This comet is not com­ing at us un­con­trolledly from outer space. it is us. It is all of us.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - The Good Life -

avoid both the un­palat­able pos­si­bil­i­ties and the ap­par­ent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of be­ing truly sus­tain­able. At this point, the ques­tions to ask psy­chol­o­gists are, why are we do­ing this, and are we pro­grammed to do so? What can we do to cir­cum­vent this pro­gram­ming, if that’s what it is?

I asked Harre that ques­tion, more or less, sug­gest­ing that we have proven that we aren’t go­ing to live sus­tain­ably un­til it’s too late, given that it prob­a­bly is al­ready. I sug­gested that we need to ask psy­chol­o­gists what we might be able to do bet­ter for the fu­ture, be­yond what is more and more look­ing like a bot­tle­neck for hu­man-kind.

Harre didn’t want to go there. She likened it to be­ing un­able to avoid a comet ar­riv­ing, but that right up un­til the im­pact she would still do the ‘right thing’ to the best of her abil­ity. Fair enough, so would I, but I think she missed or avoided an im­por­tant point, that this comet is not com­ing at us un­con­trolledly from outer space. It is us. More specif­i­cally, it is all of us mak­ing what we must think are ra­tio­nal in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions, the com­bined im­pact of which just hap­pens to be po­ten­tially fa­tal to us all.

Her ‘comet’ re­ply to my ques­tion gen­er­ated a spon­ta­neous burst of ap­plause. That didn’t worry me at the time – this isn’t a con­test, af­ter all – but I re­alised af­ter­wards that it was the third such burst of clap­ping I’d heard in re­cent times, mak­ing me won­der if they bore a psy­cho­log­i­cal com­mon­al­ity. I think they do. The first round of ap­plause hap­pened at a Cli­mate Change meet­ing I re­ported on a cou­ple of is­sues back. I men­tioned that when a par­tic­u­lar speaker sug­gested that the middle-class would have to lower its life­style-sights, the ap­plause – uni­formly ro­bust un­til then – was de­cid­edly thin­ner. At an­other talk to a full-house au­di­ence (in a 250-seat lecture theatre), we lis­tened to Sir Ge­of­fery Palmer on the topic of Cli­mate Change. When Otago Univer­sity’s Vice-chan­cel­lor Har­lene Hayne asked for ques­tions, one fel­low be­gan mak­ing a state­ment, a state­ment ob­vi­ously head­ing down the ‘de­nial’ track.

I unashamedly then – and most unashamedly in con­tem­pla­tive hind­sight – led a round of heck­lers with the ad­mit­tedly un­o­rig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tion of ‘Oh, come on!’ Hayne took the mi­cro­phone and chas­tised us, de­fend­ing the right of the per­son to have an opin­ion, and her pride in the Univer­sity for al­low­ing it to be aired. Her com­ment got a spon­ta­neous round of ap­plause, and I took good note from my frontal po­si­tion to see who was clap­ping. It seemed to me they were mostly the middle class at­ten­dees, in other words a goodly pro­por­tion of those who were run­ning out of time to rec­tify any neg­a­tive im­pact they may have been re­spon­si­ble for.

I also think Hayne was wrong. I think that at some point academia has to say that enough is known al­ready, that it’s time to make the pre­cau­tion­ary moves, time to move the de­bate on. I think that as sci­ence gains knowl­edge, there is al­ways some in­evitable point where ‘let’s con­tinue the de­bate’ is noth­ing more than a fil­i­buster, a choice – whether con­sciously or un­con­sciously – to avoid mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

I won­dered if all three rounds of ap­plause em­anated from the same source? From the sec­tion of the com­mu­nity who like to think they ‘care’ but who don’t want to be held re­spon­si­ble.

It might ex­plain the lack of ques­tions from the as­sem­bled academia at yet an­other Univer­sity talk of massed Pro­fes­sors, Emeri­tis Pro­fes­sors, As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sors and as­sorted oth­ers. Cli­mate Change-de­nier Robert Carter showed a slide of Cen­tral Africans and sug­gested they be al­lowed to burn coal to raise them­selves out of poverty. None of the as­sem­bled academia asked ‘what then?’, the ob­vi­ous ques­tion when con­tem­plat­ing the use of a fi­nite re­source to ad­dress a for­ever prob­lem. It might even ex­plain why we are wit­ness­ing such a middle class fo­cus on Cli­mate

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.