I received from a friend today an urgent request to send a letter to Congress urging ratitifcation of strict regulations related to climate change. One of the recipients of this mass e-mail responded to all the recipients of the original e-mail by saying in essence that there is no compelling evidence of any immediate threat to humanity or our planet from climate change. He stated, in part, that promoting economic prosperity is a better strategy than government regulation regarding the climate change:
Prosperity is our best hope. Prosperous nations lead the way in reducing birth rates, protecting the environment, producing more food than needed… The last thing we need is to ask for the imposition of schemes that would drag down our prosperity without being faced with a crisis of considerable urgency. Is "climate change" such a crisis? Not close.
So, there you have it. It’s "the sky is falling" camp versus the "don’t rain on my freedom" camp. Each camp "knows" it’s right and that the other camp is being profoundly irresponsible. How could we have become this polarized over something this important?
I have a different perspective from both of these. Or, I should more accurately say, an integrative perspective.
I agree that prosperity provides many socially valuable benefits. My question is, what definition of prosperity are you using? A profoundly faulty prosperity formula directly created for our current financial crisis. So, invoking the word “prosperity” and speaking about its benefits is only part of the picture. In short, our economic meltdown left little doubt that until we finally embrace a socially responsible prosperity formula, creating sustainable prosperity will remain impossible.
Disagreement over the formula for sustainable prosperity is at the heart of the heated, often uncivil, and profoundly spin-oriented polarization over the climate change issue. There are those who in good faith believe that climate change itself is a threat to sustainable prosperity and those who in good faith believe that climate change-prevention regulation is a threat to sustainable prosperity. This fact, that ALL of us are interested in sustainable prosperity no matter where we stand on the climate change issue, seems to have completely vanished as climate change debate has become more venomous.
I am about to expose the strategy that has turned this vitally important debate into a power struggle so titanic civil discourse has been sacrificed in its name. Both sides of this issue have utilized a deeply unethical marketing strategy to create public support for their perspective. Some marketing experts call this strategy “manufacturing consent” and others call it “engineering consent.” Regardless of what you call it, this profoundly unethical Darth Vader-like social control tactic manipulates us into supporting whatever the manipulator want us to support, while we believe we have formed our opinions using our own free will. This propaganda tactic has been successfully fine-tuned and widely utilized over the last 80 years, by businesses, politicians on the left and the right, special interest groups, and even religious organizations. (For more about this, watch the BBC special, The Century of the Self.) Both sides of the climate change debate have been using this tactic as well. This is the unspoken story at the heart of our polarization on the climate change issue, and most other issues of our time.
Because of this, I caution you against fully believing the claims of either side of the climate change debate. This comes down to simple common sense. No one in their right mind wants to sign a death warrant on this planet’s sustainability. No one in their right mind wants to risk creating human cataclysms predicted by those worried about the effects of severe global warming. No one in their right mind wants to risk the financial devastation that such human cataclysms would create.
Whenever I see ideologues polarizing into extreme camps, I know as a clinical and organizational psychologist that one of two things is occurring:
- Both sides have hidden agendas that they are hiding behind the diversion drama that polarization creates and/or
- Both sides have important pieces of a bigger picture that neither side sees because each sides has become so arrogant that it is more important for them to be right than to admit that the piece of the bigger picture they see is not the big picture itself. (read my article on synergy: Why Compromise is Dead as a Problem-Solving Strategy)
Let me make this point by way of analogy. One of the big reasons we have such a huge health crisis today is because food processors and pharmaceutical manufacturers made maximizing prosperity more important than discovering the health impacts of their pretend-food products and symptom-controlling inventions. Their strategy is completely identical to the one the tobacco industry got slapped hard for having done: keep selling your products as aggressively as possible in the name of prosperity until the health damage your products create is finally exposed.
This tactic is narcissism masquerading as capitalism and freedom. It is unethical at its very core, and it has nothing to do with true capitalism or real freedom.
With that analogy in mind, here is what I believe is the core issue regarding the climate change question: Making maximal prosperity and technological advancement our top priority has always resulted in making immediate profits more important than looking before we leap. Since the spin doctors on both sides of the climate change issue have only succeeded in making it abundantly clear that we really don’t yet incontrovertibly know what’s going on with climate change, what shall we do between now and when we do know beyond a shadow of a doubt?
Shall we err on the side of making maximal short-term prosperity more important regardless of what the risks of doing this might indeed be? Or shall we err on the side of long-term sustainability by tempering our prosperity goals until we know with certainty what is really going on with the climate change situation?
I leave it to each of us to decide our answer to this question in light of the issues I have raised in this IntegrityWatch Blog post, and to add our voices and support in accord with our own answers.
Dr. David Gruder, PhD, author of the 6-award-winning book “The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships &