QUATHIASKI COVE, B.C. July 17, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Lurking beneath the surface of America’s political, social and economic problems is a host of serious environmental threats, particularly climate change. It may work at a low level of awareness, but it adds to people’s edginess.
Forest fires are stressful, as are floods, droughts, storms and other forms of extreme weather. They make people feel insecure, anxious, victimized and powerless.
Our psychological response to this pervasive uneasiness is to imagine a safe and peaceful past, before the threats and nervousness destroyed our sense of normalcy. Fear and flight reactions are close to the surface. Emotion takes over and careful reasoning defers to basic survival instincts.
The psychology of individuals is also found more broadly in countries. This is dramatically illustrated by the American presidential race.
This stress inspires irrational behaviour, warps the interpretation of information, distorts the meaning of evidence, confuses cause with effect, and twists values into parodies of themselves.
The media, of course, is abuzz with the latest titillating news about presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again!” campaign – the political pundits as hyperactive as Trump has been abrasive.
While most of the pundits’ opinions demonstrate abject silliness, a few insightful ones have been exposing the compounding malaise undermining America’s confidence. The causes are numerous: income inequalities that have created social dysfunction; taxation policies that don’t adequately fund essential public services; exploding national debt; a political system obscenely distorted by money; polarized ideological intransigence that has paralyzed government; unrestrained corporate power; foolish foreign military adventures that have opened a Pandora’s box of seemingly unsolvable problems ranging from terrorism and civil wars to economic turmoil and humanitarian disasters.
All these serious problems are darkened by the shadow of climate change, the intractable enemy that makes Americans feel like they are being attacked from within their own borders. Extreme weather events are forces of disruption and terror that cannot be evicted, defeated or subdued by soaring political oratory or caustic bluster. Nature pays no attention to promises or intentions.
The government agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded 188 extreme weather events in the U.S. between 1980 and 2015 – fires, droughts, storms and floods – that have each caused damage of more than $1 billion. As they escalate in frequency and severity, these devastating swaths of havoc grind down America’s sense of optimism and assurance, adding to the disquiet that unsettles the country’s collective faith in itself.
This is particularly difficult for America, a country that firmly believes in its own virtue, righteous power and noble intentions. Climate change is a relentless reminder of its collective guilt, an uncomfortable, incessant and inescapable likeness of the American dream gone awry. It is the unforgiving image of a foreboding future made ominous by an obsessive and unchecked materialism. Hubris is a dangerous failing.
If Trump is to make his country “great again,” he must fix the structural problems deep within his country’s character. And he must take control of the climate – before the rising seas inundate Miami and other coastal cities.
Troy Media columnist Ray Grigg is the author of seven internationally published books on Oriental philosophy, specifically Zen and Taoism. Ray is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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