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Now that the International Panel on Climate Change has released its unsurprising report confirming global warming as an ‘unequivocal’ reality, and concludes it’s our burning of fossil fuels that’s responsible, one might expect a rational response from both policy makers and the public alike.

So far, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  One can’t help being reminded of what 19th century writer and critic Thomas Lounsbury once observed:

“It never ceases to surprise me at the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge.”

Speaking as a Canadian living in the land of climate change denial, it wasn’t a surprise to see this report briefly discussed in the national media, and then quietly disposed of in favor of surfing dogs, celebrity tweets and hockey hockey hockey.  It would seem at the moment we are living in a cultural climate in which the mere mention of the word environment is akin to heresy and if you are someone who cares about responsible stewardship you are characterized as radical.

But who here is the radical?  Is it the scientist whose job it is to ‘introduce useful knowledge’ so people may be informed and create practical frameworks of understanding, or is it the policy makers and pundits who belittle and silence the voices of reason who are urging nothing more than a return to critical thought?

The IPCC report states that there is a 95 to 100 percent probability that the warming trends are in fact man-made.  Ironically, instead of dispelling the doubters, this lower bound 95 figure has given skeptics the room they needed to deepen their skepticism.  As if, in different circumstances, they would have no problems buying a car that had a 95% probability of catastrophic brake failure, or a cell phone that had a 95% probability of causing permanent brain damage.

It is simply not tenable to continually pursue policies now widely understood to be irreversibly harmful.   And not to be taken lightly, what does it say about our institutions when the brightest among us are forbidden to engage with an increasingly disengaged population?  There was a time not so long ago in Canada when such things as science literacy, respectful open dialogue and the humanities were considered positive and central attributes within the national character.  Now they are regarded as impediments to the fantastical notion of infinite economic growth at the expense of our ever-dwindling ecosystem.

And regarding the state of journalism, one can only imagine how surprised Thomas Lounsbury would be today to witness our modern media and their ongoing efforts to consciously promote unconsciousness within the society they purport to serve.

Infinite capacity indeed.

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