A shockwave went through environmental thinking community. Navid Rakotofala, a Madagasy student, fooled everybody by creating outrageous anti-GMO posters which environmentalists reproduced uncritically, even when they expressed inhuman and offensive ideas.
His mentor told him that environmentalists would accept almost anything regardless of the scientific process: “they often seem more interested in promoting their views regardless of whether the science is behind them or whether people will actually be helped by what they are advocating”. Wanting to evaluate this, Navid created a blog with a fake project: “March Against Monsanto” (MAM) in which he claimed he was acting against Monsanto. He made signs with some offensive text with no factual truth in it, like the sign “I would rather go blind than eating golden rice” (golden rice is a GM rice with a higher contents of beta-carotene). Or nonsensical things like “Monsanto Kills & Eats Baby Lemurs for Profit”. He gave the signs to his friends and put the pictures online. He was surprised to see those pictures were indeed uncritically shared among each other.
Of course, it could always be a double prank, but I must admit that I understand what has happened here. It is an emotional thing. Been there too. There is no regard for the science because that is not where their interest lies.
That is not difficult to understand. People only have so many things they are willing to put their energy in. For example, I am interested in computers, so I am eager to put energy into it. Other people are more into cars and will be able to tweak and fix their car. Still others are into climbing rocks, making woodcraft, gardening and so on.
If I want a computer I buy parts and put them together. I wouldn’t mind the challenge or the time. But if I would have a car I wouldn’t even consider fixing or upgrading it. I would certainly mind putting energy into it.
Environment/climate is a complex matter and few have the willingness and time to even check basic facts. But it is also a emotional issue that moves people who aren’t willing to understand what is at hand.
The idea behind this is trust. Trust that someone looked into something and found a problem, a horrible problem, and reported it honestly to the world. Whether it being a Madagasy student who supposedly acts against GMO’s or a climate scientist who spreads doom and gloom in the media.
The masses are moved by emotions. Environmentalism and global warming, both are brought in a very dramatic format and will have a strong effect.
That is where the consensus is coming in. To reach the masses and squeeze them into action, you need their trust. When they trust they can even speak out in the name of science without having the basic background on the issue. They can for example claim the science is solid without having to understand the basics. Then you don’t need to understand the science. Just trust someone did the thinking for you.
That why the “consensus” is defended so frantically among those who are alarmed. Without a consensus no trust. Without trust no action.