There is an influential school of thought that says if someone knows the truth, they will accept it. The environmental and social justice movement largely subscribes to this, and thus the tremendous focus on events that raise awareness, from candlelight vigils to An Inconvenient Truth. How’s that working out? 

It is certainly true that you cannot change someone, he can only change himself. He can change, but he must choose to change. Unfortunately, many deniers are not open to change, and they reject any “truth” that you try and persuade them with. You can lead a horse to water, but if he insists on dying of thirst there’s not much you can do.

You need to worry more about saving your own soul. Lead, and they will follow – or perish. Their choice. But environmentalists and social justice people put far too much faith in education and awareness-raising. It only works if someone is open, and many are not.

So what are you going to do? At the moment, the eco-movement seems to me insane, because it keeps doing the same thing over-and-over – Rally! – Protest march! – Write your MP! – while the results are not changing. How about something new, something that will get the attention of people who are not going to screenings of An Inconvenient Truth any time soon?

Getting Serious with Climate Deniers

How about charging deniers and their paymasters with crimes against humanity? Or just plain old endangerment? The deniers are obstructing action on a serious threat – how about treason? Terrorism, at least.

Seriously. Some people are just not open to attempts at “raising their awareness.” Communication must be in ways that they understand and cannot ignore. Charge deniers with something; there must be many choices for people endangering others. Put that on the news: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Think of it as a different way to educate people. The deniers have no credibility and they will be demolished in a court of law. The only witnesses they can call are the type any judge would throw out: paid shills and obvious cranks. The prosecution can call practically any climate scientist on the planet. Denier supporters will be exposed to the real evidence – no chance for the deniers to smear and evade.

And charge not only the individual denier-liars, also take down the corporations and organizations that have been funding climate denial despite knowing the evidence. Looking at you, Exxon, Shell, and the other oil majors that have known and concealed for decades that their product would bring us to this. These same companies are now suing anytime a government turns down a fossil fuel extraction project – sue them back for trillions, for the damage they’ve caused.

Still – there is no guarantee the dupes will be swayed. They have a powerful psychological connection to believing their current worldview. You can bring the truth to someone, but you cannot make him accept it. That said, a major trial would break through for many people, seeing the deniers discredited and locked up. Some would remain dupes, claiming their denier heroes were railroaded, but many will accept the word of a judge over that of a denier.

The other problem is getting governments to sue the corporations they are in bed with. Canada’s government bought a pipeline – are they going to sue themselves? Not only that, but many politicians and bureaucrats are counting on plush consulting gigs or Board of Director positions when they ‘retire’ from civil service, so don’t want to bite the hand that will feed them.

That said – what’s our choice? Those of us in democracies need to demand our governments sue fossil fuel companies out of existence, or at least defensively so we’re not paying them to not pollute. The best solution would be for governments to nationalise and wind down these corporations in a planned and controlled way. It would be balanced by a just transition to green jobs for workers and small business owners, and the rest of us would be supported to get off oil.

Do something different, and get different results. Forget raising awareness, rallies, demonstrations, protest marches, candlelight vigils, and all other symbolic gestures. There is a time for action, and that time is now. Stop symbolising and get DOING.