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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 10:45 PM
Original message
The Politics of Climate Change
One might think that reasonable people wouldnt let ideology influence their interpretation of scientific studies. But the fact is that ideology is the strongest predictor of ones interpretation of data bearing on the issue of climate change. For example, Gallup polls show that, whereas in 1998 Republicans and Democrats had similar views on whether global temperatures were rising, by 2008, 76% of Democrats, but only 41% of Republicans believed that the effects of global warming have already begun:



In the same poll, only 42% of Republicans believe (compared to 73% of Democrats) that Changes in the Earths temperature over the last century are due more to human activities than to natural changes in the environment. Naomi Klein notes in a recent article that in some regions only 20% of Republicans accept the scientific consensus (among climate scientists) on climate change.

These ignorant Republican beliefs are despite a study conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), of 928 papers on the subject appearing in peer reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003. Of those papers, not a single one disagreed with the consensus that global warming is real, is produced by greenhouse gases due to industrial activities, is highly likely to have catastrophic effects on humanity, and can be mitigated only by addressing the industrial causes of the production of greenhouse gases.
In addition to the IPPC, all other major scientific organizations in the United States with expertise on this issue agree with the consensus. These include the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among many others.

Despite the continuing ideological divide on this issue, by 2011 the effects of global warming have been becoming so evident that 83% of all Americans now believe that the Earths temperature is rising.


Climate change deniers

Climate change denial has been a major force in national and global politics over the past several decades. Fueled and funded by interests whose wealth and power stand to be curtailed by world-wide efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, climate change denial has become so pervasive that it has affected the beliefs of many otherwise progressive people.
A 2007 article appearing in Newsweek, titled The Truth about Denial discussed how climate change denial has greatly hampered efforts to address the problem:

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless.

George Monbiot, in an article titled The Denial Industry, gets to the heart of the problem in the first paragraph:

For years, a network of fake citizens' groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that the science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them?

Exxon Mobile
An article about a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, titled Scientists Report Documents ExxonMobils Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science, summarized the role that ExxonMobil has played in damping government action to address the problem:

ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science. "ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Director of Strategy & Policy. "A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as Big Tobacco did for over 40 years."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute
Though the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) claims to be an organization whose research on public policy reflects the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty and limited government, it is one of the premier climate change denial organizations in the world. Its major funding sources have included ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Dow Chemical, General Motors, and Richard Scaife.

Scientists who allegedly disagree with the consensus on climate change
Much has been made of a research paper by Klaus-Martin Schulte, which evaluated 528 papers on climate change between 2004 and 2007. According to Schulte, 6% of the articles rejected the climate change consensus and 48% were neutral on the subject. With regard to the so-called neutral articles, they can be easily explained on the basis that the consensus is so well established that it isnt necessary to explicitly endorse it:

Nowadays, earth science papers are rarely found explicitly endorsing plate tectonics, as the theory is established and taken for granted. The fact that so many studies on climate change don't bother to endorse the consensus position is significant because scientists have largely moved from what's causing global warming onto discussing details of the problem (e.g. - how fast, how soon, impacts, etc).

With regard to the alleged 6% of articles that rejected the consensus, independent evaluation of the papers that were available at the time told a different story: some were found not to be scientific papers; some were found not to reject the consensus view; and some scientific papers that did reject the consensus views were found to have based the rejection on invalid reasoning. (It is unclear if any of the articles that Schulte cited were scientific articles that used valid arguments to reject the consensus view on climate change.) It is also noteworthy that Schulte refused to answer questions about his relationship to the oil industry.


Here is an entertaining article that provides information on the top 10 climate change deniers.


Explanations for climate change denial

There are two major and related explanations for climate change denial. As with so many other issues, one explanation applies to the American oligarchy those billionaire elites and the prostitutes they pay to echo their message, whose fortunes stand to be somewhat reduced if our country was to take the issue of climate change seriously and plan to do something about it. These are mostly intelligent people. Few of them are so stupid as to believe their own propaganda. They know that the climate scientists are correct, that the life sustaining properties of our planet are being destroyed by the industrial activities upon which their fortunes are largely based. But they simply dont much care. Their aims are focused on their short-term profits, and they figure (correctly to some extent) that their wealth will allow them to escape the most catastrophic effects of global warming until they die of natural causes.

