Current Events Education Worldview

The Dangers of Overstating the Case

"So, let’s take personal responsibility. In the meantime, let’s not exaggerate the magnitude, or the urgency, of the problems."

Photo by ©Alena Koval from Pexels.

I bought a T Shirt because I thought the slogan was very funny:

“Exaggerators Anonymous – a trillion-strong and growing!”

Have you ever been in an argument where you overstated your case?  An old friend of mine used to refer to that sort of conversation in his marriage as “the always and never conversations”.  Such as, “You NEVER think of how I feel!”  Or “You ALWAYS have to be right, don’t you!?”

When any case is overstated, we tend to dismiss it, or at least take it less seriously.

There is no question that we have a number of environmental problems—endangered animals, insects and plants, plastics in the oceans and landfills, climate change, air pollution, scarcity of fresh water etc. The crisis message is coming through loud and clear.

The extent and the urgency of these problems are very hard to state clearly because they are often nearly impossible to measure and causes are hard to pin down with certainty.  If we read beyond the headlines and opening paragraphs, we are confronted by their complexity.  In their attempts to simplify, journalists run the risk of exaggerating.

When a new member of the Congress of the USA, states that man-made climate change will destroy the world within 12 years if we don’t act now, she will get two responses:  the first, immediate response will be more fear and anger, especially from children and young people.  That creates wider gaps between generations; more blame and tension between young and old will not be constructive!

The second response will be a medium to long term credibility gap.  The Congresswoman in question and her message will be discredited as year follows year; the result of that will be exactly the opposite of what she is trying to accomplish.  Those who were stirred to anger will lose interest, go quiet and then will be unlikely to take the message seriously again.

But for the moment, school children have been stirred up to strike and demand change.  Christopher Booker, one of my favorite newspaper columnists, writes the following in the Sunday Telegraph on March 24, 2019.

“Whatever we may think in general about the BBC’s absurdly skewed coverage of all matters relating to energy and climate change, there has been something peculiarly distasteful about its relentless promotion of the “school strikes” and the “children’s crusade” against global warming.”

From endless sound-bite interviews, it was clear that the children knew virtually nothing about either the science or politics of climate change. Their faces may be contorted with self-righteous anger, but their heads are merely stuffed with a few little “the end of the world is nigh” slogans, presumably fed to them by the same teachers who urged them to go on these marches where youngsters chanted obscenities against Theresa May, and the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag fluttered above the crowd.”

If we think these are serious problems, and I think they are, we must first acknowledge that they are complex, hard to define with accuracy, and solutions are very hard to find.  But we can start with the importance of personal responsibility.  Each of us must do what we know we can do.  (Recycle, don’t use plastic bags, walk or ride a bike when possible, if you need a car make it one that is as economical as possible, work on reducing your personal consumption, repair items when you can, have your own vegetable patch if possible. There’s lots you can do.)

Then we need to do our best to read, listen to and watch all sides of the arguments on each issue.  When we do that, we will find that reliable consensus does not yet exist on the issues getting the most publicity, illustrating that actual macro-causes and solutions are hard to find.  That’s one reason why personal responsibility is a good starting point.

I was recently listening to Dr Jordan Peterson; I often listen to him because I find him both enlightening and entertaining.  His thinking is a great stimulus.  He recommended Bjorn Lomborg and referred to him as a “real genius”.  So, I found his TedTalk.

His approach is level-headed and he has pulled together a very capable team.  Have a look at his conclusions.

I will finish by coming back to personal responsibility: Blame is easy. If my problems are the result of the behavior of others, then “they” have to change to make my life better.  All I have to do is join some like-minded people in demonstrating, expressing my anger and maybe destroying some property, but then I can go home and carry on as I wish.  But nothing will really change until I take responsibility for the bit I can do.  Then maybe I can encourage others to do the same.

I have a friend who often has quite large numbers for dinners at her house.  She had some younger people helping her clear up and someone commented that she was not recycling her plastic bottles, and there were a lot of them.  She explained that she was in favor of recycling and believed it was good, but just hadn’t got around to doing it.  She immediately realized she was being hypocritical.  If she believed it, she had to do it!  That was the moment when she changed her behavior.  Now she can encourage others to do the same!

So, let’s take personal responsibility.  In the meantime, let’s not exaggerate the magnitude, or the urgency, of the problems.   We want people to be in this struggle for the long-haul.  God’s good creation and our mandate to steward it, requires our best efforts for our entire lives.

Lynn Green.

1 comment on “The Dangers of Overstating the Case

  1. Katherine Hackett

    That was quite excellent Lynn. Thank you for that. I enjoyed Ted.

    Like

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