Over a couple of pints tonight, talking with some friends. Got onto the topic of things we (as societies/species) talk about and things we don’t. Some things – budgets of 100s of millions of quid or whatever – are too big, too unimagineable. Others – say the quality of the toilet paper and what kinds should be procured – are vigorously argued.
People don’t have opinions about the Keeling Curve. They do have opinions about “benefits cheats”.
So it goes. What a species… Toasty.
UPDATE: And what is the very next thing I do after hitting publish on this post? Well, I read this from the Climate Change Denial blog…
I did six interviews in Bastrop: with the mayor, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, the editor of the local newspaper and with three people who had lost everything they owned in the fires.
It was very interesting that not one of them could recall any conversation about anthropogenic climate change in relation to the fires. The mayor, who said he accepted climate science, found that there was little interest or willingness among people to make this connection and it seems he felt it politic not to push it.
People did note that there was a change in the weather and most anticipated that the drought and fires could happen again. But they weren’t really interested in talking about this- what they really wanted to talk about was their pride in their community, the value of their social relations, their resilience and their personal and collective capacity to overcome challenges. They had recovered remarkably fast and the local economy had grown (boosted by government recovery grants and insurance payments). The county is doing very well and continues to grow- incredibly, after entirely repeatable wildfires incinerated the homes of a third of the residents, it is said to be the fourth fastest growing county in the US.
I would argue that the responses in Bastrop are entirely consistent with what we know about the way that people respond socially and cognitively to disasters and climate change.