The other explanation is more complex, and it applies to ordinary right wingers who are content to believe on faith what they hear from their right wing elite idols. The bottom line, as Naomi Klein discusses at great length in an article titled Capitalism Vs. the Climate, is that if we were to take climate change and its looming catastrophic consequences seriously, that would mean that our government and our people would have to take intensive measures to address the problem. Those measures would contradict the most cherished ideals of right-wingers on the proper role of government in a free society. Klein explains:

At a time when a growing number of people agree with the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, many of whom argue that capitalism-as-usual is itself the cause of lost jobs and debt slavery, there is a unique opportunity to seize the economic terrain from the right. This would require making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power. It would also require a shift away from the notion that climate action is just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention. Just as climate denialism has become a core identity issue on the right, utterly entwined with defending current systems of power and wealth, the scientific reality of climate change must, for progressives, occupy a central place in a coherent narrative about the perils of unrestrained greed and the need for real alternatives.

Klein discusses the psychological effects on the typical right wing climate change denier if s/he were to change their views on this issue in accordance with the scientific facts:

For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion. Many climate scientists report receiving death threats, as do authors of articles on subjects as seemingly innocuous as energy conservation. (As one letter writer put it... You can pry my thermostat out of my cold dead hands.) This culture-war intensity is the worst news of all, because when you challenge a persons position on an issue core to his or her identity, facts and arguments are seen as little more than further attacks, easily deflected.


The political consequences of taking climate change seriously

In one large section of her article, Klein describes in detail what addressing climate change would mean. The bottom line is that in a great many respects it would entail taking an approach to government that would validate the liberal ideas of the proper role of government in our society, and demolish right wing views on that issue:

After years of recycling, carbon offsetting and light bulb changing, it is obvious that individual action will never be an adequate response to the climate crisis. Climate change is a collective problem, and it demands collective action. One of the key areas in which this collective action must take place is big-ticket investments designed to reduce our emissions on a mass scale. That means subways, streetcars and light-rail systems that are not only everywhere but affordable to everyone; energy-efficient affordable housing along those transit lines; smart electrical grids carrying renewable energy; and a massive research effort to ensure that we are using the best methods possible.

The private sector is ill suited to providing most of these services because they require large up-front investments and, if they are to be genuinely accessible to all, some very well may not be profitable. They are, however, decidedly in the public interest, which is why they should come from the public sector.

The gravity of the climate crisis cries out for a radically new conception of realism, as well as a very different understanding of limits. Government budget deficits are not nearly as dangerous as the deficits we have created in vital and complex natural systems.
Changing our culture to respect those limits will require all of our collective muscle to get ourselves off fossil fuels and to shore up communal infrastructure for the coming storms.

That is the heart of Kleins argument. She also discusses in detail a large number of highly related points. Addressing the climate change issue would require: long-term governmental planning; regulating a large range of corporate activities; localizing production, so as to decrease the cost of transporting goods; developing more realistic, people-centered economic indicators, to replace measures like GDP, that focus on growth, to the detriment of quality of life, and; appropriately taxing the rich and activities that harm our environment. Klein goes into some detail on this:

That means taxing carbon, as well as financial speculation. It means increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, cutting bloated military budgets and eliminating absurd subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. And governments will have to coordinate their responses so that corporations will have nowhere to hide. Most of all, however, we need to go after the profits of the corporations most responsible for getting us into this mess. The top five oil companies made $900 billion in profits in the past decade For years, these companies have pledged to use their profits to invest in a shift to renewable energy Instead, they continue to pour their profits into shareholder pockets, outrageous executive pay and new technologies designed to extract even dirtier and more dangerous fossil fuels. Plenty of money has also gone to paying lobbyists to beat back every piece of climate legislation that has reared its head, and to fund the denier movement It is high time for the polluter pays principle to be applied to climate change Since corporations can be counted on to resist any new rules that cut into their profits, nationalization the greatest free-market taboo of all cannot be off the table.


