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Acceptance of and understanding of Global Warming is an overwhelming action. Truly understanding what we (all of the US and all of us) face commands decisions about how one will interact with the globe from that moment on. Now, for better or worse, there are many (often illegitimate) reasons for skepticism about Global Warming. One of these is, quite clearly, an emotional desire to avoid having to face those decisions in the face. But, there is a path toward that decision point. For quite good reasons, that path is very closed to that outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Rossin Death and Denying for dealing with life's tragedies.

  1. Denial,
  2. Skepticism (anger for dealing with grief)
  3. Delay (bargaining)
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

And, if one takes that last stage -- acceptance -- to its logic point, this suggests a stage 5a: Activism.


Again, there are many motivations that drive deniers and skeptics. At the very beginning, this is such a huge problem, so overwhelming, so outside the individual perspective, that the "norm" begins at denial: even if that denial is simply childish ignorance of the potential of such an overwhelming problem in face of the immensity of the threat and what it might mean for any/all of us.

There are those who will simply never leave denier stage, whether for theological, ideological, financial, or determined ignorance.  The Anti-Science Syndrome Hatred Of a Livable Environment poster child?  Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon). 

But, for those not so constitutionally incapable of facing reality, of those whose ignorance (or fascination with Bachelor Hawaii) inhibits their ability to absorb facts, facts and information will foster knowledge that there is a problem, that something is going on that merits attention. But, how much attention? That question naturally leads to ...

Skepticism… the ability to question unquestioned beliefs and stated certainties is a powerful intellectual tool. Sadly, “skepticism” is receiving a bad name through association with those ready, willing, able, and enthusiastic about denying the reality before their (and our) own eyes about the global changes in climate patterns and humanity’s role in driving these changes. (See here for a quick thumbnail guide to differentiating skepticism from denialism.) But, stepping back, skepticism is the normal phase after Denial.

Okay, so someone realizes (admits) that something is happening. Then they might question: Is this serious? Does humanity have anything to do with it? Does it involve me? (Do I have anything to do with the problem? And, does Global Warming affect me?) Do I have anything to say about what will happen in the future?

Again, for those open to facts and information, the answers become clear.

Yes, it is serious.

Yes, humanity has something to do with causing this problem (and is driving the majority of what is happening).

Yes, it has something to do with every single person. And, Global Warming affects every person.

And, yes, every person in the globe (okay, not infants) make decisions every day that have implications for global warming (whether individually miniscule or larger).

Understanding and accepting these facts, this reality leads naturally to the next stage ...

Delay ...

Having accepting reality, the natural human reaction to an uncertain, large, seemingly intangible problem is avoidance. Natural for an individual. Natural for a community. Natural for society. The item on the top of the "in-box" has our attention, not the project due six months from now. The distractions of daily life (of the time urgent) often has priority over issues of longer-term.

Change is difficult for most due to fear of the uncertain. And, for many, the types of change that fully acknowledging Global Warming's implications would require are simply inconvenient (even if a truth).  There are those who enjoy jetting around the world, leaving the lights on, leaving the McSUV's engine running while they drive 100 yards from their home to their child's bus stop to keep their kid warm when "it is too cold" and leave it running while chatting outside with the neighbors after the bus has picked up their precious and fragile one (50 degrees ... real story ... no cynicism here).    Captured in their comfort, these people have not truly absorbed

There are others, far from able to engage in such extravagant wastefulness, who argue that there are such serious problems today as individuals (putting gasoline in the tank and putting food on the table, paying the rent) and society (health care, schools, stimulating the economy) that dealing with a problem 'decades in the future' is simply an unaffordable luxury. 

Delay, as well, is a device by those who have seen facts overwhelming denial and skepticism. Yes, they might state, Global Warming is real but it is so immense that we can't solve it without some new magical invention. This comes with many variations. Whether well meaning (by passionate technology enthusiast) or more venal (someone seeking to maximize profit from polluting behavior), the "technology will solve everything" and "invest in R&D" is a quite dangerous trap that will trap humanity into a cycle of ever worsening catastrophic climate change.

Thus, the convincing of someone that tomorrow's technology isn't a 'silver bullet' often comes when they realize the full extent of the problem and the very (VERY) serious implications for unchecked global warming. Very simply,

These potential paths and the risks of hurtling over the C4 (catastrophic climate chaos cliff) are quite terrifying and can drive people to



We stare disaster in the face. 


Time to crawl under the covers. 

The world as we know it is behind us. (As Bill McKibben put it, we now live on Eaarth because we have so fundamentally change the Earth that humanity evolved in.)

And, so much is requires to be done and there are so many standing in the way of getting things done. 

Okay, let's just face facts.  The situation is dire. And, it will be difficult to move from where we are to where we need to be.  Remaining mired in depression does not provide any more promise for a better tomorrow than occurs with denial, skepticism, and/or delay.

Surrender to the despair and one gives up on the future prospects for any and all of us.

