The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
It seems like a simple piece of advice and when we look around, as residents of this valley, province, country and planet, clearly there are those who have had the courage to take it. We have a problem with anthropogenic climate change and we are feeling its effects in our daily lives.
As hundreds in Canmore took to Main Street to strike for climate action last Friday (Sept.27), joining citizens from countries around the world, we can hear the voices unite to call on leaders from all levels of government and all corners of the planet to take heed – we need help, we need action.
As ba species, the human experience has become addicted to consumption and it is having an effect. Our neverending need for consumption of material goods is driving industries to produce them, and at the same time increase pollution and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
But there are those among us who would claim the cause and effect relationship when it comes to our actions does not exist. There is a word for that – denial.
Denial is a powerful force, one that lives inside us and around us, convincing us nothing is wrong. Everything is just fine.
There are cultural and societal messages and influences that confirm and support this denial. Go ahead, keep consuming non-renewable resources without any thought to what happens when they are gone. It is OK – it is economic growth – these are people's jobs.
Throw away whatever you don’t need anymore. Once it goes into the garbage and is carted away in shiny plastic bags – it is of no concern anymore. Where does it go? Never you mind, why would you be concerned about such trivialities?
When confronted with the harm of our actions, denial reacts in anger. How dare you – it replies and then quickly goes into the offence to attack any voices that question these ways. It deflects, it dismisses – it denies what is obvious even when it is staring you in the face.
It attacks the science, the scientists, the activists, the youth, who are more than capable of understanding the implications between cause and effect – and it declares itself unmoved by arguments backed by data and understanding.
But there are only two outcomes to this display of arrogance and hubris – we either get better, or we suffer.
Seems a bit drastic, but those are the dire consequences many people around the world are facing as a result of the sum of our actions when it comes to the environment. Whether it is extreme weather events, changed landscapes, ecosystem collapse – the consequences are snowballing before our very eyes and yet there are those fight against adaptation and mitigation tooth and nail.
At first, climate change wasn’t actually a thing. Now, it is a natural process of the earth, not caused by the constant cycle of consumption and pollution that is the manifest destiny the industrial and post-industrial age have created.
Sure the climate changes naturally. But not at the pace and rate we have seen in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Denial has been used before, and is effective. How long did it take for tobacco companies to admit that cigarettes caused cancer? A lot longer, thanks to the manufacturing of dissent that independently verifiable scientific evidence was faced with.
The playbook is old, its tactics are not novel, but they are replicable.
This is more than just one person, level of government, industry, company, or one thing that we consume that is bad for us. This goes down to the fundamentals of our human egos – to do whatever we want without a second thought of the what it means for the future.
The good news is we can recover and there are many pathways to get there. For some, an abstinence approach is preferred. For others, harm reduction can be quite effective.
If recovery teaches us anything, it is that hard work and consistent day-by-day efforts to change will see results.