- The deniers are all over the world
By: Raja Ahmed Saeed
In this day and age, with climate change being on the tip of everyone’s tongue and becoming a topic of heated debate, it was about time this took centrestage in Pakistan as well. With increased awareness about climate change, and how to work towards reversing its catastrophic effects, there has also been an evident wave of denial and general disdain towards this notion. Unfortunately, while this isn’t something new, in the sense that even in so-called developed nations who are leading this battle for the reversal of climate change, a counter movement of naysayers has sprung up as well. In this piece I not only want to delve into the basic reasons of this denial, but also the depth of the psychology behind the thinking of deniers.
One of the most common reasons is illiteracy, or the simple fact that they don’t know about climate change or the necessary details. This is due to a lack of focus, especially in Third-World countries, but there are so many more reasons, which include the fact that climate change sometimes clashes with a community’s understanding of the world, and shatters this bubble its members live in. There is a strong path dependency here, in terms of sticking to the ways they are used to over time.
Borderline, it rubs them the wrong way, and it is plainly inconvenient to their world view. In purely psychological terms, the reaason for this sheer ignorance and misunderstanding is that people don’t want to revise their beliefs. Hence, even when they are presented with facts, they can’t seem to re-wire their thinking patterns to allow an unbiased entry into their decision making. Therefore, they mostly lead to basically the same conclusion that climate change is more exaggerated than it actually is, in terms of an existential threat. Sigmund Freud, a great writer on the complexities of human nature, has described this phenomenon as “a way of taking cognisance of what is repressed”. The nightmarish reality is in front of them, yet their beliefs take preference over rational thinking.
The deniers can shift their views, since sometimes a simple bombardment of facts isn’t the greatest help. The actual difference can be made by the people; it’s a democracy after all. Our choices can help make the difference whether it is in terms of consuming, regulations or protest– at a distance of a minimum six feet, of course
According to research, strong prevalence of elements like hierarchy and status quo also plays a huge role, whereby poorer and less-scientific or dogmatic people are more likely to see all this as a sham. Political parties on the right generally are also to blame here, where instead of educating their base, and transforming them to move towards economically and greener jobs, they instead reinforce their views by remaining weak in election manifestos, all in an effort to just grab votes.
Hence, instead of science taking precedence, political gains are seen as more sacred. The short-sightedness of the political leadership has allowed time to slip, while climate change has continued to become a greater threat to prospects of life on earth in any normal way. For instance, taking a look at the USA, one can see people heavily influenced by puritanical values, like in Pakistan, where wrong interpretation of religious understanding at the back of lack of education has allowed people in general to take lightly the extreme effects of climate change, and as a consequence, most people have described anthropogenic global heating as a normal course of action taken by nature, and not to be interfered with. Basically, it is a natural phenomenon, and it will manage itself on its own!
In the face of this denial, and weak policy response by politicians in general– in both the developed and developing countries– a global trend of activism has picked up, at the back of increased interest in environmental politics. This army of climate activism is spearheaded by the youth, specifically the young girl who has the most powerful men shaking in their boots, Greta Thunberg. The youth has started to take responsibility for their planet, and the reason I’m stating all these facts is that this age difference is also evident in the deniers. The older generation, according to statistics, has proven to be set in its ways, and this has been a huge problem in meaningfully combating this fast evolving existential threat.
Pakistan has seen increased effort in recent years in this regard, both in terms of spreading awareness, and tangible steps like extensive reforestation programs, and the likes of the Clean, Green Pakistan movement. However, this is not enough for a country that is expected to be among the top ten countries globally, to get most affected by climate change.
Hence, important steps in this regard should include approaching the issue keeping in mind the social and psychological factors. Moreover, we need to diversify to reach all groups of society; one pitch with the same rehashed facts won’t work it needs to appeal to them; more effort needs to be put into making them understand. The deniers can shift their views, since sometimes a simple bombardment of facts isn’t the greatest help. The actual difference can be made by the people; it’s a democracy after all. Our choices can help make the difference whether it is in terms of consuming, regulations or protest– at a distance of a minimum six feet, of course. At the end of the day, though, this is not some clichéd cry for activism, but rather trying to give another viewpoint to furthering this movement of paramount importance.