Friday, July 18, 2008

What Aspect of the Irish 'NON' Do the Brussels & Paris Philosopher Kings Not Understand?

Check of the Irish


Washington Times

July 14, 2008

Function: adverb
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English nā, from ne not + ā always; akin to Old Norse & Old High German ne not, Latin ne-, Greek nē- — more at aye
Date: before 12th century
>1 achiefly Scottish : not b—used as a function word to express the negative of an alternative choice or possibility
>2: in no respect or degree —used in comparisons
>3: not so —used to express negation, dissent, denial, or refusal <no, I'm not going
>4—used with a following adjective to imply a meaning expressed by the opposite positive statement no uncertain terms
>5—used as a function word to emphasize a following negative or to introduce a more emphatic, explicit, or comprehensive statement no, it's gigantic
>6—used as an interjection to express surprise, doubt, or incredulity7—used in combination with a verb to form a compound adjective 8: in negation no>

[See: Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary - ]

The sky over Europe is not falling. That's the bottom line of Ireland's rejection Thursday of the Lisbon Treaty.

Of the 27 European Union member states, Ireland, the only to require a popular referendum, has usefully tested an otherwise very insulated, elite-driven expansion of EU power. It has rejected the best-laid plans of Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso and allies. At this point, the EU should realize that its long-term prospects require it to acknowledge the legitimate objections of real, actual voters. This, of course, was the same lesson that went unheeded in 2005, when France and the Netherlands issued comparable "No" votes to the EU Constitution, killing it.

In the runup to Thursday, Mr. Barroso announced with much drama that "There is no Plan B," warning of "a very negative effect for the European Union" before an audience at the European Policy Center, as if he meant it. This, it turns out, was bluster. Now he says: "I believe the treaty is alive and we should now try to find a solution."

The intended solution, which could only be described as a "Plan B," is to press on with the Lisbon Treaty anyway, with some Ireland-only modifications.

Mr. Barroso wants Ireland to resubmit the treaty for a vote once its opt-out clauses are in order. The approach suggests a belief that a treaty that fails its only popular vote faces no questions of mandate or long-term viability. The willful obtuseness here is the real danger to the EU's prospects.


Any political institution that aims for longevity must develop a healthy respect for the public will. The best ones are grounded in it. The sad truth of the EU is that its leadership has never been willing to do this. It openly disdains "the rabble." Mr. Barroso and allies try to avoid public input wherever possible, conducting end-runs around non-elite checks on their authority. They failed to learn the lessons of France and the Netherlands three years ago. This week they fail yet again.

The EU will survive, as will the integrated European economy. The real casualties this week are the credibility of those who made the direst of predictions on Wednesday but little more than 24 hours later were found pledging to carry on as if nothing had happened.

[See: Eva Brann, Plato's Impossible Polity, A review of Plato's Republic: A Study, by Stanley Rosen

["...So, first, who is this philosopher-king for whose benefit the Republic has a metaphysical center? Open the book to its middle by page count and there he is (or she, as Socrates explicitly says)—the central human figure of the dialogue, whose introduction will raise a huge wave of derision. Rosen rightly emphasizes a crucial aspect of these philosophers: they "depend upon the existence of Ideas"; their "most important qualification is to 'see' the Ideas." Accordingly, Rosen has not only explained very clearly in various places what a Platonic idea is—minimally, a formal structure necessary for identifying and speaking about things—but he has also set out lucidly what is problematic about it. He emphasizes that these structures are conceived as patterns or models, and Part III begins with a very illuminating discussion of the several meanings of Plato's term paradeigma. Thus, philosophers have non-sensual patterns to look to. But then the question is: how does that make them fit to be kings? Rosen thinks that Plato has shown only that philosophers are lovers of ideas but not at all how the ideas bestow the practical knowledge required for kingship. I would respond that the Socratic position is that to know the ideas of Courage, Temperance, and Justice is to be courageous, temperate, and just—surely a good beginning for the life of a ruler. The source of the being, growth, and knowableness of the ideas themselves is that notorious Good. It too is, I think, a defensible preoccupation for those who are to govern. Socrates presents it in a simile, a verbal image (eikon). The Good is like the sun in its being and power—except that it has no being, for it is "beyond being" (509 b). Rosen reasonably asks us to accept the idea of the Good as "intrinsic" to the intelligibility of human existence. But then he balks at the one metaphysical feature assigned to it, its "beyond-being."Yet the Good is not quite sufficiently delineated as perhaps "a set of properties of Platonic ideas," nor put aside as "too cryptic to be amenable to an entirely satisfactory explanation." The ancient tradition is that "The Good" was a name for "The One," the comprehending source of unity, the principle of "one-out-of-many," not itself a being but the unity of all beings. It is the very principle of our republic: "E pluribus unum." That is why the philosopher-kings must come to behold it; far from being useless, it is the knowledge of communities, whether of ideal beings in their ontological context or of human beings in their private friendships or in their civic associations. For the philosopher-kings, even if they have, by my notion, no city but only themselves to rule, are yet friends and fellow-citizens. Don't those of us who still teach the liberal arts (the very arts set out in the Republic's curriculum for philosopher-kings) hope to educate citizens in just that way, by asking them to think about what it means to be together as a community emerging from individuals?"]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is 'Climate Change Delusion' the Next Epidemic?

