreover it can bias the evaluation and interpretation of evidence that is subsequently acquired.
People are more likely to question information that conflicts with preexisting beliefs than information that is consistent with them and are more likely to see ambiguous information to be confirming of preexisting beliefs than disconfirming of them.
And they can be quite facile at explaining away events that are inconsistent with their established beliefs. (Citations in original)
Conservatives [respond] by creating their own alternative reality in which rejection of basic facts and decency in the service of ideology is a badge of merit and tribal loyalty.
Delaying acknowledgment, much less action, is in the end just delay. And with that strategy comes the inevitable outcome: we’ve made it that much more difficult to deal with the problems tomorrow.
Inasmuch as a critical step in dealing with any type of bias is recognizing its existence, perhaps simply being aware of the confirmation bias—of its pervasiveness and of the many guises in which it appears—might help one both to be a little cautious about making up one’s mind quickly on important issues and to be somewhat more open to opinions that differ from one’s own than one might otherwise be.
If the truth isn’t part of the discussion, then what kind of argument is one making to begin with and what merits do they have at all? If those raising baseless objections don’t know or understand the issues, why are they speaking out? What happens to all of us if these are the foundations from which problem-solving—such as it may be—takes place?
~ My Photo: Boston MA Sunset © 02.28.16
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