Write to your MP
(from my book Our Terrible/Wonderful Future)
We have become so skilled at resolving cognitive dissonance by telling ourselves fabrications and myths of one kind and another, our society as a whole, perhaps more than any other before, has become a willing victim of our own seld-deceptions. This applies particularly in the fields covered in this book. We know that species are disappearing at an alarming rate because rain forests are being destroyed. But instead of ceasing to use soap made from palm oil or stopping eating meat from soya-fed cattle we watch Attenborough’s wild life programmes to assure ourselves how much we care for wild life. Instruments of self-deception that are partially true or in themselves morally admirable are far more effective than plain old lies. It is because Attenborough is such a revered national icon that his programmes feed our appetite to deceive ourselves so well. His slightly husky voice and almost tangible great love of wild creatures that transcends the normal bounds of documentaries and his patent moral integrity are just the job. Most of us must be beginning to feel a few qualms about the oncoming threat of automation to jobs. But are we preparing in a rational way for a society in which half the working population is unemployed? Not at all. Instead we become addicted to computer games. Computer games are brilliant. They make you feel you are in control of the robots, thus neatly heading off the fear that soon they might be in control of us. You might have thought that nothing could be more serious and a cause of acute anxiety than warnings from the UN Food and Agriculture Orgnaization, no less, that soil degradation is so bad there might be only sixty years of farming left. But you don’t read much about that in the newspapers. How can that be the case when Monty Don’s garden is so productive and the flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show bloom so brightly?
Most of all we are dodging the issue of climate change. You would have thought that when the climate scientists are telling us, now virtually unanimously, that we are heading for a global catastrophe so terrible all previous human disasters will pale into insignificance beside it if we don’t take urgent action on fossil fuels, people would have been beside themselves with anxiety if only for the sake of their chidren. But far from climate dominating social and political discussion it is far down the list of most peoples’ pressing concerns.
How can it be sensible to ignore the opinions of so many experts on a subject that is so serious? But then every fool knows about the weather. He did after all read an article in a tabloid newspaper assuring him that all this greenery is politically correct fashionable nonsense. Worse in fact. The scientists are only putting out all this scare mongering stuff because they are after fat grants for bogus research from the Government. Carefully researched sources? Not too many. Or the sceptics watched a video on YouTube explaining that the mathematics are so complicated the scientists have got it wrong. They themselves have got absolutely no understanding of the mathematics and are completely incapable of judging whether the claim is valid or not. But that doesn’t stop them feeling they are completely vindicated. I saw it on YouTube. Fracking? A win-win situation said George Osborne. Good for the economy and good for the environment because fracked gas emits less carbon dioxide than conventional gas. Presumably he hadn’t read the academic papers – Cornell in 2009, Harvard in 2012 and Tyndall among others – arguing with overwhelming evidence that fracking does indeed emit less carbon dioxide but so much methane, seventy-two times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over twenty years, it is even worse than coal. But then how many people watching that particular news bulletin had read the academic papers either? Inshore windfarms are really great. It’s another win-win. Hopefully they will arouse plenty of local opposition, letters in newspapers, protest meetings, marches led by David Bellamy etc. On the one hand they give people an opportunity to show how much they care for the environment which will be totally spoilt by windfarms. On the other hand they give the Government an opportunity to decide that after extensive public consultation the scheme will go ahead after all, so concerned is the Government with environmental issues. “Let me make it crystal clear, this Government is determined…etc.” If they can be put up with maximum eyesore quotient in beauty spots that’s really good. In fact the contribution that inshore windfarms could make to a post-fossil fuel economy is so small whether they are built or not hardly makes any difference. But as instruments of climate self-deception they are almost unrivalled. They are so prominent, can be seen from the High Street, loom right over Mrs So-and-So’s house. And the noise they make, if you get up close. Dreadful. Write to your M.P.