Or so implies Andrew J. Hoffman, current sitter in the cushy Holcim chair at the University of Michigan, and writer of the peer-reviewed (I’m guessing) article “Climate change as a cultural and behavioral issue: Addressing barriers and implementing solutions”. This sonorous creation resides in the journal Organizational Dynamics. The publisher of that august serial, Elsevier, thinks so highly of Hoffman’s prose, that the article can be had for a mere $39.95. A bargain!
Hoffman, who not un-coincidentally has the look, mannerisms, and speech cadence of a television evangeli$t, has a deep, but narrow faith. He is certain sure that It’s Worse Than We Thought, climatologically speaking. And he is amazed that the populace has not yet awakened to the danger he so clearly sees. O why! Why hasn’t John Q. Public embraced all that is climate change? Why haven’t they succumbed to various legislations? Why do they express doubt? Why have they not yet changed their behavior?
Because they think just like slave owners do. Yes, dear reader: your lack of panic is equivalent to your agreeing with the morality of slavery.
In short, the magnitude of the cultural and moral shift around climate change is as large as that which accompanied the abolition of slavery.
He quotes a man who said that if you stood on a London street corner in the 18th century and shouted that slavery was morally wrong, “nine out of 10 listeners would have laughed you off as a crackpot” because the world’s economy was based upon slavery. That quotation is false, of course: the abolition movement began in 18th century London. But never mind, because here comes the extrapolation. Hoffman says:
If you stood on a New York City street corner and insisted that burning fossil fuels was morally wrong and should be stopped, listeners would laugh you off as a crackpot. There is a vast physical infrastructure that depends on oil, and it cannot be simply replaced without great disruption. Abolition of the primary source of energy in the world is out of the question…Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with burning fossil fuels [emphasis mine].
|This bear—a picture from Hoffman’s site—is surveying which foolish eco-tourist to eat.|
Abolition! Get it? Get it? Sure you do, you sophisticated reader, you. And, oh yes, never mind that people are routinely standing on New York City street corners disparaging fossil fuels and finding receptive audiences.
Look here, dear reader. I really wanted to bite into Hoffman’s paper, prise out and expose his logical errors, bare the subtleties that can cause thinking to go wrong, and perhaps expose Hoffman to some good, old-fashioned ridicule. But except for a few asinine observations about slavery and one or two trite and ridiculous statements about the epistemology of cigarette smoking and cancer (yes), there is nothing in this paper to criticize.
When I first read it, I thought it the work on a man in his dotage. This ponderous paper—eleven pages! the journal equivalent of Gibbon—was surely the result of an indulgent editor towards a once-eminent emeritus professor? But no. Hoffman is in his prime and damn active. He pumps out books faster than Queen Victoria squeezed out children.
And Her Highness was better at naming her offspring. Hoffman’s titles: Memo to the CEO: Climate Change, Whatâ€™s Your Business Strategy?, Carbon Strategies: How Leading Companies are Reducing their Climate Change Footprint, Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change. There are others, but my concern for my readers’ sanity precludes naming them.
But you get the idea: Hoffman’s purpose in life is to lecture corporations about their carbon “footprint.” No doubt, because he cares so deeply about the environment, he does this gratis. The Organizational Dynamics paper is filled with nuggets designed to intrigue corporate environmental officers who, Hoffman must be hoping, will engage him to lecture.
You know the kind of stuff I mean: “The first step in creating a carbon action plan, is to initiate the process where the organization recognizes the need of a carbon action plan.” There is nothing logically wrong with that sentence: its conclusion does indeed follow from its premise. But it is vaporous, empty.
That quotation is made up, but it’s a fair summary of Hoffman’s prose. To prove it, here, I swear to God, is a genuine quotation:
The next step in climate-strategy development is consideration for how operations and sales may be affected—both for the positive and the negative—by climate change related factors and, as a result, how such factors may alter competitive positioning.
Hey, reader! Wake up!