in the course of this npr piece on the climate march, people give the rote characterizations: "the biggest crisis civilization has ever faced"; "the most pressing moral issue of our time". the non-stop flow of hyperbole - intended to manipulate people, then echoed and echoed - has continued for decades. they got to rhetorical defcon infinity in 2001 or whatever it was. since then it has simply been hyper-repetitive shrieking. i can't even hear it anymore.
let me do a bit of comparative work about the greatest crisis the universe has faced since dr. strange saved it from the dread dormammu. in the last three years, 200,000 people have been killed in syria. half the country has been displaced.i will remind you that since about 1950 we have faced the realistic prospect of total nuclear annihilation. the plague killed a third of europe and asia, etc. by comparison, climate change is extremely amorphous. no particular event - for example, no particular actual death - can be definitively chalked up to it. on the other hand it could be 'connected to' any particular death anywhere. it might be causing all our difficulties. then again it might not. it might be or it might not be the greatest threat we have ever faced, but it is by quite a ways the vaguest, vaguer even than the dread dormammu. it might be having all effects or none.
now, i understand that people think - or at any rate say - that climate change is driving the syrian conflict. people think every war and famine and disease is due to climate change. or they say that. but they can't show it at all, and it's just another element of strategic hysteria-inducement. that is the main rhetorical shift from the early 2000s to now: the strategy is basically to indicate that every adverse event, from immigration difficulties to inequality to terrorism, is caused by climate change. often a strory in the press will simply connect them in the same sentence, deploying a sheer assumption of causal connection. it's quite like satan, something that underlies all evil, more or less. and just as clearly as climate change caused war x, it caused your last divorce, or made you drop your phone into the toilet.
they're still squawking 'science', no doubt. but they are very very far from empirically connecting climate change to any particular refugee crisis or epidemic or genocide. and they are people who wish it were so, in order to mobilize you; they've been coming at you from every angle, deploying every strategy they could think of to manipulate you, hammering at you from every direction, for decades. i am way too numb to pay any more attention and i suspect i am not alone, so if i were them i'd try something else.
i think that climate activists have fully absorbed the style of american politicians: many might actually be confused as between what is true and what would make people join. it will turn out that the ebola outbreak is connected to climate change: you draw the conclusion before examining the evidence, and then why bother with evidence? [or really, the move is this: 'is the ebola outbreak due to climate change? many experts think that it might well could kind of be. clearly, it's not clearly not. if you don't want your kids to die of ebola, we must immediately institute a worldwide environmental regulatory regime. we are at the pipping toint.'] it might not be evident to themselves whether they are trying to speak the truth or trying to make you do what they want you to do; they might even have a sort of slapdash theory of truth on which these are not clearly different activities. no point, really, in paying attention to people like that.
the rhetoric is jacked up to 11 precisely because the problem is so amorphous: they're always trying to make it definite, or to bring it in from vague atmospheric conditions to localize it or detect it in particular events, but this inference is never nailed, and in fact is incompatible with the basic way the science is approached. where it is localized or where it suddenly explodes out of the ether into the causal chain directly affecting events, depends on what makes for the most compelling rhetorical flourish: it's our greatest national security issue, or our biggest social justice issue, our biggest economic threat, or whatever it may be next week or for a different audience.
on the other hand, its formlessness or dispersion through the atmosphere is a sign of its sheer size and power, the infinity of its unprecedented threat. but for me, right now, i am telling you that the fact that i forgot to get coffee at the grocery store is a bigger problem than climate change, so it's going to be hard to convince me that i am living in the middle of the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. saying it over and over again in an apparently unending crescendo is just not going to get me moving, and if i set myself to tackle the world's problems - which i have not - i'd start somewhere else.
do you know how extremely you are not supposed to say things like this in academia? what i just wrote makes me again a pariah, actually an evil person. whether it's true or not doesn't matter at all. but extreme social pressure isn't quite the same as actual solidarity, is it? and unanimity isn't exactly truth, either.
anyway, if y'all could please calm down and try to talk like reasonable people about reality, i will re-focus and try to listen. if it's just ever-more repetitions of the greatest crisis in the history of your ass ...