The Planet Is Warming. And It's Okay to Be Afraid...
Climate warriors from around the world, like those facing rising seas in the Pacific islands, have turned the fear of lost homes and future devastation into the courage to confront the most powerful industries on the planet. (Image: via 350.org/Medium)
Why being fearful can be part of a healthy, heroic response to the climate crisis...
Last Week, David Wallace-Wells wrote a cover story for of New York Magazine, "The Uninhabitable Earth," on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, devastated economies, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.
The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece—though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening.
"Importantly, fear does not motivate, and appealing to it is often counter-productive as it tends to distance people from the problem, leading them to disengage, doubt and even dismiss it," wrote Michael Mann, Susan Joy Hassol and Tom Toles at the Washington Post.
Erich Holthaus tweeted about the consequences of the piece:
"A widely-read piece like this that is not suitably grounded in fact may provoke unnecessary panic and anxiety among readers."
"And that has real-world consequences. My twitter feed has been filled w people who, after reading DWW's piece, have felt deep anxiety."
"There are people who say they are now considering not having kids, partly because of this. People are losing sleep, reevaluating their lives."
While I think both Mann and Holthaus are brilliant scientists who identified some factual problems in the article, I strongly disagree with their statements about the role of emotions—namely, fear—in climate communications and politics. I am also skeptical of whether climate scientists should be treated as national arbiters of psychological or political questions, in general. I would like to offer my thoughts as a clinical psychologist, and as the founder and director of The Climate Mobilization.
Affect tolerance—the ability to tolerate a wide range of feelings in oneself and others—is a critical psychological skill. On the other hand, affect phobia—the fear of certain feelings in oneself or others—is a major psychological problem, as it causes people to rely heavily on psychological defenses.
Much of the climate movement seems to suffer from affect phobia, which is probably not surprising given that scientific culture aspires to be purely rational, free of emotional influence. Further, the feelings involved in processing the climate crisis—fear, grief, anger, guilt, and helplessness—can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean we should try to avoid "making" people feel such things. Experiencing them is a normal, healthy, necessary part of coming to terms with the climate crisis. I agree with David Roberts that it is OK, indeed imperative, to tell the whole, frightening story. As I argued in a 2015 essay, The Transformative Power of Climate Truth, it's the job of those of us trying to protect humanity and restore a safe climate to tell the truth about the climate crisis and help people process and channel their own feelings—not to preemptively try to manage and constrain those feelings.
Holthaus writes of people feeling deep anxiety, losing sleep, re-considering their lives due to the article… but this is actually a good thing. Those people are coming out of the trance of denial and starting to confront the reality of our existential emergency. I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it—it’s to protect them from the climate crisis.
I know many of you have been losing sleep and reconsidering your lives in light of the climate crisis for years. We at The Climate Mobilization sure have. TCM exists to make it possible for people to turn that fear into intense dedication and focused action towards a restoring a safe climate.
In my paper, Leading the Public into Emergency Mode—a New Strategy for the Climate Movement, I argue that intense, but not paralyzing, fear combined with maximum hope can actually lead people and groups into a state of peak performance. We can rise to the challenge of our time and dedicate ourselves to become heroic messengers and change-makers.
I do agree with the critique, made by Alex Steffen among others, that dire discussions of the climate crisis should be accompanied with a discussion of solutions. But these solutions have to be up to the task of saving civilization and the natural world. As we know, the only solution that offers effective protection is a maximal intensity effort, grounded in justice, that brings the United States to carbon negative in 10 years or less and begins to remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere. That's the magic combination for motivating people: telling the truth about the scale of the crisis and the solution.
In Los Angeles, our ally City Councilmember Paul Koretz is advocating a WWII-scale mobilization of Los Angeles to make it carbon neutral by 2025. He understands and talks about the horrific dangers of the climate crisis and is calling for heroic action to counter them. Local activists and community groups are inspired by his challenge.
