Tactics: using the Kübler-Ross model to understand climate activist behavior

Larry Kummer says Activists go thru 5 stages of grief for the climate change campaign

Summary: Climate activists have begun to see the failure of their campaign to get public policy measures to fight climate change. Their actions follow the five stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model. This helps us predict what comes next, and prepare. For example, stage four (bargaining) offers an opportunity to gain something from the expensive policy gridlock in this vital area. This is the third in a series attempting to understand the ending of this 26-year-story and find in it some useful lessons for the future.

Life goes on, even for activists. There is always another campaign, as the coming apocalypse from air & water pollution was followed by the The Population Bombclip_image002[1] (1968), which gave way to Limits to Growthclip_image002[2] (1972), then nuclear winter (1983), then several more campaigns until peak oil, peak everything, and climate change.

Activists will enjoy the certainty that they were correct even though defeated by an ignorant public led by conservatives and oil companies. They will look forward — as did previous generations of such prophets — to the eventual apocalypse that results from the world’s refusal to believe.

Eventually the weather will decide whose science was stronger, that of the “activists or the “skeptics”. It might take years to see decisive results, or perhaps decades (see some scientists’ predictions here). Climate change is a commonplace in history, sometimes destroying entire civilizations. Our refusal to prepare even for the obvious — continuation of the two centuries of warming or, even more irresponsibly, for repeat of past extreme weather — probably will prove expensive in lives and money.

One way to understand this is that grief is just one example of cognitive dissonance. The real world intrudes on the way one wants to see it. Coming to grips with reality is an emotional process whether it is dealing with the death of a person or the death of a fantasy. As Kimmer notes, acceptance may come but that does not necessarily mean compliance. The acceptance that comes with an ideology hitting the fan of reality is to go with the flow rather than to accept the reality and modify the ideology. That is why the effort goes on and on. Life goes on and the struggle continues. Chicken Little or the Prophets of Doom are only flavors of the phenomena. At least the behavior is being noted and described so all can see it for what it really is.

Comments are closed.