Today’s reading comes from the Book of Daniel, Chapter 12, Verse 5:

And Daniel sayeth unto the throng, ‘People of vision, working together patiently and persistently, hast inspired their community and changeth the course of history. These leaders, recognising the threat to civilisation poseth by climate change, have successfully alerteth many of the public to the danger it faceth. After many years and great resistance from powerful and ruthless people, an empowered community hast achieved an epic win.

And the throng didst sayeth unto Daniel, ‘Did ye just sayeth epic win’?

And Daniel continueth, ‘Verily. And I sayeth unto you, the country hast taken its first steps towards a ‘clean energy future’. But time runneth out and much more needs to be done to prevent the catastrophe. Also, your enemies useth lies and fear to win the hearts and minds of the people, and destroyeth their hard won gains. Everything may be lost – unless the leaders reacheth out to a resistant public in new ways and tell them the truth about the threat to health, lives and livelihoods that we faceth’.”

Okay, I’ll come clean. That wasn’t actually a quote from the real Book of Daniel. It is something much more sacred and spiritual than that. It is a quote taken from a speech by Daniel Voronoff, Senior Policy Officer, Climate Change at Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Australia, as given to a forum in Melbourne back in February, 2012. The liturgical embellishment is my own, but the words are his. He was the one talking about ‘inspired’ and ‘empowered’ communities. He was the one who came up with the rousing guff about ‘enemies using lies and fear to win the hearts and minds of the people’. He set the proselytising tone, and I just ran with it.

So just what are the ‘new ways’ that Voronoff had in mind to tell a ‘resistant public’ his ‘truth’?

Heaven Can Wait – But Hell Won’t

Anyone who plodded through my recent 5-part series on AR5, Chapter 2, will already know the answer. According to Voronoff, it’s all about “drawing on the cognitive sciences” and using “human-centred communication that acknowledges the threats, demonstrates agency and inspires empathy.”

In other words, scare the bejesus out of everyone and make it personal – very personal. I wonder where in the hell and personal damnation that idea came from. However, lest any of you go away thinking this is a cynical attempt to ‘win the hearts and minds of the people’ by issuing threats to their soul, Voronoff has this to say:

To those who argue that recourse to ‘fear appeals’ is ‘manipulative’, my answer is: manipulation is when you lie, like saying climate change is crap, or omit the truth, like not mentioning that climate change is the problem and not spelling out its effects. By contrast, openly discussing the science – which is frightening – and broadcasting our common plight to our fellow Australians, is taking responsibility for the truth.

Ah, the truth. That old chestnut.

Liar, Liar, the World’s on Fire

So let us talk a bit more about the dangers of ‘not mentioning that climate change is the problem and not spelling out its effects’. And let us take as our example, the BBC coverage of the forest fires that have been recently raging in India and Nepal.

Under the heading ‘Why India and Nepal’s Forest Fires Are Worrying Scientists’ (and with the tagline ‘Climate change’), the BBC repeats the ancient wisdom:

Scientists say although climate change can’t be directly blamed for forest fires, it has intensified the dryness in the region.

The implication is clear: forest fires are a natural disaster, made all the more likely by climate change. Nothing new here, you might say; one can always trust the BBC to mention that ‘climate change is the problem’ and ‘spell out its effects’. But then one encounters this interrogative sub-heading:

Forest Fires No Natural Hazard?

Yes, delivered under a big, fat, passive aggressive question mark, the BBC correspondent reports incredulously that the Indian authorities are not going along with the climate change narrative:

India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has not recognised forest fires as natural hazards.

On its website, it has listed cyclone, tsunami, heatwave, landslide, floods and earthquakes under such category.

An analysis done by the Forest Survey of India in 2019 showed that nearly 36% of the country’s forests are prone to fires and nearly one third of that is highly vulnerable.

‘The reason why we have not listed forest fires as natural hazards is because in India most of such fires are deliberately caused by people mainly for agricultural purposes and, therefore, it is an anthropogenic [man-made] hazard,’ said Krishna Vatsa, a member of the NDMA.

Further on, there are revelations that India’s fire services had been severely cut back and were now considered to be as much as “96% less than what was required”.

“‘There is almost no preparedness on the part of the administration while the fires are becoming more and more intense,’ Aniruddh Jadeja, an environmental activist in Kumaon district of Uttarakhand, said.”          

Of course, the point is that the fires are becoming more and more intense at least partly because of the lack of preparedness, but try telling that to an environmental activist.

One way or another, the truth seems to be taking on a decidedly non-binary character here. And given that a tale of man-made hazard has been packaged and delivered by the BBC under the banner of climate change, it would seem that there are actually “powerful and ruthless people” on both sides of the divide that are prepared to use “lies and fear to win the hearts and minds of the people”.

Transition pathways

So what are we to make of Voronoff’s Book of Daniel?

As a study in eschatology, Voronoff’s efforts stand up rather well against the original. In both works, the forces of good heroically take on the forces of evil. In both there are powerful and ruthless people to deal with and an empowered community. In both, there is a prospect of damnation but, equally so, of salvation. In both, there is a message to be given and a truth to be defended. In the binary world of the Books of Daniel, what is not true, must be a lie; what is not good must be evil; and what doesn’t fail must be an epic win. There is no room for nuance. You need to make your mind up – do you want to join the blessed or are you happy to take your chances with the devil?

