05/07/2014 05:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Eyes Wide Closed


In a recent post appearing in MARKETPLACE, Morning Report, entitled, "Climate change: how to talk about bad news", Sarah Gardner presents the views of some of the nations leading communications and psychology experts on why people seem to not be hearing or responding to numerous warnings and (often catastrophic) instances of global climate change... perhaps the most significant issue confronting the world today.

"At first the attitude was, the truth speaks for itself," says Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School and a member of the Cultural Cognition Project. "Show them the valid science and the people will understand. That's clearly wrong."

There is reason why the majority of people are seemingly indifferent to the reality of human caused environmental collapse, resulting in accelerating, global climate change. Gardner suggests, "The real challenge, however, may be to talk about climate change in ways that don't push people's cultural and political buttons. Dan Kahan's research shows that the way people view climate change is closely tied to their values. People" aggressively filter" information that doesn't conform to their worldview."

Well put, true... clearly, the case. In fact, the heart of the problem. But, if reality continues to be distorted, manipulated and shaped to conform to a worldview based on fictional values and beliefs that produced the very same social order whose destructive actions have brought about the dire environmental crisis that we are facing now... how can that work? If the majority of people see the world through a lens that distorts reality so severely as to have produced a society whose destructive actions are sweeping life on this planet to the threshold of extinction, what could be gained by continuing to nurture that lethal, delusional perspective? Can a species that continues to believe that it is special, superior, separate and in control of nature... created in the image of god... and gifted, by that god with a living world to use, exploit and ravage, as if it had no other reality than to serve the whims and appetites of man . . . somehow change its course and navigate toward sanity or, at least, survival? We are here, now, on the eve of extinction -- eyes wide closed, to the consequences of our behavior.

Life is retracting at an alarming pace. The global ecosphere has been unbalanced by human activity to an extent that its ability to sustain life, as we know it, is diminishing. We miscalculated. Human awareness failed to grasp the reality of nature. Navigation proceeded in a blind, delusional, unawakened state, down a path at odds with nature. It could not succeed, that is, lead to survival. The harsh, grim truth, minus any intervening sentimentality or moral judgment, is that we have collectively demonstrated by our actions both historically and currently, a degree of unbalance and aberration so gross, confused and destructive as to sweep all life on this planet in the direction of extinction.

The reality of stopping the destruction of the life sustaining, global host environment... of somehow putting on the brakes, reversing our surge toward catastrophic change and shifting direction to a course of survival may be possible... although that chance appears slimmer as each day passes. Making this shift would clearly entail detaching from the dominant, collective mindset that currently drives human behavior, rather than nurturing it. It is, however, uncertain how the deep, irreversible alterations already made to the global environment will play out regardless of what we do next.

The assumptions of the human majority have placed us exactly where we are now; in a free fall of environmental collapse, accelerating and manifesting at a rate and to a degree that far exceeds what science predicted, even a few years ago. It would be nice to paint a pretty picture of the situation, as the communications experts suggest, so as to make it more palatable and not "conflict with the beliefs and values of the majority". Tough job, to say the least. As, Professor Kahan so clearly points out, "People aggressively filter information that doesn't conform to their worldview."

There is, of course, no possibility of forcing or coercing an awakening to reality. As I overheard a wise man recently comment (metaphorically), "Fruit cannot be force ripened". The decision to choose a course of survival rests with each individual. There is really no right or wrong, good or bad choice. There is simply survival or extinction. The unending continuum of universal process and adjustment will proceed as always, yielding not answers but choices.

The topics of human behavior and environmental collapse are explored fully and unsparingly in Joseph Carlisi's book, "Playing God on the Eve of Extinction", available at Amazon. Carlisi's paintings may be viewed at: