The Sky Is Falling

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little from your childhood? I think our copy was in A Little Golden Book. As I remember, it is a cautionary tale warning against jumping to conclusions based on faulty evidence, against spreading fear and creating panic, against believing everything you hear.

Chicken Little is relevant to our concerns about climate change.

Stay with me on this… I will get to the “serious” part in a minute!

Chicken Little and his warning shout “The sky is falling” has become a cliche. This is from Wikipedia:

The names of the main characters in the fable – Chicken Little/Chicken Licken and Henny Penny – and the fable’s central phrase – The sky is falling! – have been applied to people accused of being unreasonably afraid, or those trying to incite an unreasonable fear in those around them. The Merriam-WebsterDictionary records the first application of the name Chicken Little to ‘one who warns of or predicts calamity, especially without justification’ as dating from 1895,]although idiomatic use of the name significantly predates that attestation.[ Because of this association, the tale has became politicised.

Fear mongering – whether justified or not – can sometimes elicit a societal response called Chicken Little syndrome, described as “inferring catastrophic conclusions possibly resulting in paralysis”. It has also been defined as “a sense of despair or passivity which blocks the audience from actions”. The term began appearing in the 1950s and the phenomenon has been noted in many different societal contexts.

The Disney Studio made an appalling 3D animation of this a few years ago. Chicken Little (notice the glasses… the stereotype of nerdy scholar) and his outcast friends set off to save the world! The cautionary tale, valid in many contexts, was transposed to a scary and charmless “science fiction” fantasy for little kids… and their parents paid good money to take them.

Now I discover a NASA article that reports on the height of cloud cover as a feature of global warming. I had not heard of this news… Do read the report!

So how is the Chicken Little syndrome… “inferring catastrophic conclusions possibly resulting in paralysis”… affecting our response to scientific evidence of climate change and environmental degradation?

Do you feel skeptical, or hopeless about correction and change?

Will we be able to change, all of us, fast enough to matter?

Are you with, or against, Chicken Little?

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