Richard Glover has a very funny – and in many ways on-target analysis here.
Don’t get me wrong – as I’ve said many times before, I know a lot of people who don’t take climate change seriously, but who also recognize for various other reasons that we can’t burn fossil fuels the way we are. I believe in the big tent. But there is something to be said for even metaphorically making people take ownership of their politics – and the implications of their politics.
I realize someone is going to be outraged by this – ah well, can’t please everyone! I find it funny, not because I want to humiliate climate deniers, but mostly because I think forcing us to bear the evidence of our past beliefs, to own them and take some responsibility is something that would make a big difference in how we change.
Surely it’s time for climate-change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies.
Not necessarily on the forehead; I’m a reasonable man. Just something along their arm or across their chest so their grandchildren could say, ”Really? You were one of the ones who tried to stop the world doing something? And why exactly was that, granddad?”
On second thoughts, maybe the tattooing along the arm is a bit Nazi-creepy. So how about they are forced to buy property on low-lying islands, the sort of property that will become worthless with a few more centimetres of ocean rise, so they are bankrupted by their own bloody-mindedness? Or what about their signed agreement to stand, in the year 2040, lashed to a pole at a certain point in the shallows off Manly? If they are right and the world is cooling – ”climate change stopped in the year 1998” is one of their more boneheaded beliefs – their mouths will be above water. If not …
OK, maybe the desire to see the painful, thrashing death of one’s opponents is not ideal. But, my God, these people are frustrating. You just know that in 20 years’ time, when the costs of our inaction are clear, the climate deniers will become climate-denial-deniers. ”Who me? Oh, no, I always believed in it. Yes, it’s hard to understand why people back then were so daft. It’s so much more costly to stop it now.”
That’s why the tattoo has its appeal.
The reason the tattoo goes on the ass is pretty clear – because while being able to tell your grandson you were a denier is a useful generational lesson, it is even more useful to be able to weed out sexual partners that way.
More seriously, here’s the really simple thing about this – there comes a point in every revolution when it is not longer possible to oppose an idea. That’s a critical turning point, and it is coming for both climate change and peak oil – when the evidence in front of our eyes is so great, so vast that denial is no longer an option. And when that happens, most of us revise our own histories.
Where are the folks who still think that women voting will destroy the republic? Where are the folks who think that democracy should be relegated to ancient Greece and that monarchy is the will of the divine? Go to Germany – everyone’s grandparents secretly opposed the Nazis. You’d think the Nazi party only had 9 members. Go to the American South (or for that matter, good sized chunks of the American North) and look for the racists, the people who screamed obscenities at black kids who bused to their neighborhoods or attended their schools. Those people are invisible, they’ve disappeared. Mom and Dad? They were always anti-racist, right! Thus, our history is reinscribed – we learn about how the other hated, how the other killed, how the other resisted change that was necessary and good.
It is still possible, although increasingly ridiculous looking in most civilized places to march around with a plaque that says “God hates fags.” Demography doesn’t lie – in a generation, the person at the Pride march with that plaque will be as much an oddity as the Grand Wizard of the Klan marching in his lonely, ridiculous sheet on Martin Luther King Day.
That day is coming for both climate change and peak oil, and probably quite rapidly, given the course of events. The day will come when it is literally impossible not to believe the evidence of our eyes – again. Until that very moment, of course, many will insist. A crazy few will linger afterwards, as a reminder, standing up as we face the consequences and telling us that global cooling is coming and abiotic oil is burbling under the surface of New Jersey.
The erasure of the collective past is part of the process in a way – we who long to be good people must have always been good people, believed the right thing, known and understood. Thus someday a few will shamefacedly admit the way they consumed resources, standing for absolution, writing books about their lifestyles, while most pretend that they stood in the vanguard, that they always knew. And this is as it should be in a sense – in that it is this re-writing of our personal stories that enables us to latch on to the new truth. If we couldn’t abandon our shameful past, we couldn’t move forward. But it does mean that someone else will have warmed the planet and burned the oil in our collective narrative.
I don’t really believe in tattooing, or humiliating people who stand against an idea. But I do think that the comic consideration of it has a useful educational point – it is a reminder that the day will come when we have to do that most painful of all work – the changing of our minds and that the world we make doesn’t change as fast as the human perspective.