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Why Do My Shenandoah Valley Neighbors Believe The GOP Lies on Climate Change?

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(For starters, they might want to quit watching Faux Right-Wing Propaganda and Lies “News.” – promoted by lowkell)

On the website “Like the Dew” — a site that describes itself as offering “a progressive Southern perspective on politics, news, opinion and culture”– the piece I posted here yesterday (“Think Horses, Not Unicorns”) elicited a supportive comment from a woman who wondered about the self-centeredness of the Republican supporters who buy the Republican line that climate change is a “hoax.” Didn’t they care about their grandchildren’s future?

I responded to this with my way of understanding how decent people, like my neighbors in the Shenandoah Valley, come to deny what science says about climate change.

“I am not sure how much ‘self-centered’ relates to the problem,” I wrote.  “Judging at least from what I think I know about my neighbors in the Shenandoah Valley, they’d likely be quick to sign up to go and put their lives on the line for their country in the event of a war.  Not self-centered in that context.  

“Some other qualities make them vulnerable to this kind of manipulation by lies that are as improbable as unicorns.  

“1) Their culture inculcates a good deal of “believe what the authorities you’ve been taught to trust tell you.”  That goes from the Bible on down to the political party that’s persuaded them that it represents their values.

“2) They have a mind-set that’s cast in the form of traditional beliefs, which are strongly fortified, a mind-set that is correspondingly resistant to the intrusion of ideas that would break out of established patterns.  The idea that the well-being of one’s grandchildren might require a person to fight and die against a foreign enemy is an ancient one. So they’re ready for that. The idea that one’s grandchildren might need for one, and one’s nation, to sacrifice to reduce one’s impact on the biosphere is a new idea. Indeed, I’m old enough to remember when such an idea –that we might have to limit ourselves, and change our ways, to protect the planet– emerged into American culture.  

“3) Among the ideas that their exploitative political leaders have drummed into their minds is “market+good, government regulation=bad. Another is, national sovereignty = good, international law = bad. Clearly, climate change is something that the market is incapable of perceiving or dealing with; it requires collective, government measures.  Clearly also, this is a crisis that must be dealt with globally, as no single nation can protect itself from the climate-changing effects of what other nations might spew into the earth’s atmosphere.  

“So the idea of climate change would require revision of a simplistic worldview, and complexity and nuance are not the hallmarks of the kind of thinking these people are taught to value. Denial of the reality to which the climate scientists are pointing, therefore, serves to maintain both the corporatist ideology their plutocratic leaders have instilled, and the comforting notion that the truth — especially the moral truth — can be adequately captured by simple and unambiguous propositions.”

  • cynndara

    MY neighbors in both SW and rural Ohio are quite aware that global climate change exists and is proceeding.  Their traditional values simply teach them that there is little or nothing they can do about the great forces of the world that are manipulated by the rich and powerful.  They know that they are Little People, and that the Big People will do what they damned well please regardless of what they do or say, so they don’t waste their time or money on tilting at windmills; instead they invest what resources they have on keeping themselves and their children as strong as possible so as to be prepared for whatever God (and the Government)causes to be.  And they take comfort in doing what their traditional values define as Right, regardless of whether or not they profit thereby (given that any profit is going to be small and fleeting, and nothing is going to change their essentially  marginal lives).