Blind in Both Eyes: Climate Denial, Left and Right

There are two kinds of climate denial, one conservative and the other progressive.

Conservative climate denial goes something like this: Scientists tell us that, to avoid climate catastrophe, we need big government to limit our freedom and prosperity to protect life on earth. As conservatives, we hate big government, and love freedom, prosperity, and the free markets that bring them. If the science requires we sacrifice that, the science must be wrong.

Keeping One Eye Open

There was a time when conservatives and progressives could each see half of the reality we face. Conservatives, with only their right eye open, could see that we are out of money and deep in debt. Progressives, with their left eye open, could see that we cannot pay off our debt by extracting it from the poor, the middle class, or the environment. Put our left and right vision together, and most of us could see what was going on. Both sides are correct. We are going bankrupt — our economic and ecological spending are both out of control.

So how do we get our power back from them?

The first step is to realize there is no them. Corporations and governments are not people. They are institutions, legal constructs we create so we can better serve each other.

Payback

Officially, the national debt of the United States was about $23 trillion in Fiscal Year 2019. But we actually owe, some estimates say, more than 50 trillion dollars in government debts to ourselves — debts we will need to repay in the next couple of generations. How will we pay those debts back? Many say it doesn’t really matter since the debts are to ourselves. But are they?

If we cannot cut spending enough to erase the deficit, what can we do?

The real way to end the deficit is not to consume value. It is to create it, by tapping the power of people and business to innovate. But for that to happen, we need to overcome the gridlock that divides the left and right.

Bill Shireman is a social entrepreneur and environmental policy innovator. He is the co-author of In This Together.