Denial of Reality


In my last written post (to clarify the difference between the files, which contain only links to outside material), I mentioned denial of reality. You might wonder what this has to do with climate change and extinction. Cognitive dissonance is one of the most powerful mental issues that affects humans. Rob Mielcarski explains the evolution of how this came to be, quote:

"The singular emergence of human intelligence, and its ability to write and read this paragraph, evolved in a gene controlled machine with an unusually powerful computer, that was created by an improbable simultaneous adaptation for an extended theory of mind with denial of reality, and whose complexity was enabled by the increased energy per gene provided by mitochondria, that resulted from an accidental endosymbiosis of two prokaryotes, powered by an unintuitive chemiosmotic proton pump, that originated in an alkaline hydrothermal vent, on 1 of 40 billion planets, in 1 of 100 billion galaxies, and that planet had an improbable store of photosynthetic and geothermal generated fossil energy, that the species leveraged to understand and appreciate, the peak of what may be possible in the universe, before it vanished, because it denied the consequences of its success."

The bottom line is that most people simply cannot look at reality and allow themselves to "see" the truth. What they will see instead is whatever conforms to their worldview - their beliefs - rather than the hard truth. Nothing drives this fact home any quicker than the fiasco we know as the coronavirus pandemic of the disease COVID-19. Most of us can look at the science of mask-wearing and social distancing and comprehend that wearing a mask is the easiest way to reduce spread of the virus, and that this is what we all should do to protect our fellow world citizens. Unfortunately, there are still many people who utilize all forms of excuses and denial to justify not wearing one. Some of them confuse who is protected by wearing a mask - it is NOT (so much) the mask wearer. The person who wears the mask is protecting those around him or her much more so than himself or herself (although masks [especially N-95 and KN-95 types] can still protect the wearer). See also Masks - Do They Work? for a listing of many studies about masks and mask wearing. This has very little to do with freedom or constitutional rights or legal cases, this has far more to do with simple consideration for others and real science. 

Perhaps one of the worst parts of cognitive dissonance is how it affects each and every one of us in one way or another. Take a look in the mirror at who lies the most to you. That's right; believe it or not, it is YOU.

Yet another form of denial is the fact that many people cannot fathom the exponential function; a point Al Bartlett drove home time and again with his presentation, Arithmetic, Population, and Energy. (Both videos on the website have links which no longer work, so copying and pasting the title of the video into your favorite streaming site [Youtube, Vimeo, etc.] should bring up a suitable version and at the time of this update {May, 2022}, this link on Youtube works.)

Denial also has serious consequences for climate change and extinction due to the simple fact that there are still many people who deny the gravity of the situation. Most people have no clue about the lag effect or oceanic thermal inertia or civilizational inertia, which makes it easier to ignore the predicaments out of sheer ignorance. At the same time, even those who do understand the threat not only to civilization, but the survival of our own species, often don't understand precisely how we arrived at this point in time or what to do about it. Millions of folks around the planet think that "green" energy or "clean" energy or "renewable" energy or EVs will save us. This study demonstrates the false narrative surrounding those types of ideas and points out the truth regarding the Green New Deal (GND), quote:

"We argue that while the GND narrative is highly seductive, it is little more than a disastrous shared illusion. Not only is the GND technically flawed, but it fails to recognize human ecological dysfunction as the overall driver of incipient global systemic collapse. By viewing climate change, rather than ecological overshoot—of which climate change is merely a symptom—as the central problem, the GND and its variants grasp in vain for techno-industrial solutions to problems caused by techno-industrial society. Such a self-referencing pursuit is doomed to fail. As Albert Einstein allegedly said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. We need an entirely new narrative for a successful energy transition. Only by abandoning the flawed paradigmatic source of our ecological dilemma can we formulate realistic pathways for averting social–ecological collapse."

Technological devices and their use are primarily what has driven energy use and therefore are the very CAUSE of ecological overshoot, and therefore, also climate change (a symptom predicament of ecological overshoot), so yet more devices will not save us or help to reduce ecological overshoot. Technology use in and of itself actually reduces or removes negative feedbacks which once kept our numbers in balance with the rest of nature. This is what promulgates population growth, which then exacerbates overshoot by providing more people who then act as dissipative structures, using more energy and resource throughput through the use of more technology. I have written many articles pointing out the myth of the "energy transition". We cannot simply switch out EVs for gasoline-powered vehicles or switch out wind turbines and solar panels for coal-fired or gas-powered electrical generation and solve anything. That actually simply WORSENS the predicaments that already exist through additional mining (required for the minerals and resources utilized to build such vehicles), additional fossil fuel burning (required for the transport of materials and the vehicles and devices themselves), and all the additional emissions caused by the infrastructure itself (all the roads, bridges, transmission lines and towers, substations, generation facilities, batteries, pumped hydro storage, and their maintenance). Building things (regardless of what is being built) requires energy use and natural resources in one form or another.  