The politics of climate change appears to be changing for the better

Bill McKibben, who has written several books on climate change and the political issues surrounding it, and who was arrested for civil disobedience in connection with protesting against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, recently wrote that he believes that the politics of climate change are changing for the better.

Perhaps the main reason for his belief is President Obamas recent announcement that he would postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election which may effectively kill the project. McKibben also points to a number of other indicators of a changing political climate. He points to a scientist whose climate change research was funded by the Koch brothers, and yet who found that

what do you know, all the other teams of climate-change scientists were, um, right. The planet was indeed warming just as fast as they and the melting ice had been insisting.

McKibben also points to the abundance of weird weather events in recent years:

Its been hard to miss the record flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and across the Northeast; the record drought and fires across the Southwest; the record multi-billion dollar weather disasters across the country this year; the record pretty-much everything-you-dont-want across the nation. Obama certainly noticed

He points to the fact that:

the number of Americans who understand that the planet is indeed warming and that were to blame appears to be on the rise again.

And he points to the fact that all of the Republican candidates for president are making complete fools of themselves through their stubborn denial of the scientific facts on this issue. He consequently notes that President Obama has probably decided that taking up the cause global warming will allow him to campaign on this issue against whatever idiot wins the Republican nomination.

McKibben notes that the Obama administration, until its decision to postpone a decision on the XL pipeline, has not been good at all on this issue:

To put the matter politely, theyve been far from perfect on the issue: the president didnt bother to waste any of his vaunted political capital on a climate bill, and hes opened huge swaths of territory to coal mining and offshore drilling.

At the end of his article, McKibben summarizes what he sees as our current political outlook on this issue:

Blocking the pipeline finally gave him (Obama) some credibility here and it gave a lot more of the same to citizens' movements to change our world. Since a lot of folks suspect that the only way forward economically has something to do with a clean energy future, Im guessing that the pipeline decision wont be the only surprise. I bet Barack Obama talks on occasion about global warming next year, and I bet it helps him. But dont count on that, or on Keystone XL disappearing If the pipeline story (so far) has one lesson, its this: you cant expect anything to change if you dont go out and change it yourself.


Conclusion

As Naomi Klein so thoroughly explains, government action to address our looming climate change catastrophe is anathema to everything that right wingers have been led to believe by the corporate tycoons who have so much to gain through continuation of their planet destroying activities.

Klein points out that this is an issue on which compromise is not feasible. The catastrophic consequences of continued warming of our planet are looming too near, and in fact have already begun. The differences between the right wing view of government and the views of reasonable people are too large. Encouraged by a corporate controlled media that has very little respect for the truth or honest reporting of any kind, right wing elites have distorted reality beyond recognition. Compromising with them pretending that any solution to our problems must include deference to their so-called free-market principles or denials of physical reality only encourages them to continue their deceit, and lends credence to their lies.

It is well past the time that we must recognize that the solutions to collective problems must consist of collective actions. In a democracy, that means government action and a government that is accountable to its citizens. Klein summarizes what we need to do:

So lets summarize. Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as people under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

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Gregorian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 11:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. "scale back overconsumption"
What we have become accustomed to as "normal", is actually an extreme. It's not quite that simple. In small numbers we could have gotten away with more consumption than we can now that there are 7.000.000.000 people on the planet. This, is what is going to be the biggest chore, and the one with the quickest and most significant result.

And this is why it's going to be next to impossible, if not impossible, to solve the problem of global warming. Like I've said many times on this forum, and as much as it sounds disingenuous, who is going to stop taking warm showers? India and China are just starting to enjoy the fruits of modern living.