And, the answer to "depression" and despair is that we have a choice:  Global warming is serious.  Yes, it will undoubtably worsen. But, we have a choice and ability to influence (even control) just how badly it will get and whether if it will peak and turn to an improving situation in the coming decades.  Abandoning oneself to despair and depression dooms society to never reaching that turning point toward a better situation.  Taking that deep breath, recognizing that we have a serious problem and understanding that we can have some impact on just how much worse it will get leads to ..

Acceptance ... e.g., Activisism

So, we have gone through the stages. It is time to act. And, action is multifaceted and complex. It is the three Rs in our own and society's lives (which, in fact, might more accurately be 3R2):

  • Reduce use / demands
  • Reuse / use renewable energy
  • Remediate / recycle

It is making the right choice not just the easy choice but also the preferred choice (for individuals, communities, businesses, governments) as to being Energy Smart to reduce our footprints. 

It is figuring our how to Energize America (and the globe) toward a prosperous, climate-friendly society.

It is voting right to change government policy for the better.  

It is pressuring leaders -- in families, communities, media, businesses, government -- to move through the stages and to get them to 'activism' for actions to address our mounting climate disruption challenges.

It is ... a struggle that has implications for all of us (all of U.S.) and requires all of us (all of U.S.) and that will have (already has) significant impact on all of us (all of U.S.) for the rest of our lives.

It is long past time to take this seriously -- as individuals, communities, institutions, and nations.

Moving through stages ...

An imperative exists for taking the burgeoning understanding of a climate challenge and leveraging this through depression into activism.

A question to contemplate:

Is it right to party to the end or does an imperative exist to stave off catastrophe?

What's your choice?

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 12:51 PM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Don't forget post-capitalism! (8+ / 0-)

    Giving up the fossil-fuel habit means a change in political economy for sure:

    for starters...

    "On the sidewalk the people are hustling and bustling/ They ain't got no time so they think on the thing/ That will fill in the space in between birth and death" -- Donovan Leitch

    by Cassiodorus on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 01:02:01 PM PST

    •  And ... (7+ / 0-)

      again, perhaps I am in the 'bargaining' stage here -- seeking to have 'well-regulated' capitalism and other half-measures that may well/will fall short of what is required.

      I'm far from the only one who struggles with whether the 'half-measures' are worth pursuing as incremental steps along the path to a sustainable society. (This can include: what about inflating tires or marginal improvements on a building's energy efficiency? Do such 1-2-3% measures have value or not when the problem is so much larger?)  The question of the nature of a viable economy is a domain where half-measures might not be a good 'starter'.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 01:39:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Half measures are good! (7+ / 0-)

        Because two half measures is an entire measure.

        Seriously, incremental measures are a gateway drug for real change.  When people take even minor actions, I think it prepares their mind for the larger questions.  Doing is part of thinking.

        Also, when people have taken some measures in their own lives, I believe that it gives them a stronger moral foundation and confidence to advocate for policy-level changes, because they are less vulnerable to being purity-trolled.

        There of course could be the complacency issue ("see, I did my part!") but on direct observation I just don't see it occurring.  People who take some action tend to want to take the next action rather than being satisfied.

        •  Incremental measures (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          are a gateway drug for withdrawing the incremental measures, too.  Here's how it works out in practice: instead of something that works, let's try something that fails, because that's "incremental."

          When we want to pound nails, we don't accuse the guy who wants a hammer of "purity trolling."

          "On the sidewalk the people are hustling and bustling/ They ain't got no time so they think on the thing/ That will fill in the space in between birth and death" -- Donovan Leitch

          by Cassiodorus on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:23:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  this is one reason why good democrats discussing (8+ / 0-)

    climate change now. things are much scarier and can seem hopeless and overwhelming when the elephant sits in the room but everyone ignores!

    thanks, FB'd, tweeted and rec!

    "It is in the shelter of each other that people live." Irish Proverb

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 01:09:28 PM PST

  •  As Joan Baez once said (9+ / 0-)
    "Action is the antidote to despair"
    Everyone needs to DO something. Do may things.

    Walk more.

    Put solar power on your roof.

    Eat locally grown food.

    Buy an electric car.

    Buy local, everthing that you can.

    But DO something.

    Thanks Adam, for another great post.

  •  well done (7+ / 0-)

    I've thought about this process a lot. The only thing I would add is that once you do decide to become active, to stay away from fear and guilt based strategies as much as possible.

    In my experience, people tend to respond more strongly to visions of how their lives could be more abundant and meaningful in a less fossil-fueled world than to threats of what will happen to them and the planet if they don't change their ways. I understand that that's a form of denial, because it's a fact that the threat is very immediate and serious, but denial can also be a useful mechanism in achieving what you need to achieve. For example, the fact is we're all going to die before long, but we don't think about that or freak out about it on a daily basis, because it wouldn't be very constructive or lead to a happy life.

    So the key I think is to have enough awareness of the bigger picture/problem to guide us in our basic direction and actions, but to stay in the moment enough to not let the ultimate burden make our words and actions too heavy for ourselves and anyone else to carry.

