Social barriers against climate action: neuropsychologist Adam Aron investigates with his book “The Climate Crisis”. From Grist, Senior Writer Naveena Sadasivam breaks stories of state repression, corporate-wrong doing – and outright corruption to grease the deadly status quo. Nobody thinks climate misinformation is accidental.
Near the middle of April, Fort Lauderdale Florida got about one third of their annual rainfall in just eight hours. Two feet of rain fell at the airport. Statistically, that is a one in a thousand-year event – but that is based on the old weather. A hotter wetter atmosphere has lots of surprises for us. Over in Europe, the EU’s Copernicus system reports the hottest March ever recorded. Last week, a humongous record-smashing heat wave hit Pakistan, most of Northern India, right down into Thailand and even Malaysia. Most places were above 43 degrees C. – 109 Fahrenheit. It’s brutal heat, in April. 11 people died of heat at a political event just outside Mumbai, India.
The U.S. Northeast hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit – 32 C – in New York City. Nobody alive can remember April heat like that. A couple of days later another cold wave took that all away. Do we need beach wear or winter coats? Lurking behind the heat are the oceans, hotter than they have been for millions of years. Marine heat waves hovered in the North Pacific and Atlantic. The Indian Ocean too.
This is a hot time on the old planet. With an El Nino likely approaching by Fall, it is going to get a whole lot hotter. Obviously, the climate emergency has arrived. That makes the new surge to pump out even more fossil fuels so sick and sad. Joe Biden’s America is doing it, opening up new Arctic resources, not just with the Willow project, but a new 870 mile long Unnatural gas pipeline to get more methane out to sea, frozen as LNG. Canada is still building it’s pipeline from the Tar Sands. The UK is approving new fossil fuels. Most of the world’s banks invested more in fossil fuel expansion this year. With the split in supplies during the Ukraine war, it is patriotic boom time for the oil, gas and coal men. They do it even when everybody knows: fossil mania kills children, kills their future.
Tell them “No!”. I’m Alex Smith This is Radio Ecoshock.
ADAM ARON: MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS
Imagine: an expert studying psychology and the brain wakes up to discover climate disaster threatens everything. Does she or he drop everything to look for climate solutions? At the University of California San Diego, Professor Adam Aron did. As a recognized expert in cognitive neuropsychology, he began teaching undergrad courses called “Psychology of the Climate Crisis”. Then he put it all in an accessible textbook, “The Climate Crisis” published by Cambridge University Press in 2023. What can we learn about how minds, hearts, and lives change?
A few years ago, world-recognized sustainability expert Jem Bendell dropped out of his field. He said none of it was sustainable. Recently, Adam Aron talked with Alison Green, another successful academic who left to become an activist. She is now director of the group ScientistsWarning. I ask Adam why he moved his studies from cognitive neuropsychology to climate psychology and activism.
The relationship between academia and action needs to change. The old model: scientists produce facts and theories and leave it on the doorstep. It is up to government, business or the public to see a need for action and do something. The scientist goes on to other studies.
Adam began by teaching hundreds of undergrads a course called “Psychology of the Climate Crisis”. They are a generation facing the headwinds of a climate shift. This year, Adam released his book “The Climate Crisis – Science, Impacts, Policy, Psychology, Justice, Social Movements”. My assessment: this is a textbook – which anyone can access – but designed with psychological communication as well. The clear graphics are one example. Check out provide the map showing the increase in regions becoming too hot for humans. Places over 29 degrees C (84 F.) – as mean annual temperature – go from a few spots in North Africa and the Middle East, to some of the most heavily populated places on the planet, as early as 2070. If this map of expanding heat too hot for humans by 2070 comes true, billions of people will be pushed out of highly populated areas.
LEAVING AFRICA IN THE HEAT
Most books and research tend to leave out climate impacts on Africa. In Adam Aron’s book, he interviews a climate activist from Mozambique – one of many interviews in the book. Aron grew up in Swaziland, a land-locked country bordering South Africa. Swaziland has renamed itself the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Adam writes: “This reality had particular resonance for me as I realized that the plants, animals, and human population of the fairly rural part of southern Africa in which I had grown up were experiencing roughly double the level of global heating despite having done almost nothing to generate those emissions and having hardly any resources for adapting to these changing conditions.”
Later in a photo caption, Adam writes: “… a target of 2 degrees Celsius would condemn Africa to much more heating than the global average. Estimates from the AR5 report of the IPCC show that under the high scenario of emissions (RCP 8.5) parts of Africa may have more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4F) heating by mid-century compared to the 1986–2005 mean.”
Climate misinformation is not accidental. Massive global fossil interests inject billions into plans and machinations – all designed to neuter public demand for real climate action. Some of their hired guns used psychology against the public interest. In this book, Adam introduces us to denial machine, – the whole network of vested interests and their converts.
Then there is funding for Universities. Adam passes on a shocking list of name-brand energy institutes from MIT to Stanford and Berkeley that get money from Chevron, British Petroleum (BP), Shell, and other oil and gas companies. How does this shape knowledge?
This book “The Climate Crisis” covers a lot of ground. Along the way, Adam introduced us to a lot of alternative thinking, including a half dozen people who appeared on Radio Ecoshock. I loved the UK clinical psychologist Graham Lawton saying eco-anxiety is not a mental illness, but a sign of sanity.
Adam Aron assesses all kinds of energy alternatives, even nuclear and geoengineering. I felt he left out a possible driver for climate action: collapse, or a series of smaller regional collapses. Maybe things have to fall apart for the new to be born. Small collapses, like Sri Lanka, are popping up and lately include some major banks in the U.S.A. and Switzerland, so far. Can we plan for collapse?
Read more about the power of local activism in this article in The Conversation, by Adam Aron, published December 26, 2022.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL
Adam formed the GreenNewDeal in 2019. They have 15 to 20 people at the core, with support from other academics. This little band has reoriented the 10 campuses of University of California, away from a bogus offset program. Now university has real plans to close their gas-fired co-generation power plant.
MORE ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ROOTS OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS
Adam cites the work of psychotherapist Sally Weintrobe, in her book “The Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis – Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare”, Published April 2021.
Adam cites George Marshall’s work. I interviewed George in 2014, about his book “Don’t Even Think About It – Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change.” Adam writes: “As psychologist George Marshall speculated based on his interviews with survivors of extreme weather events in the US Midwest, people who already regarded climate change as a myth tended to interpret extreme weather as proof that weather is variable, while people who already considered climate change to be a real risk tended to regard extreme weather as further proof of climate breakdown.”
BAD ACTORS BEHIND POLLUTION
Why are we still stuck in the fossil fuel age, surrounded by toxic chemicals and bad air? When state legislators are arrested, when the Koch Brothers cheat, and chemical companies leak, award-winning reporter Naveena Sadasivam is there. Naveena is ready, with her degree in chemical engineering and a Master’s in environmental and science reporting. She has reported breaking news for the Texas Observer, InsideClimate News and ProPublica. Now Sadasivam is Senior Staff Writer at Grist, the progressive magazine, non-profit, and web site.
We start with the new way to stop people protesting destruction of the planet: just label environmentalists “terrorists” and send them off to prison. Problem solved. They tell us why pipelines are good and greens are bad in Utah. Naveena’s article “Welcome to Utah, where pipeline protests could now get you at least five years in prison” was published March 23rd in Grist.
DIRTY DEEDS DONE IN OHIO
if you can’t throw your critics in jail, just buy off their state legislators with buckets of secret cash. Naveena tells us, as a Grist headlines says: “How a $60 million bribery scandal helped Ohio pass the ‘worst energy policy in the country’”.
Solar and wind produce energy way cheaper than coal plants and nuclear reactors. So companies like FirstEnergy allegedly tried to buy political support and then get millions in subsidies from Ohio taxpayers. They got their man Larry Householder to pass the infamous Bill 6 in Ohio.
The former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder got into power in 2016. Building cover for Bill 6 that would allegedly paying back his secret funders, they called ex-environmentalist Michael Shellenberger to testify to the legislature in 2017. Shellenberger said solar and wind was dangerous, not those leaky old reactors. I wonder Who paid for Michael’s travel and hotel, when the fix was in for Ohio? He twice testified before the Ohio Senate on behalf of the nuclear industry. He says funding wind and solar is a waste of time and money.
Larry Householder was arrested, charged and found guilty.
My other takeaway from this Grist reporting is something I realized in the 1990’s, in my own research. People assume opposition to renewables, corrupt or not, comes from the big oil and gas multinationals, like Exxon or Shell. Sure, that has been documented in many countries. But there is a second group of dark players: the electricity utility industry owners. For example, I found that several scientists who downplayed or denied the climate crisis – they were paid not by big oil and gas, but by utility industry corporations.
THERE WAS A LITTLE GOOD NEWS, SORT OF…
With her expertise in chemistry, Sadasivam and Grist report on everyday chemical pollution that seems institutionalized in America. But sometimes we win a little. She tells us about her April 6th article on new EPA rules: “EPA announces rules curbing cancer-causing pollution from chemical plants. The agency claims the proposed rules will result in a 96% reduction in the population facing cancer risk from 200 polluters.”
Then we go to the Koch-brothers company plot Naveena and reporter Clayton Aldern unearthed in Texas just this past February. How to cheat the government testing and keep pumping out dangerous emissions.
It has always amazed me: people all over America donate millions for cancer research. Millions of our loved ones are lost to cancer. The government spends more billions for a cure. Why not try to stop those cancer cases at the source, banning carcinogenic chemicals from our lives?
BETRAYAL FROM THE TOP
Changing to renewable energy is the only sane thing to do. But we are moving much too slowly. From Naveena’s reporting and others, that isn’t an accident. Fossil billionaires try to shape elections and the electorate. They have foundations and front groups to move millions, even billions of hidden dollars into advertising, election campaigns and politicians’ pockets. The climate revolution has been betrayed from the top.
By the way, The American Society of Magazine Editors just honored Grist with a 2023 National Magazine Award. Grist magazine keeps publishing stories that bigger corporate media are content to ignore.
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THANKS TO SUPPORTERS!
A hardy band of listeners donate $10 a month to keep Radio Ecoshock going. That, and the occasional single donation, is what paid for a new Ecoshock computer this past year, as my old one died unexpectedly. A computer for a radio studio is not cheap. But my wife and I did not have to pay – because so many of you helped. Please consider giving that monthly support, if you can.
Beyond all that, I value readers and listeners. We go through these times together, hopefully drawing on brighter minds to help.
I’m Alex. Thank you for caring about our world.