It is often very difficult to make up one’s mind. The difficulty may be due to the complexities of the issues involved, or to the limited number of facts available for consideration, or certain fears that overshadow the horizon, or a general habit of indecision that has developed over the years… Of course, one must never forget that postponing a decision may be to decide by default. It is the nearest illusion to think that, if I do not make up my mind, events that are contingent upon me and my decision will await my pleasure.
Howard Thurman: author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader
Greta Thunberg shrugged off one more mocking Trump trademark tweet following her emotional speech about climate change at the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly on September 23rd. She said she expected him to make comments about her. After Trump’s derisive tweet, Thunberg used it in her biography on her Twitter profile.
Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist who rose to global fame after founding the School Strike for Climate campaign, was at the U.N. headquarters in New York City to deliver a speech to world leaders when she crossed paths with Trump.
In response to Thunberg’s highly charged statement that “people are dying” and “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction,” our climate denier-in-chief snidely tweeted, “She seems like a very happy, young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” This writer can only imagine Trump’s upset about a young woman attracting more media coverage than him.
You can see and hear for yourself Greta’s truth that so few of our leaders have the moral capacity to acknowledge at wired.trib.al/VXdAnKt.
In her newest must-read book On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, Naomi Klein writes that people with autism “tend to be extremely literal and, as a result, often have trouble coping with cognitive dissonance, those gaps between what we know intellectually, and what we do that are so pervasive in modern life.”
“For those of us who are on the spectrum [autism],” Thunberg says, “almost everything is black and white. We aren’t very good at lying, and we usually don’t enjoy participating in this social game that the rest of you seem so fond of.” Those strengths have served Thunberg well, as she explained on CBS This Morning that her Asperger’s actually helps her in seeing the world through a different lens. “In some circumstances it can definitely be an advantage to have some kind of neurotypical diagnosis, to be neurodiverse, because that makes you different, that makes you think differently,” she said. “And especially in such a big crisis like this, when we need to think outside the box. We need to think outside our current system, we need people who think outside the box and who aren’t like everyone else.”
Underscoring Thunberg’s statement is this from Richard Epstein on the American Enterprise Institute web site. “What if the green crusaders have overstated the risk, or what if they are just plain wrong? Then massive social resources will be squandered without obtaining any advantage in return.” Epstein doesn’t ask the other side of that question which is, “What if the green crusaders are right and we haven’t expended social resources on attempting to mitigate the climate crisis?” The answer is obvious. The sustainability of the human race will have been endangered beyond comprehension.
Thunberg has inspired a new world-wide generation of young climate activists. As an effective communicator on climate change, the Swedish schoolgirl is currently in a league of her own. “In a way,” Klein writes, “she is asking those of us whose mental wiring is more typical – less prone to extraordinary focus and more capable of living with moral contradictions – to be more like her.” Klein adds, “these traits explain why some people with Greta’s diagnosis become accomplished scientists and classical musicians, applying their super focus to great effect.”
Most of us do have the capacity to rationalize, to compartmentalize, and to be distracted easily. “All three of these mental tricks,” writes Klein, “help us get through the day.” But then she adds that these traits are also “proving to be our collective undoing” when it comes to rising to the reality of our climate crisis. Rationalization is “reassuring us when we should not be reassured.” These traits “are distracting us when we should not be distracted. And they are easing our consciences when our consciences should not be eased.”
Klein cuts to the chase in explaining the core reason for climate denial. That is because “if we were to decide to take climate disruption seriously, pretty much every aspect of our economy would have to change, and there are many powerful interests that like things as they are. Not least the fossil fuel corporations, which have funded a decades-long campaign of disinformation, obfuscation, and straight up lies about the reality of global warming.”
Why climate deniers ignore the fact that Exxon and other fossil fuel conspirators have worked so long to hide their own analysis that their products are a primary cause of the climate crisis is not a mystery. Nor is it a mystery that they don’t accept the Pentagon’s view that the daily worsening climate crisis is a threat to our national security. Climate change denial is rooted in political polarization, the economy over the human condition, or willful ignorance.
It is somewhere within this context that Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also criticized Greta Thunberg’s Climate Action Conference speech by saying, “Nobody explained to Greta that the modern world is complicated and complex.”
It is complicated and complex. That’s why choosing the right figure of speech is important in any communication. Thunberg’s focus on the simple statement that “our house being on fire” is one example. Forest fires are getting attention around the world, including recent blazes in Indonesia and Brazil. The increasing damage to our earth by fires dramatizes her narrative. Comprehending the difference that 1 degree Celsius will make is difficult for most of us to comprehend. However, everyone can visualize a house burning down.
Unlike warfare and images of climate struggles that are only sometimes effective in getting attention, Thunberg focuses on something that can relate to everyday life.
Not only is our house on fire, but the fire department has vanished.
John Bos is a contributing writer to Green Energy Times and a columnist for the Shelburne Falls West County Independent. His op eds have been published in the Springfield Republican, the Montague Reporter, the Worcester Telegram, the Daily Hampshire Gazette and on line at citizentruth.org/author/john/ and muckrack.com/john-bos He invites comments and dialogue at firstname.lastname@example.org