It’s the misogynistic roots of climate science denial, stupid

A dear friend recently shared a link to an article analyzing the vitriol among climate science deniers toward teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she visits the United States to attend a conference in New York.

The article was titled, The Misogyny of Climate Deniers, but it might have just as well been called “The Climate Denying of Misogynists.” I believe there is a psychological connection between climate science denial and misogyny. It has ancient, biblical roots, but I suspect there are modern factors as well.

What we are seeing is the employment of hate and brute intimidation to battle the threat of losing power.

For a lot of males but certainly not all, exerting power and authority is everything and all they’ve got. I’m not suggesting any man should be faulted or ashamed for that; I think it is normal and heavily a result of situational circumstances, much like economic status and genetics. But for such individuals, their most prized, and possibly only, real ambition may be playing the role of the man of the house, the protector and deliverer of all rules.

There is a long held, popular interpretation of religious scripture that depicts man having dominion over woman and the earth, so there’s convenient biblical justification for their misogyny. How can global warming be a thing if we men have the controls? And the threat to that dominion— all this feminism, these women acquiring power— is very real.

It makes me seethe to think Thunberg is the recipient of such rotten, abusive rhetoric, but she represents a major threat to not just the creative art of denying climate science, but also the entire patriarchal structure of a modern political ideology. She has incredible power. She has captivated activists, politicians and media worldwide, and she speaks with remarkable eloquence and poignancy, not just for a young person, but for a speaker of any age and prestige. Furthermore, she is only beginning to make her impact. She will likely sharpen and strengthen her message in the years and even decades ahead.

I think of what happened to Hillary Clinton in America, beginning in the early 90’s. A powerful, intelligent, politically savvy woman with, god forbid, a promising political career ahead of her. There was an immediate and incessant campaign of hate and vitriol directed at her, much more so than her husband, and we saw in 2016 just how far that would be taken. Thunberg has a massive global movement behind her, though, so I don’t see her stopping. Thunberg is a global hero, leader and guide. I’m optimistic. But the haters and deniers will continue to exert large-scale extended tantrums because they are afraid and intimidated and that’s new territory for them.

Understanding the role of misogyny in this quagmire is important, because otherwise we just keep hurling evidence at people who are deliberately and/or unconsciously turning away from that evidence. A fairly large fraction of Americans (and other Westerners) feel as though they are under attack, that their very own precious personal livelihood and raison d’etre is in danger of being undermined and taken away from them. I think the two are very much connected and neither can be ignored or prioritized over the other. It is an infuriating battle with two fronts, and it will take a great deal of wisdom and perseverance to overcome. Electing more women to powerful political posts can only serve as a catalyst in furthering this cause.

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.