Saturday, August 14, 2021

Are you in denial? Because it’s not just anti-vaxxers and climate sceptics

I suggest reading the whole article.

IMO, if you are not making an effort to reduce your impact on the environment, you are a mass murderer.

Jonathan Freedland

Fri 13 Aug 2021 11.55 EDT


In Britain, the temptation is to snigger at the anti-vaxxers, but in the US it’s becoming ever clearer that the outright Covid deniers, vaccine opponents and anti-maskers – and the hold they have over the Republican party – are no joke. The Covid culture wars have escalated to such an extent that the Republican governors of two states, Florida and Texas, are now actively barring schools, colleges and local authorities from taking basic, common-sense measures against the disease.

They are no longer allowed to require vaccines, proof of vaccination, a Covid test or masks. Any Florida school administrator who demands the wearing of masks could lose their pay. Texas is dropping the requirement that schools even notify parents when there’s a coronavirus case in class. Naturally, the Covid numbers in both states are through the roof. For all Joe Biden’s early success with vaccination, this level of resistance is posing a grave threat to the US’s ability to manage, let alone defeat, the pandemic.


For everyone else, it’s tempting to take pride in being untainted by such thinking. To dismiss the Covid deniers, whether in Florida or west London, as a group apart, irrational, if not downright stupid – refusing to take the steps that will provably protect them, their families and those around them. And yet, the distance between them and everyone else might not be as great as you think.


But there is another form of denial, what the philosopher Quassim Cassam calls “behavioural or practical denialism”. This is the mindset that accepts the science marshalled by the IPCC – it hears the alarm bell ringing – but still does not change its behaviour. It can operate at the level of governments: note the White House official who on Wednesday urged global oil producers to open up the taps and increase production, so that hard-pressed US motorists can buy gasoline more cheaply. And it lives in individuals, too, in the fatalism that says one person can do nothing to halt a planetary emergency, so you might as well shrug and move on. Which is “to act in the same way as if you were a climate change denier,” says Cassam. “The practical upshot is the same.”

Whether it’s Covid or climate, there is a common defect at work here. It is wilful blindness, a deliberate closing of the eyes to a reality that is too hard to bear – and it afflicts far more than a hardcore of noisy sceptics and protesters. A US poll this week found that a summer of heatwaves, flooding and wildfires – evidence that the planet is both burning and drowning – has barely shifted attitudes to the climate issue. Many, even most, are looking the other way.


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