In today’s Times, Farhad Manjoo writes that, in confronting climate change, the opportunity before us — with Joe Biden as president and Democrats with majorities (however slim) in Congress — is probably our best chance to arrest climate change and save the planet. It’s a powerful argument. Be sure to read it.

There is a voice in America, hard to describe with one word (“cynical” doesn’t cover it), that dismisses the concerns and issues of the reckoning before us. It’s a conservative voice, but more than that. It’s the sardonic voice of the American who can’t be bothered or who, in fact, resents grievance or even reality. It’s the voice of denialism, the arrogant rejection of the fact that, as a country, we have big problems. This is usually the voice of contented wealth, though not always. It could also be the voice of the well-armed fatalist, or simply the voice of the willfully ignorant.

The kind of American I describe has always existed. But he’s particularly a problem today. (I am using “he” here because I almost always hear this stuff from white males.) He doesn’t worry about climate change, doesn’t accept the reality of institutional racism, worries not about the nation’s epidemic of gun violence and generally can’t be bothered with the green ethics of modern life, from the need to reduce consumerism to the need to address grievous inequality.

For most of us, the status quo won’t do, especially with the clock ticking on climate change. We need massive generational changes to arrest it, but one of the major obstacles to that is this stubborn attitude I’m trying to describe. It’s not just indifference, it’s active rejection of the reckoning before us, dismissed generally as “woke culture.” And too many elected officials, in the state and federal governments, fit this description.

There are lots of different pathologies contributing to the anti-intellectualism, anti-science and demonizing of progressivism we saw writ large, and in red, during the Trump tragedy and the pandemic. One of them is what I’ve tried to describe.

Remember Hooper in “Jaws”? Remember the Mayor of Amity, who refused to close the beaches after the first shark attack? The Mayor tells Hooper the island’s economy depends on summer tourism. Hooper, he says, is not familiar with Amity’s problems. Says Hooper: “I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ass.”

One thought on “The obstacle before us

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