Is 'climate change delusion' the next epidemic?
News & Opinion

The Week Daily

July 10, 2008

Australian scientists recently diagnosed a 17-year-old with "climate change delusion," said Andrew Bolt in the Australian Herald Sun. "But never mind the poor boy, who became too terrified even to drink."

It's even scarier that our Government seems to "suffer" from this same condition, calling for immediate action on carbon pollution.

The backlash against evidence of climate change as fear-mongering is just "thoughtless commentary," said Scienceblog's Corpus Callosum blog. The physicians who wrote the case report were "[describing] manifestations of illness." This case is about a sick teenager, not about the extensive debate on climate change.

But it does raise questions about "green fatigue" in the general public, said Osman Aziz on The Institute for Trade, Standards, and Sustainable Development's blog.

Global warming is a reality, but we suffer from "the feeling that no matter what we do, it will never be enough."

[See: First Case of 'Climate Change Delusion' Diagnosed in Australia: Some Fear That The Nation's Political Leaders Are Also Stricken!, ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: ].

First Case of 'Climate Change Delusion' Diagnosed in Australia: Some Fear That The Nation's Political Leaders Are Also Stricken!,21985,23991257-25717,00.html
Doomed to a fatal delusion over climate change

By Andrew Bolt


July 09, 2008

PSYCHIATRISTS have detected the first case of "climate change delusion" - and they haven't even yet got to Kevin Rudd and his global warming guru.

Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Joshua Wolf and Robert Salo of our Royal Children's Hospital say this delusion was a "previously unreported phenomenon".
"A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne with an eight-month history of depressed mood . . . He also . . . had visions of apocalyptic events."

(So have Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery, Profit of Doom Al Gore and Sir Richard Brazen, but I digress.)

"The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people through exhaustion of water supplies."

But never mind the poor boy, who became too terrified even to drink. What's scarier is that people in charge of our Government seem to suffer from this "climate change delusion", too.

Here is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday, with his own apocalyptic vision: "If we do not begin reducing the nation's levels of carbon pollution, Australia's economy will face more frequent and severe droughts, less water, reduced food production and devastation of areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu wetlands."

And here is a senior Sydney Morning Herald journalist aghast at the horrors described in the report on global warming released on Friday by Rudd's guru, Professor Ross Garnaut: "Australians must pay more for petrol, food and energy or ultimately face a rising death toll . . ."
Wow. Pay more for food or die. Is that Rudd's next campaign slogan?

[See: New Australian Government's Climate Change Report Foretells Earthly Destruction in Biblical Proportions: Where is Charleton Heston When We Need Him?, ITSSD Journal on Energy Security, at: ].

Of course, we can laugh at this -- and must -- but the price for such folly may soon be your job, or at least your cash.

Rudd and Garnaut want to scare you into backing their plan to force people who produce everything from petrol to coal-fired electricity, from steel to soft drinks, to pay for licences to emit carbon dioxide -- the gas they think is heating the world to hell.

The cost of those licences, totalling in the billions, will then be passed on to you through higher bills for petrol, power, food, housing, air travel and anything else that uses lots of gassy power. In some countries they're even planning to tax farting cows, so there's no end to the ways you can be stung.

Rudd hopes this pain will make you switch to expensive but less gassy alternatives, and -- hey presto -- the world's temperature will then fall, just like it's actually done since the day Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth.

But you'll have spotted already the big flaw in Rudd's mad plan -- one that confirms he and Garnaut really do have delusions.

The truth is Australia on its own emits less than 1.5 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide. Any savings we make will make no real difference, given that China (now the biggest emitter) and India (the fourth) are booming so fast that they alone will pump out 42 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases by 2030.

Indeed, so fast are the world's emissions growing -- by 3.1 per cent a year thanks mostly to these two giants -- that the 20 per cent cuts Rudd demands of Australians by 2020 would be swallowed up in just 28 days. That's how little our multi-billions of dollars in sacrifices will matter.

