“Nobody can predict the future. I doubt it will be that bad.”

17 Jan 2010

After a loved one dies, the first stage of grief, according to psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is denial. Whenever the issue of economic crashes, peak oil, climate change—and in general the notion that things we hold dear could collapse—then, likewise, denial seems to be many people’s first response.

(I know it was my first reaction—and I can remember a time when I felt it most strongly, not long before I gave it up. It was when I was reading an article in New Scientist in April 2008 by Debora MacKenzie, called “Why the Demise of Civilization May Be Inevitable”.)

But still I was surprised to read a double denial in a comment on an article about the economy, called “We’re Screwed”. There, someone going by the name Larry weighed in, saying simply:

Nobody can predict the future. I doubt it will be that bad.

So he doubts that anyone can predict the future—with the implication that we don’t need to worry. And then he proceeds to predict the future, saying it won’t be that bad, denying the content of the article.

My point here isn’t to parse the logic behind his comment, or argue that the argue he was commenting on is actually right. Instead, his comment seems to highlight how deep denial can go, and people don’t even realize they’re doing it.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »