by Judith Curry
The damaging effects of generating eco-anxiety in children. Climate Etc. as an antidote.
Earlier this week, I received this letter via email:
To the Esteemed Dr. Judith Curry:
You don’t know me but I am a frequent reader of your articles and find them to be fascinating, as well as eye-opening. Unsure if it is at all welcome to offer you some words of encouragement, but first I would like to explain in detail why I decided to contact you by e-mail with this rather strange method of offering a message. It is because you changed my mind about global warming and climate change entirely. Rest assured, I am not the only one who is beginning to see things in a different more scientific light.
I grew up in the 90’s ‘era’ of ‘acid rain is going to kill us all!’ ‘all the trees are going to be cut down!’ ‘people do more harm than good for the environment!’ Any kind of frightening prediction that you can think of and immediately name, I was subject to it, and at an age where I didn’t fully understand the meaning of ‘question what you hear’. I fully believed–literally, until this very year–that the Earth was going to perish in flame, the oceans would be covered in oil, the rainforests would all vanish and that Earth would very much resemble every circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. It also didn’t help matters considering I grew up with a very, VERY Jehovah’s Witness aunt and uncle, who kept repeating to me that the world would end! Add frequent news reports to the mix (I was not in any position to disregard it–my late mother would blare it through the house) and you have quite the sizeable ball of anxiety. No, seriously, I was diagnosed with GAD along with depression during my middle school years.
I wince now seeing all the younger people (I’m in my early thirties) acting exactly as I did–going forth with the mentality that humans are a plague and that they ruin EVERYTHING good. That was the first twinge of ‘something isn’t right’. We live in the least polluted country out of them all, our air quality has improved drastically, the forests are mostly intact, MORE greening is happening, and endangered species are making comebacks that I never could have imagined in my younger years. So why then, are we constantly bombarded with ‘humans are the disease’ messages? The constant blaring siren of ‘DO SOMETHING!’ wore me down to the point where I was seeking some kind of reassurance–not the best way to deal with an issue, but it was my method–and I happened upon your site. My ‘side’ frequently sneered at scientists who either try to douse the figurative flames created from their panic or better yet, prevent the fires from spreading. Why wouldn’t anyone want to hear, “Good news! The planet is NOT doomed!’?
I heard so much about these ‘climate deniers’ and I felt anxious upon coming to your site as if I was actually viewing the forbidden fruit from afar, thinking that at any moment, I would be struck down by an avenging angel for disobedience. (Again, grew up in a somewhat Christian household, didn’t exactly help matters…) Nothing of the sort happened. I scoffed at first thinking, “This person is entirely wrong. The climate is bad, people are going to die, there’s flooding happening over the ocean SOMEWHERE–” And then I stopped myself remembering that I once lived, for over twenty years of my life, NEAR A TOWN NEAR THE OCEAN. Nothing of that sort even vaguely happened! In fact the ocean’s level near my old hometown hasn’t risen by much. We’ve had only a handful of hurricanes hit in the course of two decades.
If climate ‘deniers’ were so deranged and so into helping ‘big business’ then why is it that their sites depend solely on donations, and why are their arguments so clear and concise? You don’t sound deranged at all, being a scientist (someone who actively USES THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD TO OBSERVE! Yes I know so many caps, but I wish there were individuals in the back who could hear this!), so why is it the goal to dehumanize the people who are actively studying the effects of climate and climate itself? It made no sense. Then I went to Watt’s Up With That?, Not A Lot of People Know That, CFACT, Farm Babe, the list goes on and on, and I wanted to challenge my own views (as if they were my own views…they were not, they were impressions slammed into me at the tender age of ten…) and I found a wealth of points that were more sound and less theatric than, say, shouting the world is on FIRE. How sad it is for actual science that its true practitioners get the boot in favor of junk science. (“Because it’s settled and we say so, so there!”)
Meanwhile the actual deranged ‘scientists’ are people like Bill Nye (it hurts me to type this because I actually liked him very much as a child–his show was quite entertaining and informative) insisting that people must DIE in order for the planet to survive. I can safely say I’d much rather avoid talking to them than to someone who says “Fossil fuels burned by humans aren’t changing the planet and here’s why.” At least the ‘denier’ doesn’t want me dead simply for breathing
Please, please, PLEASE…keep doing what you do, and I hope you and your peers succeed in changing many more minds before this madness can come to fruition! You don’t know this but you bring people hope rather than despair, you and Michael Schellenberger, Roger Pielke Jr., Paul Homewood, and many others I’m sure I have left out due to faulty memory (or lack of research, if you could point me to many others I may have missed, please let me know if you are so inclined.
The strategy of ‘scaring the children’ is absolutely reprehensible. I grew up in the late 1950’s-1960’s. The children-scaring tactic of that period was the Russians – they were ready to take over the U.S., we would be bombed (remember the bomb shelters of that era?), we would lose our freedoms, your neighbors could be Russian spies (anyone see the TV show The Americans? It is superb). This scare was conveyed to me by a Catholic nun, which was amplified in the school yard. At the ripe old age of 8, I ended up with stomach ulcer, worrying about all this. My doctor told me not to worry about this stuff, it was all silly politics, and to just enjoy my childhood. I said ‘Ok’, and I was pretty much done with all that. But explicit government sanctioned and academic efforts in ‘cli-sci communications’ (climate ‘crisis’, ’emergency’, ‘extinction’) to scare children over climate change for political purposes is absolutely reprehensible.
Such scare tactics will backfire, as children grow up and they see the scary prophesies to be unfulfilled. We’re breeding generations of people that are learning to distrust scientists. More harm is being done to children with scary climate stories than any consequence of climate change in their lifetime.
In the meantime, Climate Etc. and other blogs are acting as an important antidote to such unjustified, reprehensible and damaging rhetoric.