This Morning’s Rant

At length I remembered the last resort of a great princess who, when told that the peasants had no bread, replied: “Then let them eat brioches.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions

My good friend and sometimes blog pinch-hitter William Teach pointed me to this article from Nicholas Goldberg in The Los Angeles Times, which can also be found on Yahoo! News to get around the Times paywall:

Americans don’t care about climate change. Here’s how to wake them up

by Nicholas Goldberg | Thursday, September 22, 2022 | 6:00 AM PDT

Why is the greatest threat to the planet of so little concern to most Americans?

It’s shocking, frankly, that global warming ranks 24th on a list of 29 issues that voters say they’ll think about when deciding whom to vote for in November, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Only 30% of voters say they are “very worried” about it and more than two-thirds say they “rarely” or “never” discuss the issue with family or friends.

Actually, some of us see the United States and democratic Europe so willing to engage in a proxy war with Russia, a nation with a strategic nuclear arsenal, with seemingly little thought as to what could happen, as “the greatest threat to the planet”.

How can people be so blithely unconcerned when the clear consensus of scientists is that climate disruption is reaching crisis levels and will result not only in more raging storms, droughts, wildfires and heat waves, but very possibly in famine, mass migration, collapsing economies and war?

Uhhh, with a year-over-year 8.3% inflation rate in August of 2022, on top of August 2021’s year-over-year inflation rate of 5.3%, perhaps Americans are more worried about “collapsing economies” today than they are about such “crisis levels” in fifty or eight years?

Sure, there are some obvious reasons for the apathy: High among them is that fossil fuel companies have spent decades pulling the wool over the eyes of Americans. And Republican politicians have been complicit.

Well, of course it’s all the fault of evil, reich-wing Republicans and greedy fossil fuel companies! But Mr Goldberg, an associate editor and OpEd columnist for the Los Angeles Times, as well as the formerly being the newspaper’s editorial page editor, then changes his theme, and goes strongly toward a more marketing approach to persuade people to get worried about global warming climate change emergency. After pointing out what he sees as the activists’ naïveté in ignoring marketing techniques, he tells us that the only way to sell the activists’ ideas is to consider those who are not already on their side that people are stupid:

Deliver simple messages, for one thing. In general, climate activists lean toward complexity and nuance because they don’t want to patronize or condescend or mislead by oversimplifying to their audiences.

Once you have a simple message, repeat it over and over. Did you know that consumers generally have to see an ad more than half a dozen times before they will be persuaded to buy a product?

Embed facts and data in what (David) Fenton calls “moral stories that tug at the emotions.” Anyone who has ever watched TV ads knows that strategy can make arguments far more powerful.

Talk about what people care about. There’s been too much talk about the effect of climate change on polar bears, and not enough on what it means for humans.

Use language people understand. Research shows, Fenton says, that many people don’t understand the phrases “existential threat” or “net zero” or “climate justice.” They understand what “pollution” is, but not what an “emission” is — which suggests that it might make more sense to use the former term.

That practically drips with condescension: Mr Goldberg is saying that those who aren’t already on the side of the global warming climate change emergency activists just can’t understand.

Still, at the end, he throws at least a little bit of concern that people will have to make “sacrifices”:

Is (Mr Fenton) right when he says the climate problem can be solved in a way that enhances economic prosperity? I hope so; that’d be great. But I worry — and this is just my opinion, not an expert’s analysis — that we’ve waited too long, and that to avoid the worst effects of climate change we are going to have to sacrifice, whether it sells or not. I take the gloomy approach.

Either way, we can all agree there’s an awful lot to be done. And Fenton is certainly right that you can’t mobilize people for war if they don’t know they’re under attack. Public education is obviously a missing piece of the puzzle.

Somehow we need to awaken a nation of sleeping, underinformed and insufficiently motivated citizens and persuade them to rise to the great challenge of modern times. To do that, the unmanipulation process needs to begin in earnest.

Apparently, for Mr Goldberg, those who do not support the global warming climate change emergency activists are victims of ‘manipulation’ by fossil-fuel companies and wicked conservatives, but it’s “unmanipulation” to market to people his ideas.

With a guesstimated annual salary of $88,663, and net worth of $845,000, and a wife, Amy Wilentz — who didn’t respect her husband enough to take his name — who earns a similar salary from The Nation as well as being an English Professor at the University of California at Irvine, perhaps the distinguished Mr Goldberg doesn’t truly understand that working-class Americans might be more concerned with paying the rent, keeping the electricity turned on, and food on the table now than they are in projections of doom fifty and eighty years in the future. With the high inflation rate, with which wage increases have not matched, Americans are poorer, in real terms, than they were two years ago.

Then they read what the global warming climate change emergency activists want to do, and all they can see are more expenses falling on them: a wholly rebuilt electricity grid for which they’ll have to pay, plug-in electric cars which cost more than gasoline-powered ones, power restrictions that don’t allow you to recharge your Chevy Dolt at home when it gets too hot, and government requests, along with some actual action to force you to set your thermostats higher in the summer and lower in the winter, heating costs projected to rise 17.2% this coming winter, and the last thing that they want are the programs of the global warming climate change emergency activists making them poorer.

Mr Goldberg wrote that he believes that “we are going to have to sacrifice,” but, with his wife’s and his resources, they are not going to have to sacrifice nearly as much as the average American. Whatever sacrifices they will have to make, perhaps fewer dinners at nice restaurants, or having to pay an electrician to install an at-home charging station for a Tesla, won’t be as stressful for them as the sacrifices made by the single mother with two kids left her by a deadbeat ex-boyfriend in Pittsburgh, or the family in eastern Kentucky trying to survive in a poor area in which the coal mines have all closed.

Mr Goldberg is not, like the “great princess” mention by Monsieur Rousseau, saying “Let them eat brioche,” but is suggesting that those who eat cake might occasionally have to eat bread instead. What he misses is that there are those who can only afford bread right now, and the policy proposals of the activists would take that away from them as well.

Those people are already sacrificing under the current economy, something today’s left just really don’t understand. Oh, they say that they are concerned, say that they know and understand, but they simply do not: you cannot understand people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and concomitantly propose mandatory programs which will make them even poorer.
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1 thought on “This Morning’s Rant”

  1. Mr. Goldberg likely sneers at the types of folks who were claiming the world was ending on September 24, but fails to realize how closely he and his ilk resemble them (except that their predicted date of climate disaster is too far away for them to be held accountable for being wrong).


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