Losing interest in disaster

SUBHEAD: Peak oil is dead (and global warming doesn't feel so well, either).

By Ugo Bardi on 14 December 2012 for Cassandra's Legacy -

Image above: Illustration of "Indifferencc"  by Waikiki resident Kate Owhl. From (http://owhl.deviantart.com/art/Indifference-294154627).

Interest in peak oil seem to have died out nearly completely during the past few years. Something similar seems to be happening for climate change. Of course, the fact that people are not interested in Google-clicking on some concept doesn't mean that the concept is wrong or it is nothing to be worried about. It only means that people are so worried about their everyday troubles that they don't have time and willingness to worry about issues that seem to be not an immediate concern.

I understood that something was wrong when I went to give a look to the stats of the Italian version of my blog; "Effetto Cassandra". That blog had been having a remarkable success; at least for a blog that deals with scientific matters. In a few years, it had climbed up to third place among Italian scientific blogs according to "ebuzzing" - not bad at all! And then, during the past few months, the ratings of Effetto Cassandra had been sliding down, until it was below the 100th position. What was I doing wrong with my posts?

It took me some time to find an explanation - I can't say it is the only one, but it makes sense. It is not my fault if Cassandra's ratings have been going down. ALL blogs dealing with climate change and peak oil seem to be losing ground - that includes even denialist blogs! At least, in this we have something in common.

People just seem to be losing interest in everything related with climate change and depletion. I would never have expected that: just now that evidence is accumulating for rapid changes both about depletion and about climate change. Come on, don't you see the writing on the wall? High prices of all mineral commodities, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and assorted disasters! How come that people can't connect the dots?

And yet, that is what is happening. You find the explanation in an article by Andy Revkin about the public perception of Hurricane Sandy. Citing George Marshall, it says;

"Disasters can reinforce social networks and with them established norms and worldviews". 

In other words, when people face immediate difficulties, they tend to emphasize short term solutions and have no time to worry about the ultimate reasons of what's befalling on them.

The article by Revkin makes for some sobering reading because it says, basically, that the worse things will get, the less people will care about fixing the reasons of the troubles. Unfortunately, it seems that this is exactly what's happening now with peak oil and climate change.

So, if people don't care about the real reasons of the troubles we are having, what are they clicking on google? Well, here is an example: "chemtrails" seem to be much more interesting than peak oil.



  1. climate change is mostly a political phenomenon. the science that supports it is cloudy. all the planets in the solar system are going through major changes, as is Earth. Peak oil is a concern, but it will take many years for it to translate into a full blown crisis. presently we are faced with an immanent financial collapse, and a rogue government that wants to kill off the populace. these are more important things to pay attention to. it is just a matter of priorities. don't take it personal.

  2. Dharma- There are some folks who don't believe in science at all, and i think it's important to respect folks's beliefs. However if you are a believer in science i think you can look at the research data yourself and make a determination. i don't think you will see that the data is at all unclear. Additionally- no matter what the cause of the change, such a drastic change will have drastic effects on our cities.

    The argument here for immediate concerns seems reasonable, but there may be additional causes. I think at some point the bulk of people learn about a topic and then it becomes popular as the phrase goes into the mainstream. After that some people decide that they are unwilling to change their behavior, and some people don't feel like they can do anything to help. Both of those groups may stop reading. There is also a lot of talk of economic recovery in the US, and so do less 'worried googling' and i wonder if that might play into it. Although maybe not, for the readers of Effetto Cassandra may not care much about US 'recoveries'.