I’m currently reading Richard Wiseman’s new book ‘Rip It Up’. It begins by talking about a nineteenth century philosopher, William James — a man who was well aware that conventional wisdom can often be deeply misleading. Among a great many other things, James suggested that, when people smile, rather than smiling because they are happy, people feel happy because they are smiling. Some years later, another James — James Laird — conducted a series of experiments that proved this counterintuitive proposition to be absolutely correct.
Wiseman calls this the ‘As if principle’, attributing the following quote to William James:
If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.
Reality, in certain cases, can indeed be what you believe it to be.
Meanwhile, recent news reports have focused upon a storm raging in northeast US. Traditional media, as is its wont, falls over itself to provide information about ‘Sandy’ and the way it has devastated the area, complete with often heart-rending personal interviews with people affected by it. Allegedly it’s ‘not as bad as hurricane Katrina’, because whereas the cost of putting right the damage caused by that ‘freak event’ (just seven years ago) was some $70 billion, current estimates of the bill to fix the damage caused by Sandy are less than half that.
Even so, that’s $100 billion. From just two storms. In a mere seven years.
You have to search long and hard to find, in the mass media, any reference to either ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ in connection with this event (if you head over to Crock of the Week, you’ll find Peter Sinclair doing his usual sterling job locating the occasional items that do). Clearly, most journalists reporting this incident are blissfully unaware of the IPCC SREX, which was released earlier this year. Why should they be aware of it? Well, in a nutshell, that report indicates a clear link between global warming and an increasing incidence of extreme weather events.
But then, if we continue to act “as if” there is no connection between the way we’re destroying our environment and the way it responds in return, perhaps the problem will simply go away. And if we go on “as if” the cost of implementing measures to mitigate the damage will harm the economy then maybe the cost of repairs such as these will be like water off a duck’s back. And after all, all economic activity — including these repair bills — bolster the all-seeing, all-powerful GDP numbers, so it’s not “as if” the situation is really that bad…
Global warming? Climate change? Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and repeat after me: “lalalalalalala…”