We'll see... We've got to start somewhere. And I appreciate Klein's sense of urgency. She gets high praise from this reader.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 11:24 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. The point that Klein is making (and I agree) is that
collective action is required. We have to act collectively -- presumably through government -- to address the problem adequately. There are very many things that people will not do individually, but that they would be willing to do as part of a collective action. Few people would pay taxes voluntarily if they believed that they were nearly alone in doing so. Few if any corporations would submit voluntarily to regulations that would reduce their profits. I would not give up warm showers on my own, primarily because it would be a like a drop of water in the ocean, hardly contributing at all to a workable solution. But I would be willing to do so as part of a collective action to save our planet.
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RufusTFirefly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 11:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Yes indeed.
And that's why climate-change deniers and free-market fundamentalists are working so feverishly to dismantle public institutions and any other established bodies that would facilitate the collective action we so badly need.

Another thoughtful, high-quality post, Tfc!
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saras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 07:20 AM
Response to Original message
4. As interesting for what's missing as for what's shown
Where's the data before 1998, and where are the independents?

The term "global warming" was coined in 1969.

By the mid-seventies, global climate change was being discussed and studies, although there weren't yet funds for explicit studies - climate data already existing at the time was being used.

I'm curious about when this awareness first showed up in politics in large enough voters to measure.

Because we were already arguing before his election that Reagan was a gigantic wrong-way, and the country is still paying for that stupid decision. The scary thing is that it wasn't a Bush-like coup, the whole country really did choose Reagan and denial.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 07:35 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. My guess is
Edited on Tue Nov-22-11 08:33 AM by Time for change
that the graph begins in 98 because that's when Gallup began taking that particular poll. The purpose of the graph was to show the growing gap between Dems and Republicans, so independents were omitted from that graph to make the contrast easier to see.

I doubt that there is any one particular point in time when awareness of climate change "first showed up". My recollection is that, though climate scientists were probably aware of it in the 1980s, very few ordinary people were. I read a fair amount of material on environmental issues in those days, and I don't believe there was much at all written about it. Awareness received a big boost in the early 21st Century, with Al Gore's writings and movie on the subject.

Americans made a big mistake by voting for Reagan, but climate change was not an issue in that election. It should be considered a black mark on our country. In my opinion, slanted news coverage was a big part of the problem.
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bongbong Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 08:52 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. much older
"By the mid-seventies, global climate change was being discussed and studies,"

Nope, you're misinformed. It's since AT LEAST 1958.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg
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saras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #6
13. You're right. My point is that I wasn't a scientist, and didn't follow them that closely.
By the mid seventies, it was all through pop culture.

In 1970, a white Motown band (Rare Earth) named their album Ecology, even though the album was love songs.
Also in 1970, another new upcoming band (Sugarloaf) named their second album Spaceship Earth.
In 1971, Marvin Gaye had a number one hit (Mercy, Mercy Me) singing about the environment.
I don't recall much of this in 1958.

They didn't use these concepts to connect with some obscure scientific opinion. They did it because these concepts were so prevalent, so common, so well known, that they would HELP MOVE IRRELEVANT PRODUCT. You know, like putting pictures of scantily-clad female bodies on stuff to sell it?
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certainot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
7. biggest seller of denial: 1000 radio stations, many that broadcast university sports, and all licens
Edited on Tue Nov-22-11 09:43 AM by certainot
licensed to operate in the public interest.

that right wing radio monopoly led by limbaugh does dedicated non stop denial to 50 mil a week and the fact that the left and environmental orgs have no organized opposition to it is the main reason a major party can continue this irrational and i would say treasonous obstruction.

universities have mission statements that would require them to end these associations if taken seriously. those associations are essential for RW radio 'credibility' and ad revenue.

by continuing those associations the universities are basically endorsing the limbaughs and their global warming denial on behalf of the oil coal nuclear industries.

we must have big gains n senate and congress next year and with citizens united it is imperative that the left mount some challenge to RW radio- this would be one way to make a dent in the monopoly without impossible legislation. a university pulling out would require the station to go to another format or find balance with progressive talkerss maybe.