And that's why Rudd's claim that we'll be ruined if we don't cut Australia's gases is a lie. To be blunt.

Ask Rudd's guru. Garnaut on Friday admitted any cuts we make will be useless unless they inspire other countries to do the same -- especially China and India: "Only a global agreement has any prospect of reducing risks of dangerous climate change to acceptable levels."

So almost everything depends on China and India copying us. But the chances of that? A big, round zero.

A year ago China released its own global warming strategy -- its own Garnaut report -- which bluntly refused to cut its total emissions.

Said Ma Kai, head of China's powerful State Council: "China does not commit to any quantified emissions-reduction commitments . . . our efforts to fight climate change must not come at the expense of economic growth."

In fact, we had to get used to more gas from China, not less: "It is quite inevitable that during this (industrialisation) stage, China's energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be quite high."
Last month, India likewise issued its National Action Plan on Climate Change, and also rejected Rudd-style cuts.

The plan's authors, the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, said India would rather save its people from poverty than global warming, and would not cut growth to cut gases.

"It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of wellbeing to its people."

The plan's only real promise was in fact a threat: "India is determined that its per capita greenhouse gas emissions will at no point exceed that of developed countries."

Gee, thanks. That, of course, means India won't stop its per capita emissions (now at 1.02 tonnes) from growing until they match those of countries such as the US (now 20 tonnes). Given it has one billion people, that's a promise to gas the world like it's never been gassed before.

So is this our death warrant? Should this news have you seeing apocalyptic visions, too?

Well, no. What makes the Indian report so interesting is that unlike our Ross Garnaut, who just accepted the word of those scientists wailing we faced doom, the Indian experts went to the trouble to check what the climate was actually doing and why.

Their conclusion? They couldn't actually find anything bad in India that was caused by man-made warming: "No firm link between the documented (climate) changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established."

In fact, they couldn't find much change in the climate at all.

Yes, India's surface temperature over a century had inched up by 0.4 degrees, but there had been no change in trends for large-scale droughts and floods, or rain: "The observed monsoon rainfall at the all-India level does not show any significant trend . . ."

It even dismissed the panic Al Gore helped to whip up about melting Himalayan glaciers: "While recession of some glaciers has occurred in some Himalayan regions in recent years, the trend is not consistent across the entire mountain chain. It is, accordingly, too early to establish long-term trends, or their causation, in respect of which there are several hypotheses."

Nor was that the only sign that India's Council on Climate Change had kept its cool while our Rudd and Garnaut lost theirs.

For example, the Indians rightly insisted nuclear power had to be part of any real plan to cut emissions. Rudd and Garnaut won't even discuss it.

The Indians also pointed out that no feasible technology to trap and bury the gasses of coal-fired power stations had yet been developed "and there are serious questions about the cost as well (as) permanence of the CO2 storage repositories".

Rudd and Garnaut, however, keep offering this dream to make us think our power stations can survive their emissions trading scheme, when state governments warn they may not.

In every case the Indians are pragmatic where Rudd and Garnaut are having delusions -- delusions about an apocalypse, about cutting gases without going nuclear, about saving power stations they'll instead drive broke.

And there's that delusion on which their whole plan is built -- that India and China will follow our sacrifice by cutting their throats, too.

So psychiatrists are treating a 17-year-old tipped over the edge by global warming fearmongers?

Pray that their next patients will be two men whose own delusions threaten to drive our whole economy over the edge as well.


From: Dr. Julius Strangepork ®
7/07/2008 2:02:40 PM
Subject: re: Garnaut Report
post id: 3679386

the actual correspondence... I hope this works...

To cite this Article: (2008) 'Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink: climatechange delusion', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42:4, 350 (April 2008), DOI: 10.1080/00048670701881603.

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink: climate change delusion

Joshua Wolf, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne and Integrated Mental Health Service, Royal Children’s Hospital and Robert Salo, Integrated Mental Health Service, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:

Clinicians caring for psychotic patients have long noted that delusional systems are determined by ideas and beliefs to which the individual has been exposed.

We describe a patient with ‘climate change delusion’, a previously unreported phenomenon.

A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with an 8 month history of depressed mood, social withdrawal, school avoidance, social anxiety, amotivation, poor concentration, anhedonia, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, insomnia, suicidal ideation and self-harm.

He also described hearing his own voice making derogatory and command statements, and had visions of apocalyptic events.

Admission was precipitated by acute deterioration in his condition consisting of increased emotional distress and suicidal behaviour.

Prior to admission he was treated with fluoxetine (40 mg day1) and olanzapine (5 mg day1).

