Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to UNSW psychology doctoral candidate Belinda Xie, everybody is somewhere on the spectrum of climate denial.
Climate change denialism is something we all suffer from
Even those who don’t question human-induced climate change can fall on the spectrum of climate denialism if they are all talk and no action, a UNSW psychology researcher argues.
Climate change denialism is something that applies to more than just diehard non-believers, a UNSW Sydney researcher argues.
The unprecedented bushfire crisis has strengthened demand for government action on climate change and galvanised Australians to take to the streets protesting against the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Some Australians have taken more drastic action, such as actor Yael Stone who gave up the permanent right to work in the US.
But for many people, such action seems unrealistic.
“While we may know it is better for the environment to give up our car for public transport, stop using single-use plastics, or eat less meat — we do not always do all these things all the time.
“It’s almost impossible to live with zero impact on the planet, but it’s what we do when we recognise this that matters”, Belinda Xie asserts.
The UNSW Scientia PhD candidate specialises in cognitive science and researches the psychology of climate change.
“It’s important that we acknowledge we are all climate deniers, to some extent, and then understand how and why we reached this point,” Ms Xie said.
“It’s not simply because humans are bad or selfish people: there are a lot of external factors out of our control, such as the information we consume that can encourage denialism, or the way our economy is set up.
“So, we then need to ask ourselves: how do we overcome this denialism – what action can we take as a community and what can government and business do?”
“Making behavioural change at an individual level is important, but it’s just as important for the people and institutions at the top to inspire and implement change for the good of our planet and future generations.”
…Read more: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/climate-change-denialism-something-we-all-suffer
Belinda Xie’s paywalled paper is available here.
How can greens achieve that idealised state of society described by Belinda Xie, in which leaders and institutions inspire people to more fully commit to fighting climate denial, and inspire people to actively work to correct their personal climate behavioural shortcomings?
The problem Belinda describes is similar to the problem Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong faced when trying to consolidate the authority of their respective Communist states. In the immediate aftermath of the revolutions which propelled them into power, plenty of people claimed to believe in Communism, but on an individual level there was a widespread lack of wholehearted commitment to the actual practice of Communism.
The Communist solution was institutionalised “self criticism”; encouraging people to publicly confess their personal shortcomings and pledge to do better. According to The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks);
In order to be fully prepared for this turn, the Party had to be its moving spirit, and the leading role of the Party in the forthcoming elections had to be fully ensured. But this could be done only if the Party organizations themselves became thoroughly democratic in their everyday work, only if they fully observed the principles of democratic centralism in their inner-Party life, as the Party Rules demanded, only if all organs of the Party were elected, only if criticism and self-criticism in the Party were developed to the full, only if the responsibility of the Party bodies to the members of the Party were complete, and if the members of the Party themselves became thoroughly active.