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March 15 – Climate change denial has become the story. So much so that I decided it deserved an article all its own. Here’s an example of the kind of behavior deniers indulge in lately:
“Please accept our apologies if you have experienced difficulty accessing the Ecologist site in the last few days. The site was the subject of attack that meant many of you may have received messages warning you not to visit our pages.We believe we have resolved the issue, although you may have still seen warning messages as late as yesterday because old copies of web pages are often temporarily stored on servers and personal computers. We are still running tests on the site and we hope to resume a normal service very shortly.
Thanks for bearing with us, Mark Anslow, Editor

(I received this message in my email on March 12.)

When deniers leave messages at blogs, they often contain sarcastic and/or foul language. I’m not saying non-deniers are better behaved in that department. Both groups have left threatening messages, aimed at particular individuals. That said, there has been an observable increase in denier activity in the cyber world, all of it targeting people who speak out about climate change. Deniers want, quite simply, to shut us up.

I’d like to examine this phenomenon more closely. In my experience, human beings act and react as they feel motivated. There is always an explanation for human behavior, inadequate though it may be. I see two things conspiring to cause denier obstructionism.

The first cause of denier obstructionism is pretty obvious: fear. Time and again, I read denier charges that non-deniers are trying to rob deniers of their way of life. We force them to drive a particular car, use a particular light bulb, eat a particular food. They feel as though they are under attack. What have they ever done to anybody? They live as they have always lived, and now – all of a sudden – it’s wrong. Why are non-deniers trying to make them feel guilty?

To those of us who have long taken climate change very seriously, being uninformed about this most important of all subjects comes close to being criminal. The existence of future generations is at stake!! It’s happening so much faster than anyone had predicted! Why do deniers distrust scientists now, of all times? After decades of research, the verdict is in. We’re ALL guilty as charged. Not just deniers, not just non-deniers. ALL.

The second cause goes a bit deeper. I believe that all people – some, of course, more than others – are going through a long and extraordinarily painful grieving process. The lives we have known, the home we have known, are both irrevocably changing. The thought of millions of people dying because of our bankrupt way of life is simply beyond the pale. Our choices are plain, but the amount of work entailed, and the degree to which our lives must change, have led to utter paralysis. Human beings are going through the first of the seven stages of grief: shock and denial. Most appear to reject the second stage: pain and guilt.
Accepting guilt amounts to admitting we have something about which to feel guilty. Deniers honestly do not see things this way. We are therefore confronted with two bottlenecks , you might say. Deniers deny, first and foremost; secondly, they reject. Deniers are stuck in either the first or second stage of grief, making progress nearly impossible. The good news is that there are those, fortunately, who are making their anger known by way of challenging or threatening emails. They have, in fact, advanced to the next stage: anger and bargaining. These folks may one day be able to begin to see around the corner, because they have only one more downward step to take: depression and loneliness.

In the meantime, these angry folks are the kindred spirits of our politicians, who continue to attempt to bargain the whole problem out of existence. You know the drill: we can’t possibly cut current carbon emissions to zero, but we could cut them by 20 percent by 2020. Or 30% by 2030. Excluding holidays and weekends. We’ll never be able to put nothing but non-polluting cars on the roads. EVER. What would you say to half the current level of automobile-generated pollution by (name a year)?

How many people have actually made the complete transition so far, from denial to hope? How many people embark upon the journey each day, having attained the age of reason and reacting with shock and denial? As our fellow time travelers find their way, it is up to those of us who know what may lie ahead to simultaneously help them move forward while undoing the damage that’s been done AND preventing further harm. How do we do this?

Speak our message loudly and clearly.
Take responsibility for the amount of pollution we each generate, and then decrease that amount.
Encourage those in a position to make good things happen with our words, our dollars, and our own endeavors.
Do it right now.

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