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Sunday May 22, 2022

Ecological concerns

January 28, 2022

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, the word ‘gaslighting’ means “the action of manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity”. There has been a meteoric rise in the use of ‘gaslighting’ ever since the 2008 global financial meltdown. In its aftermath, political elites spent billions in taxpayers’ money bailing out financial institutions which had engaged in various speculative practices, bringing executives and shareholders vast profits. At the same time, they imposed austerity measures that devastated working and middle-class households, while gaslighting them into believing that this is the only way to “fix the economy”.

Today, the same tactic is deployed vis-à-vis climate change: “climate solutions” that protect, if not boost, profits of big corporations are deployed and presented as the only way to combat climate change. Quite often, these very same corporations are responsible for the environmental devastation leading to the present climate crisis.

Green gaslighting goes beyond greenwashing, which constitutes the use of ecological themes as a marketing tool to cover up ecological harm of profit-making activities. Gaslighting does more than deceive the public, it also disempowers and undermines the potential to identify the root causes of climate change and ways to address them. In essence, green gaslighting is just another form of climate denialism.

Gaslighting over ecological concerns is also not a new phenomenon. Indian historian V M Ravi Kumar, for example, documented how in the 19th century British colonialists displaced Indigenous communities to cut down forests for shipbuilding across South India, which led to significant environmental degradation. When forest loss became a concern for their interests, they blamed the locals for it, planted monoculture tree plantations as a response and declared they had successfully resolved an ecological problem.

The current political and economic powers dominating the planet are taking a page out of the same colonial playbook. Those largely responsible for the current environmental disaster we are experiencing are seeking to gaslight the public into ignoring this fact and accepting the continuation of a dangerous status quo as a solution for it. One of the policies that helps governments and corporations maintain the status quo is ‘net zero emissions’, which derives from the idea that carbon emissions and the natural processes of carbon absorption can be assigned value (as carbon credits) and traded.

COP26 will probably go down in history as the conference of the “net zero pledges”. There were many of them: from India’s desire to be carbon neutral by 2070, China’s by 2060, to the EU’s goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by the year 2030, to US commitments to cut emissions by 50 percent by the same year. But these are all illusory climate action measures.

Excerpted: ‘Green gaslighting: Another face of climate denialism’ Courtesy: Aljazeera.com

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