Climate Change and Disillusionment: It, like, totally sucks, dude

Typically in my science blog, I write about the unexpected and unusual effects of climate change on the natural world. This includes talking about the potential future success of sea anemones, poison ivy and maybe even cannabis (the entire state of California cheers!), and the potential downfall of turtles, chocolate and the potency of cocaine (oh the tragedy!).

I rarely though talk about the effect of climate change on people. This is mostly because unless you live in a hole or undersea cave, you have already heard over and over again about how rising sea levels will effect housing, how drought will alter food availability and how pretty soon the arctic will be open for more oil drilling (weee!).

One of the overlooked effects of climate change on people, though, is disillusionment. The reality is that climate change is here and man, that is depressing.

Now in my new job, I get to hear all about climate change denial all day long. I like to believe I went through the 5 stages of denial when it came to my introduction the climate deniers’ literature: shock, annoyance, bargaining, disappointment, and eventually acceptance that they are insane.

In my job though we talk about “pillars of denial” (Why pillars? Because they hold up the denial argument – get it? It’s a metaphor!!!) These include things such as challenging the science, or the motives of the scientists, or accusing people of being ideologues. But these attempts at denial are becoming less relevant, as the public is becoming wise to this style of diverting the conversation. It’s just not hip anymore to be a climate denier.

But as a child of the 90’s, I know that there is nothing more hip then disillusionment. Disillusionment is the muse of every alternative rock song, it is why you had a crush on that super-lame barista for like 6 years , and why you now sometimes stare out of an airplane window and rethink all of your life choices.

Disillusionment is deep, it’s thoughtful, it’s all through literature and it is a clever new way to deny climate change. “Yeah, it’s here, man, but we are sooooo screwed” (long drag of cigarette, swig of whiskey) “Pass the steak.”

So, the question is, when there is every reason in the world to be disillusioned, how can you possibly find hope? And this is where your adult self needs to fight your 15-year-old self. Yeah, 15-year-old disillusioned you may have ditched school or dyed your hair purple or told off your folks – and when confronted you may have been like many other 15-year-olds who scoffed and said, “like, whatever man” (or your generation’s equivalent).

But you don’t get to do that anymore. Disillusionment is just another form of climate denial. It’s more insidious than other forms though, because it presents itself as more thoughtful and deep (people idealize the abusive alcoholic Bukowski for a reason). But I argue this is the laziest form of climate denial – it requires no research, no intuition, no special degrees or corporate sponsors and no attacks on researchers — it’s so boring. All you have to do is lay back and let the world turn.

And sure, you could live your life this way, but if I could call back my own disillusioned 15-year-old self to comment, she would roll her eyes at you, slouch down in her chair, take a long drag off of a Black Death Cigarette and scoff, “that is like, so lame.”

You’re not 15 anymore. Step it up people, the world is depending on you.

Minda Berbeco has a PhD in Biology from Tufts University and is a science writer in the Bay area. She wants to remind her kind readers that she writes her blog as a private citizen, not as an employee and her opinions are hers alone. Next week she will return to the unusual and unexpected effects of climate change on sea creatures – go oysters go!! In the meantime, she encourages you to watch this video from Beetlejuice of Winona Ryder getting over her disillusionment – maybe this song will help you too.

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