Thursday, December 17, 2015

Consider George Marshall's "Don't even think about it"

I don't have the free time for sitting around and reading books, fortunately with AudioBooks I can still get at and digest many quality book.  One I've listened to a couple times is George Marshall's "Don't even think about it" which I found quite thought provoking, though I don't personally embrace everything he writes.
Then a couple days ago while chasing down another disingenuous contrarian claim I stumbled onto a short video where he summarized his ideas.  It inspired me to listen to something a bit longer and more satisfying that wrestling with yet another con artists' science bashing trash-talk.  At least Marshall shares some enlightening thoughts that we can build on.  (Even if he leaves out a very important key to our inability to grasp what's going down upon our planet - namely, our general disconnect from appreciating our physical planet and the pageant of evolution that got us here.) 

Still, since it fits right into the theme of my musing and struggle to wrap my head around the Republican/libertarian rejection of the realities of our physical world and their ability to totally wrap themselves within a cocoon of a concocted enemy saturated make-believe narrative - one that excludes all reflection and self-skepticism, I've decided to dedicate a post to his talk.  First, I share his quickie overview, followed by an hour long talk followed by a Q/A moderated by George Monbiot.  This I follow with a list of time-signature talking points for the interested student, in turn followed by some thoughts regarding our disconnect from the realities of our physical planet Earth.

Don't even think about it.  by George Marshall
Published on Nov 11, 2014 |  Bloomsbury Publishing  |  4:42

A witty, insightful, and groundbreaking take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change?

George Marshall "Don't Even Think About It" with George Monbiot
Published on Nov 6, 2014 |  Climate Outreach  | 1:30:57

George Marshall speaks with George Monbiot and an Oxford crowd about his sensational book on the psychology of climate change: Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. In the historic Holywell Music Room on November 4th 2014 #climateconversation

1:00  Why is our response to climate change so very weird?

2:30  The internal contradiction between understanding the problem and being a part of the problem.

Moral licensing

5:00  Juxtaposition between and issue we know is extremely serious and the facetious undermining of it.

Creating "Frames", both to focus what you pay attention to and what you cut out.

8:00  Does it matter?

12:00  Rational/Analytic Reasoning vs. Emotional (Affective) Reasoning.

15:00  Rational understanding that climate change is the biggest threat in the 21 century... but the impact is somewhere over there on the far horizon...

16:30  Professor Daniel Kahneman, (author "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow")
Pioneering researcher into how our biases distort things.

Problems with climate change:
     Not here and now
     We are very loss averse
     Uncertainty (step outside and say, well let's just wait and see.)

21:10  Is climate change really the perfect problem?
Seems to me, it's not in the future... extremely severe weather is happening now...
Is it in the future, only if we choose to put it in the future...
Is it uncertain?
Only if we choose to define it as uncertain...
Is it expensive?
Sure, so what...

The problem is itself, part of the story we have been telling about it...
We know ourselves so well, we set-up climate change so it will fail against the very qualities (intellectual skills) we know we're bad at...
We define the problem in terms of our biases.

24:00  In survey, more people believe that climate change will be harmful to future generations, than answer that climate change is a major threat.

Is it an impossible problem?

25:00  Conclusion, because the affective side of our brain requires story, it exist for us primarily as constructive narratives.
Climate change is cognitively and emotionally challenging.

25:45  Climate change is cognitively challenging.
We are generating story lines that enable (allow) us to ignore it, reject it, or that shape the issue in our own image.

26:00  Interviews on a street in Dublin. (Bar stool soapbox)
Life is an experiment, every conversation you have with someone is an experiment ...

29:00  Considering created focus symbols, for example Polar Bears... 
Bears are a disaster as a climate symbol - distant and hard to connect to.
'... But when I put out my polar bear leaflets, people pick them up.  Yeah, the polar bear people pick up the polar bear leaflets.  They don't realize all these things are constantly reinforcing the same process.  Say the same things and the same people come to your events, talking the same language and you think some how you've got it right.  Reality is that the majority of people are more likely to have seen an activist in a polar bear costume than a polar bear in the wild...

The stories we construct and pass around...

33:00 The stories we don't share
35:00 A socially constructed silence... and the meta silence.

41:00  Mayor of Seabright ...   can do...
"... There's no way I'm going to do that (go to Washington and lobby for climate change legislation), I'm trying to build a story of positive reconstruction in my community.  I'm not going to go there and start telling them that this thing could happen again.  That there's another disaster, that this is just the beginning of it.  There's no way." ... "I'll deal with all that lofty stuff some other day."

42:30 The non-conversation

If you don't want to talk about it where disaster has hit,
If you don't want to talk about it where everything is good,
then what's left?

43:00 The situation we are in:

"... and how in an area where our fundamental beliefs and acceptance exists in the form of socially constructed narrative can we have a collective determination to take action on something when we're not talking about it and there is no socially constructed or shared narrative.

Socially constructed narratives ...
That we have a collective determination to take action on something.

We can not get our heads around this thing in terms of shared values and we are simply not doing that.
There is no socially constructed narrative
Do we need some sort of narrative?

