Life in the green gap
The other kind of climate change denial.
ESSAY David Owen
In the space of a few short days this past spring, President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change; Rick Perry, Trump’s Secretary of Energy, said that the human contribution to rising global temperatures “is not settled science”; and Scott Pruitt, the head of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, restated his belief that the causes of global warming are subject to “debate.” Trump, Perry, and Pruitt can be globally considered the Big Three of climate change denial, since they’re now in unique positions not just to make infuriating public statements but also to determine the policies of the world’s most ravenous consumer of natural resource.
But there is another kind of climate change denial out there—a kind that may pose an even greater threat to the future of civilization. Most of the putatively climate-friendly behaviour changes that I and other reasonably concerned people have adopted during the past couple of decades—recycling our trash, upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances, buying produce at farmers’ markets, bringing our own shopping bags to the grocery store—have been minimally beneficial, sometimes even counterproductive. The main effect has been not to halt the world’s accelerating slide towards catastrophe, but merely to relieve the consciences of the guiltiest parties, often while making the underlying problems worse.
The disconnect between good intentions
and useful action has been
referred to as the Green Gap.
It’s the place where most of us live.