To put it mildly, most people do not understand the seriousness of the issue because they have never considered just how modern civilization works and what is actually required just to keep everything running smoothly (spoiler alert: civilization itself is unsustainable). Another post from Rob Mielcarski points out how energy and denial have brought us to this point here.  

That article was written in 2015, so things have changed somewhat since then. Most every predicament has worsened. Global temperatures now stand at around +1.3C and rising. Many people think that climate change can be "fixed" (as in stopped) or reversed, but current science shows that climate change is irreversible on human timescales. Another article shows that this is due to ocean heat uptake (OHU). Another recent study indicates that climate change is irreversible due to permafrost thaw. Still yet another study demonstrates climate change being irreversible due to oceanic oxygen depletion. Even if emissions are reduced, the reduced AME (Aerosol Masking Effect; aka global dimming) as a result will continue warming for a considerably long time before the climate begins to cool; and this depends upon self-reinforcing feedback loops remaining at current levels rather than increasing natural emissions releases. The consequences of climate change cannot be overestimated as can be seen in this study. Also, this paper from James Hansen shows precisely the warming expected from the emissions we have ALREADY released. However, climate change in and of itself isn't the worst part of the overall set of predicaments. It is how climate change and ecological overshoot, its parent predicament, affect the rest of the biosphere and how life on this planet responds to those effects. If all we had to do was adapt to temperatures 2, 3, or 4 degrees Celsius more than today, we could probably accomplish such a task. However, not all plants and animals can say the same, and unfortunately, we depend on far more than just those plants and animals for our own existence; we also depend upon the ecosystem services which they provide. These two articles here and here explain the scenario, but fail to point out that we are actually in at least the 8th mass extinction event (here and here). in addition, it is also important to point out that evolution cannot keep up with the rate of change. We simply cannot evolve fast enough.

Update May, 2023: For a more detailed look at the situation along with specific articles, studies, and graphs, visit this article by Sam Hall.

Another form of denial that presents itself within society time and again is the idea that humans are rational creatures. Individually, this usually works out to be true, but collectively it does not. As demonstrated in this article by Peter Burns, stupidity and ignorance are far worse enemies of good than evil itself, quote:

"For you can fight against evil. You can expose it. Evil makes people uneasy. As Bonhoeffer continued, “evil carries with itself the seeds of its own destruction.” To prevent willful malice, you can always erect barriers to stop its spread. Against stupidity you are defenseless.

“Against stupidity we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it. Reasoning is of no use. Facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied. In fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer "

Burns' article explains precisely why we lack agency against what is labeled "stupidity" in the article but which I think includes ignorance as well. Since the predicaments we face require COLLECTIVE action by society and cannot be solved solely by individual action, one can clearly see the implications after reading the article. Here's a video presentation which covers this.

Update: Here is a brand new article I have written about false beliefs and denial.

Another item of significance to think about is included in a phrase I hear often - Yeah, But What About Human Ingenuity?

I could go on and on with more science and articles, but there is far more than sufficient evidence contained in the files here (posts which are not articles and only contain links to outside studies, articles, and other media). My concern with this post is how society denies the existential nature of these predicaments. Here is a presentation that explains more about denial of reality.

It is this denial of essentially who and what we are as a species that confounds me. (Besides that link, check out the Maximum Power Principle.) If people cannot be brought to look at the complete scenario objectively from both an individualistic and collective perspective, then the idea that there could ever be solutions which could be brought to the forefront is fantasy. 


  1. Every one wants a silver bullet that allows this insane set of living arrangements to carry on and they want a 'solution' to the predicament of keeping the unsustainable sustained.
    Cognitive dissonance has taken hold on a societal level. That's what can happen when a society isn't truly free enough for free thinking and questioning of the fabric of that society.

    1. Yes, and people think that "freedom" only refers to "laws" .... or no laws... it also refers to CULTURE.... that can be as stifling and restrictive as any law.


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