On ‘No Pressure’ and peer pressure

I had such a problem with the 10:10 No Pressure video.  It showed what could so easily happen – indeed is probably already happening in schools – pressure to accept and not question ‘the consensus’.  I abhor the very idea of children being reluctant to ask questions because they might be jeered, sneered at, or just thought silly.  Peer pressure and the desire to conform to it are strong at that age.  Rebellion and desire to be different is there too, but it is all about what is cool and what is socially acceptable, even if the fundamental beliefs are wrong.

Proven health issues                        Scientific consensus uncertainty

Smoking  (Image: www.tobaccofree.org/)

Climate Change (Image: Wikipedia)

I’ve always HATED cigarette smoke.  I never worried too much personally about the health side of passive smoking; it is the smell of cigarettes that is objectionable (although the odd waft from a good cigar or a pipe is quite pleasant when not cooped up in a small room with the source).  Years ago there was a choice; it wasn’t much of a choice – suffer in silence or vote with your feet and leave.  Sometimes I did one, sometimes the other, but as a teenager or even student it wasn’t cool to get sniffy about smoking unless you wanted to seem square and end up as a social outcast.

“You gotta be kidding if you’re trying to compare smoking to climate change” I hear you say, but I’ve ended up thinking about this a lot, so bear with me.  Personal freedom and choice come up in both issues, as do acceptability and peer pressure. What about the differences?

If we think of smoking as a (mostly) a personal issue, but with proven consequences for individual health, and collective costs at national level, then burning fossil fuels is a more societal in scale with – we are told – global consequences for us all.  It is also a personal issue due to our individual choices of energy use.

Back in the 70s and 80s we knew increasingly that smoking was ‘bad for us’.  Studies not funded by Big Tobacco formed an increasing tide of evidence of cancers etc. ; that ‘consensus view’ was backed up by statistics and solid numbers.  There may be a ‘consensus’ in climate science, but it is not exactly solid.  Even the IPCC admits to only 90-95% certainty.

Despite the scientific evidence, smoking was still ‘cool’ to my youthful peers.  Gradually, from a student need to be one of the crowd, I dared to be ‘politely assertive’ in the 90s.  Any mutterings about ‘smokers’ rights’ were simply countered with “So your right to smoke is more important than anyone else’s right to breathe clean air?” (I once got a round of applause in a cafe).  Smoking bans were a revelation – being able to eat in bars at lunchtime without reeking of smoke afterwards; not having to wash hair and clothes the following morning only to rid them of the smell.

Today’s restrictions are just that – by location; cost increases (tax) attempt to regulate frequency.  Regulations by government enable the right to breathe clean air, intend to save smokers from their own excesses, and reduce national spending on healthcare provision. Under Cap and Trade, fossil energy use would be restricted and costs increased; the differences of scale, impact and cost are immense.  [Interesting aside which is probably widely known in the US but was new for me – Rep. Waxman (Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill) was also responsible for the Waxman Hearings in 1994, when CEOs of 7 major tobacco companies stated their belief that “nicotine is not addictive”].

As far as preaching about stopping smoking, as the saying goes “There’s nothing worse than an ex-smoker”.  So what is different about climate change alarmist* AGW proponent?  (well I am an ex- one of those).  The ‘global threat’ of climate change provides a moral imperative that compels some individuals to decry what THEY see as behaviour detrimental to the greater good.  Environmental scepticism is increasingly attacked “Is climate science disinformation a crime against humanity? Stifle debate, sit on the questioners, label them as politically incorrect, or worse.

“Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.”  Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) (found at Donna LaFramboise’s excellent desoggybog.com)

Children care about the environment – they’ve been taught to; ‘greenness’ is now part of our younger society.  Never mind ‘no pressure’, how do we ensure that peer pressure does not perpetuate the climate orthodoxy?

*Altered 02Oct2011 in line with new policy: https://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/cleaning-house/ VJ.

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5 Responses to On ‘No Pressure’ and peer pressure

  1. R. Shearer says:

    Very nice post! Re: your question on peer pressure, I think we can attempt to educate our children and others about the uncertainty of AGW. Beyond that, look at the climate leadership: Gore, Hansen, Mann, Pachuri….do you think intelligent kids look at them with respect? I don’t,

    • Verity Jones says:

      Thank you. My concern is that ‘intelligent’ kids are no longer being taught to question properly so many areas they should question (unless by ‘switched on’ parents). Perhaps that is just my perception. Even graduates these days do not seem to ask the right questions. I remember having it drummed into me that education wasn’t about having the answers it was about knowing what questions to ask and where to look for the answers.

  2. Greg says:

    If, as you grow up, your only source of information comes from group A and if all other sources are endlessly and viciously ridiculed it’s unlikely that your thinking will ever diverge greatly from the group. Depending on the consequences of divergence you might even stifle your radical views and (pretend to) enthusiastically join the group. And then there are always those who willingly, joyfully, and energetically enforce the group dogma.

    For our kids to form opinions that differ from the orthodoxy then they have to be exposed to divergent information and the environment has to be such that divergent opinions can be safely held. I don’t think this is the case in most of today’s public schools. How many schools offer anything as a counterpoint to Gore’s fantasy movie, “An Inconvenient Truth?”

    I think the climate othodoxy has to be publicly shattered before we see anything other than that orthodoxy in our schools. This is probably one of the reasons that homeschooling is gaining so much in popularity.

  3. Scott B says:

    “So your right to smoke is more important than anyone else’s right to breathe clean air?”

    Yes, yes it is. As a supposedly free society, we must all bear minor inconviences to allow others more freedom. This is why I have to deal with smokers, telemarketers, rude people on the road, people preaching religion, and 1000s of other things I’d rather not be around. I just realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

    [Reply – good attitude! – Verity]

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