The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of ‘millions of people’ through exhaustion of water supplies.

He quoted ‘internet research’ to substantiate this.

The patient described that ‘I feel guilty about it’, had attempted to stop drinking and had been checking for leaking taps in his home to prevent the catastrophe.

He was unable to acknowledge that the belief was unreasonable when challenged.

There was no history of substance abuse.

Physical examination was normal except for psychomotor retardation and superficial forearm lacerations.

The final diagnosis was major depressive disorder with psychotic features. He was treated with oral fluoxetine (60 mg day1), clonazepam (1.5 mg day1) and olanzapine (10 mg day1).

After several days his mood improved considerably and he denied persisting delusional beliefs.

The experience of hearing his own voice persisted, but he no longer found it as distressing.

There have been numerous reports of incorporation of contemporary phenomena, such as the internet [13], into delusional systems, but a search of Medline and Psychlit did not identify reports of delusions related to global warming.

Climate change has rapidly become a dominant issue in Australian society.

A 2007 poll found that 85% of Australians were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ concerned about climate change, significantly more than the proportion concerned about terrorism [4].

This case provides another fascinating illustration of the cultural and environmental specificity of manifestations of psychosis.


1. Tan S, Shea C, Kopala L. Paranoid schizophrenia with delusions regarding the Internet. J Psychiatry Neurosci 1997; 22:143.

2. Schmid-Siegel B, Stompe T, Ortwein-Swoboda G. Being a webcam. Psychopathology 2004; 37:845.

3. Lerner V, Libov I, Witztum E. ‘Internet delusions’: the impact of technological developments on the content of psychiatric symptoms. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci 2006; 43:4751.

4. Gyngell A. Australia and the world: public opinion and foreign policy. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2007. [Cited 22 October 2007.] Available


Corpus Callosum

July 9, 2008

The physicians who wrote the case report were doing what academic physicians always do: they describe manifestations of illness, then publish their findings. This is not meant to be a groundbreaking paper. The authors are not trying to name a new illness. In fact, this kind of thing has been described before, just not with the exact delusional content.

Such delusions can occur in mood disorders (depression with psychotic features) and thought disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder).

The content of the delusions may vary with the times. This is well known.

In the early 1950s, it was Communists. In the late 1950s, satellites. In the 1960s, lasers. And so on, for various persons with paranoia. What little we can see of the case report suggests that this particular patient had depression with psychotic features. The themes of apocalypse, death, self-deprivation, unworthiness, and guilt, all are consistent with psychotic depression. This could occur in unipolar or bipolar depression.

In such a young patient, I would be particularly worried about the possibility of bipolar depression.

However, for this particular person, it will be necessary to see how this evolves over time, in order to have much confidence in the diagnosis.

...After reading the full paper, I still think this describes depressive psychosis.

The "visions of apocalyptic events" and the checking behavior are suggesting of OCD. OCD, however, rarely attains a psychotic extent, and would not have the full set of vegetative signs.

Note also tha there is a tinge of grandiosity:

[H]is own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of 'millions of people' through exhaustion of water supplies. He quoted 'internet research' to substantiate this.

That does not change the diagnostic impression, but it does add to the worry that this could be the index episode in what later evolves into bipolar disorder.

Another notable point:

The experience of hearing his own voice persisted, but he no longer found it as distressing.

Unfortunately, that is fairly common: the hallucinations become less bothersome, quickly, but do not completely resolve for a while.

Persons with conditions such as this generally require treatment with either 1) a combination of antidepressant and an antipsychotic) or 2) ECT, to have a realistic chance of improvement.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Recurring Bouts of Eco-Nausea Triggered by False Facts, Celebrity Hypocrisy, Prophecies of Armageddon, Politicized NonScience & Lost Economic Freedom

I’m So Tired Of Being Green

One recent poll showed that American consumers are increasingly unlikely to spend money on energy-efficient goods and services.

By Susan H. Greenberg


Jun 28, 2008

I'll admit it: I am a lapsed recycler. When confronted recently with an empty jar of peanut butter, rather than soak it in hot water to remove every last smear before placing it in the recycling bin, I simply tossed the jar in the trash can (and quickly covered it with greasy paper towels to avert the wrath of my eco-fanatic husband). In my mind, I made a quick and highly unscientific calculation: saving the planet from one little plastic jar wasn't worth my time or the hot water necessary to clean it.

I may be wrong about that. But the fact is, I don't know what to believe anymore. I'm sick of everyone from Al Gore to the guy who mows my grass telling me to "go green."