Columnist Joe Romm noted, we aren't doomed—we are choosing to be doomed by failing to respond adequately to the emergency, which would of course entail initiating a WWII-scale response to the climate emergency. Our Victory Plan lays out what policies would look like that, if implemented, would actually protect billions of people and millions of species from decimation. They include: 1) An immediate ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure and a scheduled shut down of all fossil fuels in 10 years; 2) massive government investment in renewables; 3) overhauling our agricultural system to make it a huge carbon sink; 4) fair-shares rationing to reduce demand; 5) A federally-financed job guarantee to eliminate unemployment 6) a 100% marginal tax on income above $500,000.
Gradualist half measures, such as a gradually phased-in carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, that seem "politically realistic" but have no hope of actually restoring a safe climate, are not adequate to channel people's fear into productive action.
We know what is physically and morally necessary. It's our job—as members of the climate emergency movement—to make that politically possible. This will not be easy, emotionally or otherwise. It will take heroic levels of dedication from ordinary people. We hope you join us.
The Planet Is Warming. And It's Okay to Be Afraid by Margaret Klein Salamon, Common Dreams, July 17, 2017
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Margaret Klein Salamon, Phd is co-founder and director of Climate Mobilization. Klein earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Adelphi University and also holds a BA in Social Anthropology from Harvard. Though she loved being a therapist, Margaret felt called to apply her psychological and anthropological knowledge to solving climate change. Follow her and Climate Mobilization on Twitter: @@
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Sun July 16 2017
- Solutions to global warming require us to acknowledge scientific realities, Opinion by Mark R. O’Brian, Buffalo News, July 14, 2017
- California’s New Cap-and-Trade Plan Heads for a Vote—with Tradeoffs by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News, July 15, 2017
- Memo to the President: Support for Green Climate Fund Puts America First by Matthew Kotchen & Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, Yale Environment 360, July 13, 2017
- Warm spells in Arctic stunt crop yields across US, study suggests by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, July 10, 2017
- Seven charts show why the IEA thinks coal investment has already peaked by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, July 11, 2017
- July 2017 ENSO update: Holding steady by Nat Johnson, ENSO Blog, NOAA's Climate.gov, July 13, 2017
- B.C. Wildfires Live: Hot, dry conditions not going anywhere as thousands more deal with evacuation by Scott Brown, Canadian Press, Patrick Johnston & Harrison Mooney, Vancouver Sun, July 16, 2017
- Backlash against doomsday article that predicts a climate change induced apocalypse by Benedict Brook, news.com.au, July 16, 2017
Mon July 17 2017
- Rising seas threaten scores of species on Pacific islands with extinction by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, July 13, 2017
- Early summer heat wave in Europe by Tom Di Liberto, NOAA's Climate.gov, July 13, 2017
- Rains fail again in East Africa, hunger on the rise - U.N. by Umberto Bacchi, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 14, 2017
- Peer-Reviewed Study Proves All Recent Global Warming Fabricated by Climatologists? Fact Check by Alex Kasprak, Snopes, July 14, 2017
- Will wildfires get too intense to fight? by Mike Hager, Globe & Mail, July 14, 2017
- Factcheck: How much power will UK electric vehicles need? by Simon Evans, Carbon Brief, July 13, 2017
- Maize, rice, wheat: alarm at rising climate risk to vital crops by Robin McKie, Observer/Guardian, July 15, 2017
- World leaders on track to miss climate change targets and it could cost billions, warns Schroders by Josie Cox, Independent, July 17, 2017
Tue July 18 2017
- Tribes commit to uphold Paris climate agreement by Lyndsey Gilpin, High Country News, July 14, 2017
- Surrendering to fear brought us climate change denial and President Trump by John Abraham, Climate Consenus - the 97%, Guardian, July 17, 2017
- Curbelo’s gang of moderate Republicans defeats anti-climate change legislation by Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald, July 14, 2017
- How a Warming Climate Will Trouble Air Travel by Aneri Pattani, New York Times, July 17, 2017
