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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/5/14

More Info Isn't Necessarily Enough

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What seems like an obvious solution--more information and facts--in the apparent failure to understand the challenges which declining peak oil production rates (and/or climate change) will bring about is not quite so obvious. It makes perfectly good sense, but that doesn't matter, either. Nothing like human nature to muck up simple solutions!

If one starts with the intuitive but mistaken premise that public disagreement is an artifact of insufficient or insufficiently accessible scientific information, the obvious strategy for dispelling disagreement, and for promoting enlightened democratic decision-making, is to produce and disseminate sound information as widely as possible. But the phenomenon of cultural cognition implies that this strategy will be futile.

[Link to download the PDF of the above-quoted study here]

Why? In layman's terms, people tend to fit their views and beliefs with others who share similar interests. commitments, values, beliefs, etc. Of course! Whatever the group or affiliation, being one among many like-minded others contributes to a sense of well-being and social status. There's a boost in one's self-esteem when she or he shares observations or beliefs or opinions readily agreed-to and/or understood by those with whom they regularly associate. Who among us actively seeks out opportunities to dis agree with those same associates?

Those affiliations will be protected and deepened at every opportunity. When challenges are made to group-think, defending the values and beliefs of the group is an intuitive response. Asserting the correctness or value of the group's positions by extension does the same with and for individual members. We like the validation, and unconsciously--or consciously--desire it. Whether done on purpose or not, human nature is such that all of us engage in the occasional mental/psychological gymnastics to make certain our beliefs and values and opinions and cultural/political attitudes mesh with our own tribes.

But while the benefits are understandable and mostly not-objectionable, there are drawbacks to knee-jerk agreement or conciliation. Sometimes, a moment or two to pause and ponder additional or different information can prove enlightening! When the stakes are as high as the consequences of a peak in oil production and/or climate change make clear, it should be an automatic first step before falling in line with our preferred others.

As we confront the challenges and consequences of peak oil, we will need the insights, perspectives, experiences, and expertise from leaders of both major parties as well as the expertise of professionals from every corner of the business world, no matter what their political inclinations. Ideologies aren't high on the checklist of problem-solving criteria for matters carrying the potential for so much harm and disruption.

Information will have to matter more than it does, as odd a concept as that seems! (Would ideological opponents to the facts and realities prefer getting left behind as economic and lifestyle conditions change, or might having a say in, and possibilities for, continuing success be more appealing?)

That's not to say there shouldn't be some recognition of cultural perspectives and values, but we will have to decide what works best across as many lifestyle categories as is possible. Facts will matter.

The changes needed and can't be dictated solely by a Big Liberal Government-No Government Tea Party scorecard for the simple reason that the full-blown effects of peak oil and climate change will be beyond any challenge we've ever confronted. The manner in which we address the consequences thus do not fit neatly into ideological boxes providing clear choices.

We must move beyond those limitations. As with most observations on the subject of peak oil, saying is so much easier than doing.

The challenge is all the greater--if that's possible--because from our perspective too many people without the means/opportunities to understand what's at stake are being fed a steady diet of half-truths, misrepresentations, irrelevancies, nonsense, and in some cases outright lies. If you come to the table without understanding or even knowing the facts, it's a wee bit more difficult to contribute and then leave with meaningful solutions in hand. Not exactly a major revelation".

Keeping peers uninformed--or entirely ignorant of not just the facts but an understanding about consequences--isn't exactly a noble, integrity-laden pursuit. So why keep doing so? What's the reason? Who benefits? (Hint: very, very few of us ... very few.)

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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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