So we should be thankful that there are people like Daniel Voronoff, selflessly sacrificing their time, willing to stand up to the powerful and ruthless people, to call out their lies and bring a message to the people that you can still “avert the catastrophe.” We should be thankful that we have the BBC to stoke the fires of Hell raging on the Himalayan hillsides. We must thank them also for demonstrating how a simple question mark can be used to muddy the truth. All that remains now is for you to renounce your earthly goods: your car, your boiler, your Maccy D, your foreign holidays. Admit your sins against God’s Nature. Lie down before Saints David of Attenborough and Greta of Thunberg, and beg forgiveness for your past selfishness and ignorance. Just repeat after me: The power of Mann compells you! The power of Mann compells you!

Hallelujah! Lordy, Lordy, I am alerteth.

Now who do I pay?

8 Comments

  1. But it’s far worse and getting worserer. On Sunday evening the BBC ushered in its new series about the impacts of climate change, employing a well liked, disabled man of colour (Ade Adepitan) to wander the earth in search of natural horrors that can be blamed upon the climate emergency. He even apologised for flying about, but argued it was necessary for him to do this so he could show us climate-porn (not in exactly those words). Talking with locals affected by change, every negative was attributed without mercy to man-made climate change and our deadly emissions. Not a smidgin of doubt was allowed to contaminate the blame game.

    Disappearing islands, almost certainly formed of coral sand and gravels with reduced supply were instead attributed to sea level rise, caused by guess what? Bleached corals from the GBR, as expected. Unisex Green Turtles caused by too hot eggs in sands within which they were buried. No evidence provided to prove the sands are too hot for male turtles or even that the sands have got hotter. How did the turtles survive the even warmer last interglacial? Moving on to the interior of Queensland, we were treated to the almost non existent utterances of a farmer/rancher who almost agreed that the weather wasn’t favourable. And on it went.

    Time and again we were shown negatives and the blame placed squarely upon us and carbon dioxide. So we have a presenter with whom it might be politically incorrect to disagree, locals experiencing changes that either they attribute to climate change or will readily agree if told this. It is visual and personal. It brings before the viewer “evidence” for climate change but fails to provide any alternative explanation and proof is from the mouths of those affected. Some of this stuff needs a large dose of Paul Homewood, for the changes being suffered are far from being new or unprecedented.

    Daniel’s utterances are nowhere as preachy as Ade’s. One was supported by our Lord, Ade by the BBC.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Existential threat coupled with potential salvation, engendering simultaneously fear and hope, is a powerful cultural cocktail to which humans are still very vulnerable indeed. I say ‘still’, meaning even in modern times where through the law, democracy, and science, rationality can be applied at scale in society (which impedes arbitrary culture). Not to mention, we ought by now to be wised up to such behavioural modes.

    Yet verily, the age-old formulas can still burst forth and sweepeth away rationality at scale, rendering a whole multitude blind-drunk upon belief, even more so than in one lowly man alone. Gaze in awe upon the mighty words of culture; they manufacture truth where there can be none, fire passions nothing else might reacheth, create the saintly and the devils too, move whole mountains of money and effort to their tune, and require enemies of every sort to maketh peace for their cause. If but they lived, so would they cackle at the modern world; yet forged from less bits than than the common cold, so they coldly shepherd us with terrible fears and heightened hopes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oops! I’ve just remembered the correct Exorcist quote. Better to get these things right.

    Like

  4. Alan, you are braver than me to watch the latest BBC program on climate. They do seem to be coming thick and fast, though I have avoided them all for years, lest the holy light burn denialism from my heart, or something. To add to the travels of Ade we have the year of St. Greta. It almost seems as if, amid the priesthood, there is a concerted effort to soften us up in preparation for yet more sackcloth and ashes to be declared on our behalf at Glasgow, so we fall to our knees and wring our hands and thank our idiots for their idiocy – I mean thank our leaders for their leadership.

    I know that watching these programs would result in me shouting at the tv, but alas the BBC would not hear, tvs being one-way devices. Does this perhaps illustrate an aversion in me to the horrid truth, and that I prefer to be in a cage of comfortable climate ignorance? Or am I justified in thinking that these programs will tell me nothing but a pack of lies, where every natural disaster has been pinned instead on Homo sapiens?

    What if we follow these priests down their path of sacrifice? Nothing will improve, weather wise. As many will suffer then, as now, except then, they will be far less resilient, being poorer. I’m reminded of the end of the Wicker Man, where Edward Woodward tells Chris Lee that the sacrifice won’t help, that next year the locals will burn him, the priest, instead. There never was a Wicker Man 2, so we don’t know how that all turned out.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jit,

    If things still get worse, then the priests can say that it is still better than might have been. Wish I was a priest. It’s a lot easier than being a heretic these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jit, I did indeed shout at the tv, without effect except to spur “she who must be listened to” to ask why I was watching when it would be bound to upset/provoke me. No answer really except to learn to what depths they would sink. Beyond the depth scale really. It is definitely going to get worse as Glasgow approaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alan,

    As a child I was a bit unusual. I would observe other children playing but not properly understand what was going on. So I would take my notepad out and take notes. That sense of bemused alienation has never quite left me, and it is proving useful once more as I dispassionately observe the collective behaviour in which the species now engages.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. JOHN RIDGWAY
    Your story of you taking notes as a child instead of joining in the games of the other children reminds me of the language game that Wittgenstein imagined in order to show up the problem of explaining the meaning of meaning. He described workers on a building site who used a language restricted to the words “brick” “hammer” “trowel” etc. Now an observer might assume that the utterance “Brick!” meant “Pass me a brick please.” But who’s to say it doesn’t mean: “Lovely day today,” or: “How’s the wife?” Who’s to say that a phrase like “An empowered community has achieved an epic win” doesn’t mean: “I’m a nervous, confused person who needs reassurance that something good is going to happen”?

    Liked by 1 person

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