- July 13, 2017
- Climate change deal squeaks out of California Legislature despite gas price worries by Alexei Koseff, Taryn Luna & Jim Miller, Sacramento Bee, July 17, 2017
- At Midway Point, 2017 Is 2nd-Hottest Year on Record by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 18, 2017
- EU mulls green finance labels to boost market, tackle 'greenwashing' by Francesco Guarascio, Reuters, July 18, 2017
Wed July 19 2017
- Sri Lanka struggles to adapt as disasters become a new "normal" by Amantha Perera, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 18, 2017
- In the absence of national leadership, cities are driving climate policy by Lesley Hughes, The Conversation AU, July 19, 2017
- Climate change threatens an ancient way of life in Ethiopia by , Washington Post, July 18, 2017
- The best way to reduce your personal carbon emissions: don't be rich by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, July 14, 2017
- Coastal Communities Sue 37 Oil, Gas and Coal Companies Over Climate Change by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News, July 18, 2017
- Climate denial is like The Matrix; more Republicans are choosing the red pill by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consenus - the 97%, Guardian, July 19, 2017
- How Can We Talk About Global Warming? by Renee Lertzman, Sierra Magazine, July 19, 2017
- Methane Seeps Out as Arctic Permafrost Starts to Resemble Swiss Cheese by Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News, July 19, 2017
Thu July 20 2017
- Satellite Snafu Masked True Sea Level Rise for Decades by Jeff Tollefson, Nature/Scientific American, July 19, 2017
- Third-hottest June puts 2017 on track to make hat-trick of hottest years by Michael Slezak, Guardian, July 19, 2017
- Japan, China, S. Korea bankroll Indonesia's coal despite Paris pledge by Thin Lei Win, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 19, 2017
- Astounding': Shifting storms under climate change to worsen coastal perils by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, July 20, 2017
- States of Emergency in California and British Columbia from Raging Wildfires by Bob Henson, Category 6, Weather Underground, July 20, 2017
- How wildfires could radically change forests — and your life by Merritt Turestky, The Conversation CA. July 19, 2017
- Climate Change Is Killing Us Right Now by Emily Atkin, New Republic, July 20, 2017
- Indian builders pledge "green" homes in race to meet climate goals by Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundtion, July 20, 2017
Fri July 21 2017
- How Documentaries Can Make Climate Believers Out Of Christians by Katie Hasty, BuzzFeed News, July 19, 2017
- In-depth: The challenge of using biofuels to cut transport emissions by Jocelyn Timperley, Carbon Brief, July 19, 2017
- 'Frightening': Senior climate scientist warns of potential Donald Trump damage by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, July 20, 2017
- Explainer: How data adjustments affect global temperature records by Zeke Hausfather, Carbon Brief, July 19, 2017
- A Beach Town’s Dilemma: Protect Homes or Save the Shore? by Anne C. Mulkern, ClimateWire/Scientific American, July 21, 2017
- Are We Ready for a ‘Managed Retreat’ from the Coasts — and from the Forests? by Crawford Kilian, TheTyee.ca, July 21, 2017
- Michael Gove slams Trump over climate change saying US is ‘walking out when the heat is on’ by Ian Johnston, Independent, July 21, 2017
Sat July 22 2017
- The Larsen C Iceberg Is Already Cracking Up by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, July 19, 2017
- Trump Furthers War on Science With 'Illegal' Nomination of Climate Denier for Top USDA Scientist by Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, July 21, 2017
- Here’s How Much Arctic Sea Ice Has Melted Since the ‘80s by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 21, 2017
- The Planet Is Warming. And It's Okay to Be Afraid by Margaret Klein Salamon, Common Dreams, July 17, 2017
- Paying Uganda farmers not to cut down trees halved deforestation - study by Ben Seabrook, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 20, 2017
- State of the climate: Warm temperatures and low sea ice mark first half of 2017 by Zeke Hausfather, Carbon Brief, July 21, 2017
- What is the Cost of One Meter of Sea Level Rise? by Sean Vitousek, Guest Commentary, Union of Concerned Scientists, July 19, 2017
- Hottest day ever in Shanghai as heat wave bakes China, AFP/Channel NewsAsia, July 21, 2017
Posted on 22 July 2017 by John Hartz
original story HERE
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