Drain the narrative of hate for empathy 

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

– Leonard Cohen

 

More and more false news stories invade the press and the internet, so much so that Facebook, after being criticized for potentially aiding Trump’s victory by the plethora of fake news, is now to take action and rein in this scourge. No wonder then that Oxford Dictionaries has named the adjective ‘post-truth’ as its word of the year. Post-truth (usually associated with politics) is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Climate denial (assertion that science is merely an opinion amongst many), religious fanaticism and extreme nationalism all feed off appeals to disregard peer-reviewed science, compassion for the other and fairness. Whereas ‘propaganda’ was associated with the promulgation of falsity in war time, post-truth has invaded most discussions: enter Trump and the nasty election rhetoric that enfolded a democratic process in hate, misogyny, misinformation and extremist viewpoints that threaten to unhinge an already polarized society.

No one should be surprised then that the motto “Drain the swamp”, chanted by Trump and supporters, was based on the false notion that Washington, D.C. was built on a swamp. His desire to get rid of the bureaucracy in Washington by metaphorically draining a human swamp has no basis in the District’s physical past. More importantly, swamps have enormous biodiversity and are part of an ecology that keeps us all alive, and disdain for our unique planet’s vibrant life systems has its consequences.

The ubiquitous false news finds its way to the natural-gas ventures in British Columbia via the large oil producers. A corporate-funded study was rejected by the federal government, but the project was approved anyway in September and now faces many lawsuits. It turns out that salmon use the area far more than was revealed. Now Kinder Morgan’s pipeline may be approved by this ‘climate-friendly’ government.

The month of November 2016 hasn’t been buoyed by optimism for our planet. The UN Climate Summit in Marrakech, following the more hopeful although flawed Paris summit in 2015, heard scientists proclaim the most pessimistic declarations for planetary stability; the announcement that 2016 has a 90% chance of being the warmest year on record in modern times doesn’t help the prognosis that this century will not be kind to our children or our grandchildren. The Arctic, going into polar night, is 20 °C above its normal temperature. In response to a climate-denier president-elect in the USA, the Marrakech Action Proclamation affirmed the urgency for governments to commit to fossil fuel reductions to prevent further global warming. Obama’s climate envoy suggested that there could easily be a sea-level rise of 1.5 metres by 2050 as a result of rapid polar warming.

Sadly, our Minister of the Environment at Marrakech gave only 15 minutes to the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition to state their case for Indigenous Peoples and youth affected by climate change, but had an hour to speak with the oil industry.

Dehumanizing, writes philosopher and humanist Charles Eisenstein, is the surest path to war. “The truth can only be sourced from the sincere question, ‘What is it like to be you?’ That is called compassion, and it invites skills of listening, dialog, and communicating without violence or judgement.”

 

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