A global warming tête-à-tête
The following conversation might take place next May between two sisters on a patio outside the Cafe di Amore near Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado—Crystal, a college junior in Poly-Sci at CU in Boulder (whose flamingo shade of spiked hair matches her poly/spandex tank top…an athletic cockatoo with ruffled feathers, and Cassandra, a twenty-two year old environmentalist whose luminous, wide-set eyes burn with passion to grasp her world and fellow man.
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Crystal: “When will you learn? Yesterday you screamed because Channel 10 hijacked your protest, and now you’re letting O’Shea use you for a guinea pig. You’re totally clueless, but you think you can change the world.”
Cassandra [as their salads arrive]: “Alright. What am I fighting?”
Crystal: “Human nature–especially your own.”
Cassandra: “Is that so?”
Crystal (chewing a mouthful of organic greens): “Considering you baked three dozen muffins for no-show allies who blew you off, I would think it’s obvious. You think you know everything about everyone else, but you don’t even know yourself. Human nature calcifies the status quo by limiting what we’re willing to consider or do, which will doom mankind if it’s faced with a crisis that demands swift worldwide changes…like eliminating fossil fuels.”
Cassandra: “Wrong. We went from riding horses to driving cars in a few decades.”
Crystal: “Yes, but you’ve been telling me for years we don’t have decades to waste before fossil fuel usage triggers a climatic critical mass, and I’m starting to see your point. Besides, the people who built wagons or sold horses didn’t hire ex-congressmen as lobbyists. They didn’t buy patents that threatened their profits. They didn’t spend hundreds of millions yearly on advertisements crafted by experts to manipulate public opinion, and they didn’t rig the system to secure their markets or throttle competition.”
Cassandra: “So what?”
Crystal [goggles]: “God, Cassandra, you’re so naive. Connect the dots. Every two or four years we elect political leeches who feed off our differences by telling us what we want to hear. Once they’re in office, they betray us to their corporate masters and spin their purported failures to meet our comfort zones because they know we’d rather believe their lies than face unwanted truths. Meanwhile, things stay the same, and we drive ever-closer to self-destruction.”
Cassandra: “But the Democrats seem to be—”
Crystal: “Wake up!” [Patrons at nearby tables shoot prune-faced looks at the oblivious sisters.] “Regarding issues that really matter to those who control society—like their continued power and profits—political pawns in both parties play PR games to satisfy rank and file voters while their meaningful actions promote industry goals.”
Cassandra [pensive while she twirls ice cubes in her water with her index finger]: “So I need to fight corruption before I can tackle pollution.”
Crystal [staring at Cassandra’s salad]: “Are you doing anything with those olives? You’ve got three, and they only gave me one.” [She lunges across the table, plucks an olive off Cassandra’s plate, and plops it into her mouth.]
Crystal: “Corruption wouldn’t be possible if humans had the guts to face unwanted truths. Politicians and major industries stay in power or promote their agendas the same way con artists swindle their prey—by spinning facts into fantasies that tell us what we want to hear. You’re fighting the fact people choose to believe whatever they want by ignoring facts they don’t want to face or interpreting them to fit their convenience or beliefs.”
Cassandra: I don’t, so maybe others don’t either.”
Crystal: “You’re wrong about that too. You knew no one would attend your protest, so you didn’t follow up your emails. In other words, you chose to see yourself as a victim rather than admit you were too lazy or incompetent to do what you needed to do to. At least you’re not alone. A few years ago, Scientists at Emory University proved anyone can turn off their brains when confronted with uncomfortable facts.”
Lost in thought or annoyed over the accusation, Cassandra gazes mutely at sandstone monoliths in Red Rocks Park. Crystal interprets her silence as disagreement.
Crystal: “It’s true. As long as the facts we encounter agree with what we want to believe, the part of our brains that processes new data remains active. When we’re faced with facts we’d rather ignore, the reasoning part—it’s called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—turns off and the part that justifies excuses lights up. Once we rationalize unwanted data to fit our convenience or beliefs, our brains turn off, and we reward ourselves with an emotional pat on the back.
“Think about it. Our pig-headedness determines what we’re willing to consider, producing self-perpetuating illusions that protect our egos. To make matters worse, the people doing the leading are just as close-minded as the people being led–it’s a case of biased hucksters leading the willfully blind…and you think you can dent that with facts about glaciers melting in Tibet or Russian heat waves?
“The vested interests you’re fighting are telling the world what it wants to hear—that it doesn’t need to change. Whatever you do, your opponents will claim you’re part of a worldview social conspiracy. One side might agree with you, which guarantees the other side won’t, and you’ll be blocked. Face it. The world will stay the way it is until it self-destructs.”
The activist turns from the rocks to study her sister.
Cassandra: “If you understand that, what are you going to do about it?”
Crystal laughs: “Me? I’ll get my degree in Sociology with a minor in Poly Sci. Then I’ll get a job with a major lobbyist or PR firm and work in a club on the side. That way I’ll be somebody, snag a rich husband, get invited to great parties, and have my choice of hunks for playmates. Sooner or later, I’ll need cosmetic surgery and hormone therapy, which I’ll be able to afford. Then I’ll get old and die.”
Cassandra: “Think again. There won’t be any great parties or gravy jobs or extra cash for face lifts or boob jobs after we remake the American Way to include regional droughts, constant wars over vanishing resources, tropical diseases, and famine.”
Crystal: “All the more reason to party while I can. I’m not going to waste my life by trying to save a world that doesn’t want my help. That’s your cross to bear if that’s what you’re into, but don’t expect me to wallow in your drama.”
Cassandra: “You’re missing the point. You are a part of it. Besides the obvious fact you live on Earth and have no choice but to share its fate, your silence and refusal to change endorses the ‘do nothing’ strategy that’s trashing the planet. How can you be so intelligent and yet so—“
[Cassandra’s neighbor, regressive hypnotherapist Dr. Mickey O’Shea, interrupts the sisterly tête-à-tête.]
Twice a surrogate stem cells spokesperson for the GW Bush White House, J. Perry Kelly ended his biotech activism and cut his political ties in 2006 in part over the eco-denial of his former social allies and in part over the hypocrisy he encountered through his unique exposure to national worldview politics.
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