Way back in 1980’s when people were convinced that the biggest peril facing the United States other than communism was urban violence there was something of a cottage industry surrounding the examination of the culture and pathologies that lead to such “counterproductive” behavior. Eventually rappers took it upon themselves to begin releasing music that urged listeners to remain community minded and encourage the better angels of their nature and help to put an end to what was seen as a culture of poverty and violence grown out of control.
With President Obama set to release tough restrictions aimed at reducing our carbon footprint early next month and urging for funding to fix a crumbling infrastructure wholly unprepared to weather the effects of climate change we should start looking for some artists that urge deniers to examine their culture because the same movement that decried a “culture of poverty” seems to be displaying the exact behavior today that was an obsession of theirs in the past. While urban communities still face an unique set of issues things certainly haven’t deteriorated to the point they were predicted to by alarmists. We can’t say the same for our political culture in relation to climate science and if we don’t turn it around soon we’re headed for… self destruction.
The first pillar of the pathology theory was that poor impulse control led to an overemphasis on short-term pleasure or fun to the detriment of long-term health was uniquely prominent in urban communities. Today we see conservatives dubiously argue that the long term health of the environment isn’t as vital as jobs today. While the “job killing” effects of preventing climate change is overblown the potential costs of acting is much less than the imminent cost of inaction on climate change. This is a clear cut case of being penny wise and pound foolish but it’s probably the most reasonable stance in regard to climate change from those who are looking to abandon stewardship of the environment. Unfortunately this argument has largely given way to more intransigent ones.
“They don’t understand the value of a good education.” This familiar refrain is still well worn when discussing the “pathology of poverty” that was then seen as the root of 80’s inner city violence. This dismissal of the edifying value of knowledge was alarming and demanded commentary and denunciation of anything that was seen as promoting ignorance in urban communities. Today the dismissal of the scholarship surrounding climate change is increasingly picking up momentum among “serious” skeptics of climate change such as Sen. Marco Rubio. His outright denial that the science says what it says is rapidly becoming something of a prerequisite to appeal to conservatives in the United States. This willful ignorance has challenged the nation’s ability to plan and respond effectively to the results of climate change.
“Personal responsibility” was the ultimate separator between the cultures of prosperity and poverty. Stepping up and accepting the consequences of your action and then altering your actions so that they aren’t harmful was a trait seen as uniquely lacking in inner-city communities then. Today we see the argument made that even if climate change is a real phenomena it’s not our fault. It’s the will of God and the will of God alone that controls the climate so we can drive as many Hummers as we like and it don’t mean boo. Of course this ignores the theological argument that being a Christian includes a call to be a steward of the Earth, it also ignores the personal responsibility aspect of conservative philosophy that takes pride of place when discussing solutions to issues like education, employment, and equality.
I’m not sure which constellation of artists could possibly get through to modern climate science deniers, maybe a collaboration with Hunter Hayes and Brad Paisley can do something to break through. My musical expertise is limited in this area. What I do know is that unless we address this “culture of denial” we as a nation will face consequences much more dire than locking your car doors when you have to drive through your city core.