    •  Agree - a message of collective hope and brighter (5+ / 0-)

      future if we band together for collective action is what is needed.  Gloom and doom and despair will not sell.  

      As I saw people pushing themselves into stores on Black Friday (Thursday); as I see neighbors stringing up Xmas lights each and every night; as I see millions of unnecessary lights on each and every street of each and every city each and every night , I am confronted with the massive denial still evident in our society.  We need a consciousness changer.  We need to sell a better way to live that offers a brighter and more prosperous life both immediately and into our future.  As people sacrificed, banded together and gave up many of their everyday luxuries in WWII to help secure their immediate world with the promise and hope of a much better world in their future we need to do the same with climate change.  

      The only way this happened in WWII was with leadership that recognized the challenges confonting our nation and guiding us into massive collective action.   There are fleeting hints that again this might be on the horizon.

      Awakenings can happen overnight given the right circumstances and leadership.   When that moment comes having a positive action plan to offer will be essential.  

      A Seigel - you offer that message of positive action in almost all of your diaries.  When people are finally ready to listen to the positive message and path people like you offer we'll finally be ready to work miracles with regard to climate change.  

      I am hopeful this can be achieved regardless of the pain and misery we'll experience in the interim.  One thing we know for sure: Life as we know it will not be the same regardless of the path we choose to take with climate change.  

      Great post!  Thanks.  

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 03:27:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  WWII response analogy maybe not hopeful (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        I share your belief and hope that a rapid mass popular response to climate change, both adaptation and mitigation, is possible given the right conditions, and that the mobilization for WWII is a valid precedent.

        However the precedent is not reassuring in light of the climatic and political realities. If you accept the assessments of the climate situation by James Hansen and other scientists (Can we doubt them?) we have passed the Pearl Harbor moment of WWII without a whisper from our leaders about mobilization or, more critically, any sign of popular support or demand for it.

        FDR was a great and brilliant leader, but I don't agree with the implication that Obama lacks the ability or will to lead. Leadership is not possible without followership.

        Since plague became in this way some men's duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is the concern of all. --Albert Camus

        by Neighbor2 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 07:05:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The difference between activism and despair... (5+ / 0-)

    leads to the difference between disaster and castastrophe.

    Defining terms:
    Despair: it's too late, we're DOOOOMED!)
    Disaster: more frequent Katrinas, Sandys, and droughts, which are indeed inevitable  
    Catastrophe: runaway positive positive feedbacks like methane release from thawing permafrost leading to melting of Greenland and Antarctica, and sea level rise in the tens of meters inundating coastlines around the world, which there is still a fair chance to prevent, by
    Activism: joining efforts such as's campaign to divest from and delegitimate the fossil fuel industry,
    taxing dirty energy to fund a massive clean energy transition, and
    efforts to implement the many energy wedges that can bend the GHG curve downward over several decades:
    weatherization of existing buildings; strict LEED standards for all new buildings; reversing subsidies now going to sprawl development, so compact, transit oriented development is favored;
    accelerating deployment of wind and solar power generation;
    increasing mass transit; replacing infernal combustion engines with hybrids, and electric vehicles charged by non-fossil power;
    fee-bates to incent the use of more efficient products;
    revresing subsidies now going to mining to favor recycled materials; eating lower on food chains and reducing meat consumption, especially from feedlots;
    making it easier to recycle than dispose of stuff we are done with ....

    There's no such thing as a free market!

    by Albanius on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 02:58:01 PM PST

  •  Then there's PDS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, citisven

    On NPR Morning Edition,television critic Eric Deggans weighed in on something he sees on too many television shows: Persistent Disbelief Syndrome.

    ...something TV producers have used for decades. I call it: Persistent Disbelief Syndrome. It's a handy device for adding tension to a scene.

    No matter how many times these heroes solve problems no one else can, other characters must act as if they're outrageous and totally illogical - until, of course, they're right. It makes the hero look more heroic.

    Deggans is referring to fiction, but it creeps over into real life all the time. The "fair and balanced" media fallacy seeks to balance every viewpoint with an equal and opposing viewpoint, to avoid being accused of bias. You can't do that on climate change without treating nonsense and outright chicanery as legitimate - while debasing positions that actually are reality based.

    Then of course, there are the Very Serious People (often in the media) who decree what is acceptable for discussion, and what must be laughed out of polite society. Digby has a classic example here.

    I've seen it observed that humans are not rational  so much as rationalizing. We're much more comfortable operating on the basis of beliefs than we are evidence.

    PDS isn't a stage in a process, it's more of a bad habit. One we need to break.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:09:52 PM PST

  •  I don't do nothing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    although I'm wallowing is the despair stage. Conservation is my mantra; less driving, energy efficiency in the home, and so on, even though I know if I lived in a Tent it isn't enough.

    •  And ... (0+ / 0-)

      while the solutions / ameliorations require actions by each of us, this can't be done from bottom up solutions -- need top down as well ...

      I strive to avoid wallowing ... although there are reasons that make it hard to avoid and there are times when it hard to avoid.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 04:04:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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