43:45  Consider how powerfully people could be motivated around State of Islam, how powerfully people could be motivated around terrorism.

44:00  People who say climate change is so uncertain that we can't do anything about it are often the very same people who say we need to spend unlimited amounts of money defending ourselves and our country and our lives for the utter uncertainty of terrorism attacks.  But somehow the uncertainty of terrorism makes it more danger but the uncertainty around climate change makes it less dangerous.

The difference between the two facts is of course, the presences or absence of an enemy?

46:00 Is the big problem with climate change, the lack of an enemy?

"Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience", Gitta Sereny
"A crime to be a crime must meet four requirements: a subject, an object, an action and an intent"

Our ability to remove "intent" from the equation.
We have a problem with climate change and intent.

49:45  So who is the enemy?
Because to frame an effective narrative you need an enemy.

51:00  Their (tea-party) narrative that they have shaped around climate change has dealt with this missing enemy and missing intent by inserting one.  It's a familiar enemy, one they've had for a long time: "Climate change was invented by liberals to increase the size of governments and their control and destroy our freedoms."

Isn't it sad how this is the only way the story could be given shape within the language and world-view of this group is actually for it to take on this enemy formation.

52:00  and liberals do something very similar.

52:25  But this is different, climate change is different, because climate change is something that we are all involved with this ...

The problem is that then the shape and focus of the thing becomes the battle on the two sides...

54:00  Shell Oil's job site "safety" initiative
55:55  Shell Oil mission statement - and example of creating a narrative around our values.

56:30  ... this analysis where people can turn or shape information or evidence around their own values.  Build their own story lines around, in order to build a moral justification for themselves is inherently what seems to keep happening with climate change.

57:00  Are there ways to do this differently.  To build a new more powerful storyline on this.  "I believe we can" Because just as there are areas of silence, there are things that aren't said that could be said. ...

Immortality project?
A positive vision?
Reinforcing our shared values and identity?

A test?
An internal struggle?

A transition - a rite of passage?
A coming of age?

58:30  Considering how polarized it's become.

59:30  Considering Robert Sizson, president of ConservativAmerica.

1:00:25  Considering Joel Hunter head of tenth largest church in America, draws 10,000 weekly church attendance.  His personal revelation regarding climate change, sent by God. 
When asked about what environmentalists are doing wrong:  "You know what you environmental guys do, you just hand people a leaflet and tell them to go to a website, we build a community, of belief.  We bring people together...

1:01:00  We must do better than handing out climate change reports.

1:01:50 ...  and why would Joel not know this, because he is the latest development in two thousand years of experimentation in how people come to terms with issues which are, lets face it, uncertain, in the future, and require people to make short term sacrifices, for an uncertain, insecure long-term gains.

Something to consider: Evangelical Christianity - A process of conviction.
- Community of belief
- Doubt
- Witnessing
- Epiphany
- Alter call
- Forgiveness

1:03:40  ... climate change is not a religion, it is grounded in science, but there is also a science to human cognition and our attitude and what changes who we are and how we shape our views.

Climate change is too much about guilt...  that's why people push it away and ignore it...
in climate change there is no language of forgiveness...

1:04:30 "Don't Even Think About It" is a book about exploring some these issues and questions.  Exploring the possibility of entirely new ways of engaging this issue.
Followed by a half hour Q/A with George Monbiot, (Author, Feral) moderating. 
"Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives."
"The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney: 
"Unscientific America" by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum: 

George Marshall  |  The Guardian | 9/23/14

(Formerly COIN - co-founded by George Marshall)
Our mission is to ensure climate change and its impacts are understood, accepted and acted upon across the breadth of society, creating a truly sustainable future. 

George Marshall's website:
This blog explores the topic of the psychology of climate change denial - with observations and anecdotes about our weird and disturbed response to the problem. It seeks to answer a question that has puzzled me for years: why, when the evidence is so strong, and so many agree that this is our greatest problem, are we doing so little about climate change?


I think a fundamental problem, is the basic disconnect people have with nature and by extension their unawareness of our living Earth as the amazing organism, billions of years in the making, that it is.

People don't know squat about deep evolution, such as our moon and all it did/does to our planet, nor about the original formation and development of land masses… mineral evolution… life itself being responsible for an incredible amount of minerals that evolved on this planet without which more complex life would have been impossible.  

The phenomenal drive of organisms towards ever more awareness of their surrounding (sensing, recognition, memory) and manipulatory abilities (moving, grasping, coordination).  

We have important DNA segments within us that are living ancestors to DNA solutions to challenges hundreds of millions and even billions of years ago.  The development of our climate with it's dependence on life processes… and so on and so forth. 

The story is amazing and filled with a fantastic pageant of folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity flowing down the stream of time.

But rather than being absorbed in trying to grasp all those wonders and making some sort of sense out of it, they wrap themselves within restricting faith-based tribal tales and make enemies out of everyone and everything they did don't understand, and thus resent.  So sad.  So seemingly hopeless.

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