Fear, or ignorance ? or fear of ignorance ?

I recently read this on the NYtimes Dot Earth blog: Earth Scientist Explores the Biggest Climate Threat: Fear.

I labeled it as a perspective from a western techno optimist.
I’m glad to see plenty of realists (and chicken littles too) piling on in the comments section, all the best comments have a theme; “I don’t see that much fear, I see plenty of ignorance, that, is our biggest problem.”

I again doubt that natural gas switching from coal will make a sustained dent in our emissions, I can be optimistic though, while at the same time encouraging wider reading. (and more here)

Gas likely won’t remain cheap. Which reminds me, I really need to get around to buying the April edition of Terrajoule which could rebut many of my beliefs around gas. Thats why I want to read it.

Will we have made significant advances in energy technology within 23 years ? or less ?Likely yes. Graphene !! (eyeroll) But the overarching trends are supply down, demand up, efficiency meh, carbon sinks brimming and positive feedback just getting started (2)

I’ll go back to my “it doesn’t matter what order we burn all this shit in” stance. Is coal going to stay in the ground after gas prices spike ? Are the Chinese going to install CCS in their coal fleet ?

I digress. We have bred and fostered ignorance with the way our civilization has come to worship and covet energy dense fuels while choosing to be ignorant of the threat we pose to ourselves when such distractions become endemic to our psyche.

We choose ignorance because we don’t want to be consumed by fear. We shun uncomfortable truths and push them to the fringe. We sometimes label awareness as fatalism or fear mongering because the problem is so huge and hard to fit into our heads. (the inverse can also be true)


Many who would be labeled as pushing fear or fatalism are often, as some of the comments suggest, completely at wits end with what they see in our country; anti science, hoax calling, brain dead people elected to public office. How can you not be disenfranchised, despondent even, when faced with this political reality? How on earth are we supposed to fix this so we can then finally get around to major efforts to curb our emissions? (“market” or tax driven)

Mountains, goliaths and apathy also stand in your way. The fossil fuel industry and the comfortable lives it provides us all, are attempting to muffle the alarm bell ringing. The system and the status quo will be defended by all those who stand to lose. That includes your neighbors. (the air is thick with “fear” of climate change in suburbia 😉

All these folks who believe climate change is caused by human activities, a rising number in fact, are all of them scared enough to abandon their current lifestyles ? This points to apathy or ignorance of the magnitude of the threat, not fear.

Fear of the correct thing.

Climate change is not really on the fear radar of the nation, jobs and growth are. Energy crises, future or present share the same presence in a distant cluster of blips.

“Stuff happens”, saying otherwise and getting all chicken little about it will help nobody. Except it might if people are still worried about jobs and growth, not how the system which provides both is floating gently down the tubes and how we need, drastically, to find a sustainable replacement.

Fearing for one’s industry at the hands of a job killing government regulatory bureaucracy  while not realizing that your industry is in polite terms, hacking off its own legs and those of collective humanity, to stand straight; being a wholly owned subsidiary of the biosphere.

We do funny things with our fears, to avoid confronting the biggest ones, we construct new more manageable ones in their place. Or we put on a brave face and lie.

Selective hearing.

I don’t know what it is, but I’ll listen to Micheal Mann, James Hansen or Richerd Heinburg, anyone from the Post Carbon Institute all day. Folks like James Kunstler, Paul Kingsnorth, or Chris Hedges, better yet any analyst looking at the raw data like Chris Nelderini or perhaps Gregor Macdonald, or adjacent, any number of scientists detailing the threats of biosphere collapse.

But a guy who is working on CCS for power plants, as acknowledged by Andy Revkin at the start of the piece as not “easy or cheap”, I don’t know, his opinion doesn’t resonate with me even though I have no doubt in his convictions or abilities.

The people above are not fatalists, but they form a darker picture with their words which for some reason I find more .. oh christ I’m going to say it… believable.

Could it possibly be because my fear is actually that I am wrong ? The planet will be fine and us with it, we’ll make huge advances and mother natures’ wrath will be short lived ?

In closing

I have written this whole diatribe while listening to an above ground pool being topped off. Earlier while watering my yard with rainwater I couldn’t resist pondering the  horrific juxtaposition. My priorities obviously differ to my neighbor (I don’t have kids) but you know what made me put my 1000gal rain water cistern in ? Fear.

To come full circle, you also need to ponder that blogging this crap and writing of grandiose fears keeps you from thinking about fears closer to home, like maintaining a paycheck and advancing your career. Son of a bi…

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