In his important new article (New York Times, Feb. 16, 2019) proclaiming the virtues of alarmism and catastrophic thinking, David Wallace-Wells asks: “What creates more sense of urgency than fear?” But I think there is something more fundamental than fear, and that is pain. Only pain will be enough to create a sense of urgency — immediate and deeply felt personal pain, or immediate pain experienced by one’s own family. I do not believe fear or the pain of others will be enough.
He goes on to say that “panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable.” For him (and for me), complacency is a huge political and personal problem. He notes that in a recent survey “A majority of Americans were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to address global warming. Most drew the line at $1 a month. . . “
“While concern about climate change is growing — fortunately — complacency remains a much bigger political problem than fatalism. In December, a national survey tracking Americans’ attitudes toward climate change found that 73 percent said global warming was happening, the highest percentage since the question began being asked in 2008. But a majority of Americans were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to address global warming; most drew the line at $1 a month, according to a poll conducted the previous month.”
All of us will need to challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zones and take action, real action . . . now. As Albert Camus said, “We need to speak out clearly and pay up personally.” And if we are not willing to pay up personally, the game is over.
“Conscious consumption is a cop-out, a neoliberal diversion from collective action, which is what is necessary. People should try to live by their own values, about climate as with everything else, but the effects of individual lifestyle choices are ultimately trivial compared with what politics can achieve.”