Guest Editorial: Climate Denial and the Oregonian

On May 26th the Oregonian published an editorial criticizing the Portland Public Schools for passing a resolution on climate change and the school curriculum. The editorial uses the term critical thinking three times and claims that the PPS are failing to teach it.

Part of critical thinking is learning to recognize sincere and legitimate discussion and understand the difference between that and efforts at fear-mongering, self-aggrandizement and manipulation. This editorial is so clearly the latter that the only thing the editorial actually says is something about the political posture of the Oregonian editorial staff.

The editorial states “After the applause died, the board, Esparza Brown included, turned right around and indicated that some viewpoints — those that challenge the thinking of climate-change activists — may not be tolerable after all.”

We are talking about science here, not viewpoints, beliefs, personal opinions or the thinking of activists (who don’t all agree with each other anyway). What the PPS did is to decide to update their curriculum to reflect the current state of climate science.

Already in 2010, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) declared anthropogenic (human caused) climate change to be a settled fact.

For the Portland Public Schools to be following the lead of a prestigious and conservative organization like the NAS is not the slightest bit controversial. And the NOAA, NASA, MIT, British MET and every other major institution worldwide that studies the climate has the same conclusion and has for some years now. The science is settled.

And of course this past December, 195 countries in Paris agreed on the same basic point and the need to take action.

If one listens to the science and uses some of that critical thinking to understand the ramifications of the science, then there is an inescapable conclusion. We must collectively change the way society is organized and how we obtain the energy to run it, and we must do so at a rapid pace requiring all our effort and focus. This is not indoctrination (as claimed by the Oregonian) or a personal viewpoint. It is an established and irrefutable fact.

This is why, in the various critical articles around the country about the PPS resolution, there is a lot of vague innuendo but not clear facts or science. Climate denial efforts have lost the science argument and so now depend on personal attacks, sarcasm, inflammatory rhetoric and misdirection to cloud the issue and cast doubt and uncertainty. It is a shameful and unethical practice.

Since climate denial has lost credibility using the head-on argument based on science, it now relies on a softer kind of back door denialism. You can see that in the Oregonian editorial. On one hand it sorta kinda acknowledges climate science, but then argues against the obvious conclusions.

It is like saying we admit (sorta) that the car is headed for the cliff, but we think telling the children that we should take our foot off the gas and maybe hit the brakes is indoctrination. Duh!

The Oregonian editorial and other such arguments are all rather similar. They are quite predictable once you have read enough of them. They are a reactionary form of obstructionism. For example, you will not see anywhere in there any suggestion of a better way to respond to the science and address the climate crisis. This is because there is no actual interest to do so, only to impede the efforts of others.

The Oregonian is owned by ‘Advance Publications’ which is owned by 2 wealthy billionaire brothers (net worth aprox $20 Billion) who are long time Republicans and friends of the Bush family. So it is not surprising for the Oregonian editorial staff to take a climate denial position. They are serving the interests of the billionaires who pay their salaries.

This is but one small local example of the problem of having the vast majority of the media that people read/watch/listen to owned by a tiny group of super wealthy elites through the corporations they control. The wealthy elite don’t want things to change and that is why the science of climate change and its inescapable conclusion that we must change is so vastly under reported, targeted, ridiculed and attacked.

Exxon and the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers and other monied interests have funded efforts to discredit the science. One of the techniques used in the U.S. is to present the issue as a liberal vs. conservative one. It isn’t.

That the world’s forests are burning at an unprecedented rate and the oceans are acidifying and warming, creating the risk of Canfield Oceans (massive worldwide dead zones producing toxic hydrogen sulfide gas) has nothing to do with political ideology. Increasingly deadly droughts, heatwaves and floods destroy the lives of liberals and conservative alike. It is a crisis facing the whole of humanity and every species on earth.

The current moment is like a disaster movie. There is the point in the movie where the disaster has begun, but people are still concerned with what they look like, climbing the social ladder, annoyed at someone over a trivial slight, political infighting, getting to work on time, chasing the next deal and all the other things that occupy people day to day. That is where society is right now… in a deep denial and as yet unwilling to face reality.

And in the movie, there are always a few voices (scientists, writers or other observers of life) who are raising the alarm. At first they are ignored or ridiculed. Then there is the point in the movie where all the usual social behavior falls by the side as the unfolding disaster shocks people out of their regimented routines and habits and forces them to respond to the actual circumstances.

Hopefully, we will collectively reach that point soon because this is not a movie. It is real, planet wide and inescapable… by anyone. The best scientists of our time are telling us that organized human civilization and indeed our very survival as a species is at serious risk.

Established power is working hard at keeping the public distracted and asleep to the severity of the climate crisis and it uses the enormous power of their corporate media monopoly to do so. Because of that, the media bears a special culpability. History will look back and judge the media for the enormous amount of suffering it caused by delaying an effective social response. And if it is able to hinder efforts long enough, well, there may just be no history at all.

“If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X


Read the Portland Public Schools Resolution: HERE

Read the Oregonian Editorials on the PPS Resolution: HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE