Tackling the Dilemmas of Collective Action Requires a Shared Cognitive Base: the IPCC Adaptation Trilogy Begins

You know if we were radical political schemers or simply bureaucrats or politicians addicted to Other People’s Money, and the ordinary people we wanted to have behave as we wished were resisting our rationales and explanations, we might decide to jettison the top-down, visible, policy-making approach. Instead, we might take our control over all levels of education and develop a “cognitive climate change strategy.” We might turn to systems thinking or social and emotional learning as curricular pushes to establish that “shared cognitive base” and published articles in international journals such as “The Art of the Cognitive War to Save the Planet” that urge a “bottom up ‘social learning’ experimental approach.”

We could simply decide not to actually focus on physical reality as much anymore since it is rather hard to control. Instead, we could turn to education with its invisible ability to focus “on the belief systems with which individuals make sense of their interactions with the social and biophysical environment.”  Recognizing this “need to change values, beliefs, and worldviews as a response to [assumed] climate change,” but also that “forced” transformations are generally visible, controversial, and subject to being blocked, we could use “transformative education” as a means of altering consciousness. We could even come up with a catchy phrase about a Common Core that allows physical movement among states and  lets a student be internationally competitive in the fast-changing 21st century.

Earlier in the week the IPCC, the UN-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released its Working Group II Summary For Policy-Makers, http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf with its language on pages 22-23 about Effective Adaptation. Suddenly, the discussion was not about science in the physical sense. We were talking about education and new forms of governance and what is called systems science and no one was talking about waiting to see what happened in the physical world. I recognized the crucial importance of this language about adaptation and immediately put on my Deerstalker Hat and turned on my printer to collect more proof. That has turned the last few days into a whirlwind of in-motion plans, with cites to many of the same ed schemers we have been so horrified by–both in my book when I explained constructivism over the decades, or on this blog as we explored the cybernetic theory of control over human behavior.

Those of us that remember the Tyndall Centre in the UK for its participation in the email obfuscation of ClimateGate may see the need to obscure reality deviating from models when we look at how they are now pushing an Integrative Worldview Framework. Reminiscent of Ervin Laszlo’s Holos Consciousness that we have covered, it goes after the “Overarching systems of meaning and meaning-making that to a substantial extent inform how we interpret, enact, and co-create reality.” Can you say Intrusive? Authoritarian aspirations unsuitable for a free society? Me too.

Alarmed by the language in that Summary Report with Policymakers and how it fit with so much of what I had read as intentions in education or heard in terms of new forms of governance at that (co)lab summit last September, I went to the full report itself. Chapter 20 lays out the Climate-Resilient Pathways and no one is waiting for permission. Think of Common Core and 21st Century and Deep Learning globally as action research. Implement and see what happens to real students in real communities. The paper Chapter 20 actually cited was from a June 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway we were not invited to called “Proceedings of Transformation in a Changing Climate.” IPCC was one of the sponsors and it is clearly tired of waiting for the weather to coincide with its plans for “shared action to transform social structures and institutions,” while pretending it is necessary “in service of climate change adaptation.”

Climate-Resilient Pathways is all about  a priori, or in anticipation of, Transformational Change so supposedly the need to mitigate later will not be as catastrophic. Professors O’Brien and Sygna laid out “three interacting spheres or realms where transformational changes towards sustainability may be initiated.” The actual diagram had the Practical Sphere–Behaviors and Technical Responses–as the central core within a larger sphere of Political Systems and Structures. Are you still wondering why there is such a push to take decision-making power away from elected local officials while replacing with appointed regional bodies unaccountable to voters?

Finally we have the Outermost Sphere–the Personal Realm of “Beliefs, Values, Worldviews and Paradigms”. Let’s just say that altering that Personal Sphere is seen by O’Brien, Sygna, and the IPCC “can lead to different ‘action logics,’  or ways of understanding and interacting with the world.” We could call meddling in this area How to Create a Revolutionary Change Agent, or an army of them, with no one’s permission, but maybe I am being snarky from frustration at so much active and coordinated deceit. Think of all the parents who know something is fundamentally wrong at school, but have no idea there is such an active push for transformative education altering this personal sphere. Why? Because say O’Brien and Sygna:

“Discourses and paradigms emerge from the personal sphere, and influence the framing of issues, the questions that are asked or not asked, and the solutions that are prioritized in the political and practical spheres. Changes in the personal sphere often result in ‘seeing’ systems and structures in new ways…place attention on actions that benefit all humans and species…[and] influence the type of actions and strategies considered possible in the practical sphere.”

In part 2 of this Trilogy of Planned Adaptation and Unconsented to Change, I will lay out a new official definition of Knowledge. Mental representations that lead to predictable action. No need in the 21st century apparently to be true, only influential. Theories and models are fine as long as they can be used to alter behavior in the future. Returning now to that 2010 article by Miklos Antal and Janne I Hukkinen that was cited by O’Brien and Sygna, the IPCC’s current methods are “counterproductive” because of “equating the policy mode of operation with the science mode of operation.” That “in fact keeps opening up potential points of attack for the climate skeptics and gives new grounds for psychological defense strategies.” So reports can discuss science issues as if it really mattered as an obfuscation tactic, but the real battlefield will be at the level of the human mind and a student’s personality.

Instead of “individual safety” being “strongly linked to individual performance” as is presently common, people need to be convinced of the “vulnerabilities of the current economic system.” Then they can be convinced of the need to “restructure it by prioritizing system level stability over individual level gain.” Likewise, Antal/Hukkinen wanted to create ” a viable mental representation of the contradiction in people’s minds.” They suggested using “simple, unambiguous, and credible” language and visuals to establish a direct connection between individual safety and system survival” within each person’s belief and value system. They noted that many people will respond to such a simple “We have to save our civilization” statement. I would note that jettisoning textbooks, lectures, fluent reading, and all the other elements we have talked about keeps pesky facts from interfering with this desired worldview and belief system.

Just head straight to the “cognitive underpinnings” they recommend. This “opens up an inspiring perspective” as “the spirit of including individuals in collective efforts for the planet has the potential of enriching personal and collective social identities.”

Glad something is enriched at least in theory. The real world consequences of such transformative education are likely to be anything but for everyone not pushing these visions for hire.

Even they are consuming seed corn without knowing it or apparently caring much.