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30.11.2019 I give up


I give up.

These are three words that I very rarely utter – or even think. It doesn’t matter if it is in sport or business or Monopoly. I can barely remember a time I have given up – but the cost at the moment is simply too much.

I am losing friends and spending way too long arguing with people each and every day about nonsensical ideas.

It seems to me that conspiracy theories are growing faster than election day promises – with about as much truth in both.

I can’t answer why seemingly rational and intelligent people seem to believe that the moon landing was faked or that 9/11 was a controlled demolition arranged by the White House. They describe in detail the damage that Chemtrails are doing to our fellow humans while explaining why so many erroneously believe the Holocaust was real. Of course, the US government research program, HAARP, controls the weather (can I dial up some rain for tomorrow morning please) and the CIA manufactured HIV.  I am not sure if it is the Illuminati or Lizard People who are running the world this week but I am sure if I asked a flat-earther I would have the answer.

I am not sure if I am more annoyed about the content of these ‘theories’ or the incorrect use of the word theory. If supporters of these notions were being more accurate, they would be called Conspiracy Hypotheses to be true to the scientific method – but I digress.

As much as I can’t answer why so many people believe these ideas, other people are conducting significant research into the reasons why so many people are believing ever so more fanciful conspiracy theories. I could find evidence of the term first being used as far back as 1870 but the term became much more common in the middle of the twentieth century and then the Internet dumped a container of fuel on the flickering embers. What some of the research has shown is that the less control people feel they have over their lives, the more likely they are to grab hold of the latest conspiracy theory. On the flip side, if governments are more open and give people a greater sense of control, people are less suspicious and less likely to believe in conspiracy theories. Furthermore, people with paranoid and Machiavellian traits are more likely to latch onto these false ideas.

Whilst annoying, I have been able to cope with the discussions over coffee with friends or comments on social media in relation to these variety of old chestnuts. As silly as these ‘theories’ are there is no real harm being done and it is good to exercise the critical thinking part of my brain. Some even create some laughter which always seems like a good thing.

What has finally pushed me to throw in the towel though is the sheer volume of disinformation into what the conspiracy theorists believe is the greatest scam in history.

Anthropogenic Climate Change.

If you believe the sideline experts (ignoring those annoying scientists who want to use facts and data and…well…science) then the list sounds more fanciful than my previous list of conspiracy theories.

Global warming was created by the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive; renewable energy manufacturers are pushing an agenda to make money; scientists lie to gain more research grants; some unnamed nefarious force wants to exert massive new controls over the populace; developers are trying to sell real estate promising water views in one hundred years…the list goes on. At least with the fake moon landing a plausible reason of national pride during the Cold War was given. Climate Change sceptics struggle to come up with any reason why.

None of this has helped me though. While sipping on a latte surrounded by friends, as fast as I can provide some facts to neutralise one line of thought, another denialist statement is made. “The climate has changed before,” one friend states with absolute confidence. “Glaciers are growing and polar bear numbers are increasing,” rolls out next. “Nature emits more CO2 than humans – we only emit 3.6 per cent of all CO2,” which is technically correct, but doesn’t tell the full story. “Plants need CO2 to live so more is good,” seems like a logical argument. “Just by breathing now we are contributing to the CO2 in the air. We should stop breathing if we want to stop Climate Change,” is another favourite by the deniers. “CO2 is not a pollutant – it is natural,” closely follows the comment on breathing.

And then to finish with the coup de grâce. “CO2 only represents 0.04 per cent of our atmosphere so how can such a small amount have any impact?”

One by one I counter each statement with science and data and logic – the antithesis of the conspiracy theorist. My friend will inevitably tell me they still don’t ‘believe’ in Climate Change.

I dramatically pick up my coffee cup. I hold it a metre above the table and exclaim loudly with a look of sheer determination, “I refuse to believe in gravity” and let go of the cup. It hits the table and shatters into a dozen pieces. I tell my friend that science doesn’t really care what I believe or, for that matter, what he or she believes. Climate Change is not a belief system. Climate Change is a scientific fact. While beliefs will do nothing to change the consequences, actions from individuals who accept the reality and want to deliver a better world for our grandchildren will change the outcomes.

I am now labelled a zealot and my friends no longer want to have coffee with me – if for no other reason than I have been banned from many local coffee shops for smashing their cups!

So I give up.

No longer will I be breaking coffee cups and arguing with friends. I will sit quietly in the corner and accept our fate.

I do have one request of the world though.

I live in a regional area and I like to ride my pushbike along our river cycleway and on our mountain bike trails. When business or pleasure takes me to larger cities across our planet, I still like to ride a bike around the streets of the city. I have been noticing more and more lately that I am finding it a little harder to breathe and sometimes the air stings my eyes. I also notice it is often hard to see the beautiful bright blue sky I have become accustomed to back home.

Could everyone just do me a small favour and reduce our pollution? Maybe just start using more renewable power – such as wind and solar. It seems like they will be cheaper in the long run anyway. Cut back on those coal-fired power plants. Then move to electric vehicles a little quicker. When I ride my bike behind a car – in particular a diesel – it is really hard to breathe. Transform our transportation away from the internal combustion engine – and electric vehicles are so much fun to drive. And could we leave a few more plants in the ground? They look nice and seem to do a pretty good job of helping with pollution.

So if everyone could just do that for me – reduce our pollution – I think the world would be a much nicer place.

Actually, now that I think of it, if I hadn’t already given up on arguing about Anthropogenic Climate Change, it would be at about this point I would have said something like this: “Reducing the amount of pollution would also reduce the amount of CO2 in the air and that seems like a good idea regardless of your stance on Climate Change. This seems like the core of the solution to the Climate Change problem so we have an ideal win-win situation.”

But I have so I won’t!