PS limbaugh dedicated a week to pushing the east anglia "emailgate" and it worked. MSM resisted but the public pressure from dittohead teabaggers and the GOP riding that bandwagon finally worked to get it mainsteream in time to undercut obama in copenhage. i doubt it would have happened without limbaugh on those 600 radio stations.

last years 15 0f 16 NCAA basketball finalists broadcast on limbaugh stations.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 02:45 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. What a joke that these stations are licensed to operate in the public interest -
and yet there is so little effort to ensure that they do in fact operate in the public interest.

Corporate control of so much of our media is one of the biggest impediments to reclaiming our democracy.
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certainot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #10
11.  that mandate along with uni mission statements should be cause for dissociation by unis frm limbaug
and other RWTR and that, i believe, if communities really pushed their unis out, would force many stations to either offer balance, get out of RW talk radio, or go out of business.

to do some of that before the next election would help make up for all that cit united money.
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Bigmack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 10:13 AM
Response to Original message
8. EXCELLENT post - thanks, AND
I know a "cloud physicist" - a physicist who specializes in weather processes - who has been convinced of the science of climate change (despite the fact that he's a conservative republican politically!) since the 1970's - EARLY in the 1970's. Part of the problem in informing the general public has been the disinclination of most scientists to attempt serious communication with the Great Unwashed. Of course the rampant - and even PRIDEFUL - ignorance of the Great Unwashed DOES make this sort of communication intrinsically difficult.....alas.... Ms Bigmack
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-11 12:47 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Thank you
That is probably part of the problem, but I think that the biggest part of the problem is the utter failure of our corporate owned news media to report this issue in a fair and responsible manner. They treat almost every stupid right wing lie as news worthy of being reported, and they don't even bother to correct lies for which the facts are readily available.
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Overseas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 08:17 AM
Response to Original message
12. I remember beautiful discussions about sustainable development back in the 70's.
And someone being more hip because his car got 40mpg instead of 30. And finding ingenious ways to reduce our dependence on imported oil through solar power. And reducing our consumerism.

But then all of that was lumped together as dreary Carter talk-- insulting to America, apparently-- The God Blessed American people should not ever ever have limits-- Reagan declared it Morning in America and pushed all those dreams off a cliff.

And then sustained, concerted, intense right wing PR stomped on those ideals and developed an intricate infrastructure of various forms of PR to get that environmental awareness, economic logic, and compassion out of our national discourse. See the Lewis Powell memo. See "What Liberal Media?"

And that PR has been very successful apparently. It got enough laws changed in favor of multinational corporations that what the American people feel doesn't really matter anymore. We elected people who approved the nomination of right wing judicial activists to our supreme court who then gave multinational corporations the rights that were intended for natural persons.
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airplaneman Donating Member (18 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-24-11 06:25 PM
Response to Original message
14. Observed attributes of the right side.
I have put a lot of thought into why the Right wing take the positions that they do. I also have 2 fiends that are Libertarian that don't know each other. They both discount global warming but the root of why is very similar. Neither takes a position that they are willing to do anything for the common good but instead touting personal freedoms as their ultimate right. They don't like government to tell them to drive an energy efficient car and when Carter proposed better mileage standards they both went out and bought gas guzzlers in spite. They don't like gun laws, food laws, driving laws anything that might be for the better good of all. In a nut shell they want to do whatever the hell they please - drive without a license, insurance, after drinking, without seatbelt, while tex-ting and watching tv if they want. They buy paradigms first and define everything relative to that always arguing the positive and negative in their favor. Example "the government cant do anything right". The government didn't enact a good law or a poor law -see they cant do anything right. Even if the law is good the answer would be they enact so many bad laws they are bound to get one right once in a blue moon. If the paradigm is that global warning is a farce then they get to discount it altogether and go on their merry way. I ultimately think this is a conscious level of thinking. A scientific person would examine the evidence, then define the paradigm that fits the evidence leaving their minds open to criticism and new ideas. A higher level of consciousness is needed for one to realize that acting in the collective good is powerful and necessary to achieve some big goals. Selfishness, greed, and a complete lack of concern for others allows people to define paradigms fist and not be willing to anything they do not perceive as benefiting themselves only. It also makes it ok to walk over everyone else and destroy the Earth in their quest for riches.
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