I'm tired of sifting through the "eco-safe" claims of products as diverse as cleansers, cars and cookies: recycled, recyclable, reusable, organic, all-natural, environmentally friendly, environmentally preferable, environmentally safe, biodegradable, compostable, ozone-friendly, zero-carbon, carbon-neutral … the list is limited only by the imaginations of the marketing geniuses who developed it.

We are drowning in so many vague, dubious or breathlessly hyped assertions that sometimes it's easier just to throw the sticky peanut-butter jar away.

"Confusion creates inner shock," says Suzanne Shelton, CEO of the Shelton Group, a U.S. marketing firm that monitors America's environmental pulse. "And when consumers are confused, they just do nothing."

I am not alone in my green fatigue. The Shelton Group's latest study, Energy Pulse 2007, revealed that between 2006 and 2007, Americans' enthusiasm for energy-efficient products and services fell across the board. [See: Energy Pulse® 2007:Where American Consumers Stand on Renewable Energy, Conservation and Energy-Efficient Products, Services and Homes, at: ; National Survey: Consumers Face ‘Green Fatigue’ Focused on Price as Much as ‘Greenwashing’ - Energy Pulse 2007, Shelton Group Press Release (Oct. 9, 2007) at: ; ].

[“In the past few years, consumers have been bombarded by the marketing messages of companies jumping on the green-friendly bandwagon,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, which independently sponsored the study. “People are becoming much more inquiring about the bill of green goods being sold to them – not only in terms of ‘is it as ‘green’ as what they say it is?,’ but also ‘does it matter enough to me to pay extra’?” According to Shelton, ‘energy-efficient’ is consistently equated to ‘more expensive’ in the minds of consumers. “What consumers are often fatigued about in 2007 is the price differential – or at least the perceived price differential,” Shelton said. “But saying ‘save money’ when advertising an energy-efficient product isn’t necessarily good enough. Our research shows that consumers want proof..."].

Among its findings: the number of green or energy-efficient activities consumers said they participated in—such as recycling or riding a bike to work instead of driving—dropped from an average of 3.63 in 2006 to 3.0 last year. Furthermore, the number of respondents who considered energy efficiency "important/extremely important" in deciding whether to buy a product fell from 72 to 67 percent. "We are really seeing a backlash to the whole green thing," says Shelton. "We've tested environmental messaging for some clients lately, and we get a lot of eye rolls and deep sighs. We hear things like 'I'm so tired of the green label being slapped on everything,' 'I'm so tired of being guilted into being green'."

A new field, eco-psychology, has even arisen to help people cope with their mounting "eco-anxiety"—worries not just about the planet's health but also about their own environmental inadequacies. Melissa Pickett, a self-proclaimed eco-psychologist and president of the SoulWays Center for Conscious Evolution, believes it's only a matter of time before insurance companies recognize it as a treatable psychological ailment. "I compare it to PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," she says. "Years ago, there wasn't a label for it. There isn't a diagnostic label [now] for green fatigue or eco-anxiety. At some point there probably will be."

We can only hope to live so long. The growing sense of green fatigue stems in part from the feeling that no matter what we do, it will never be enough. I own a Toyota Camry hybrid, have replaced roughly a third of our light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones —though I should confess I've changed a few back to incandescent because the time delay and cold light drove me crazy—and recycle fairly religiously, hard-to-clean containers notwithstanding. Yet judging from the daily news, the earth's predicament grows only more dire: Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie has pulled out of the Olympic marathon because of Beijing's toxic pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently found that 345 of 700 American counties monitored had air quality considered unsafe to breathe. "The discussion about changing our light bulbs, about washing our laundry on a lower setting, all seem to be very petty approaches to what is being described as a great climate catastrophe," says James Panton, cofounder of the Manifesto Club, which is committed to preventing ecological disaster without limiting human potential. "Changing a light bulb isn't the way forward."

So what is? Environmental experts seem to agree that the best way to jolt consumers out of their green daze is to instigate reforms from the top down, like putting a price on carbon and including airline emissions in CO2-reduction targets. "If there were stronger infrastructural changes, then you would have a clear lead from the political and economic leadership of our society, and you won't have that kind of fatigue," says Tim Baster, executive director of the U.K.'s Climate Outreach and Information Network.


"It's individuals who get demoralized. There has to be collective action." It takes a village to recycle a peanut-butter jar. [LONG LIVE SOCIALISM!!]


Have you got green fatigue?

You recycle and buy local – but the earth's still warming and the ice cap's still melting. If you're starting to feel apathy creeping in, you're not the only one.

By Hugh Wilson

The Independent UK

20 September 2007

Recent environmental messages have made such an impact on a friend of mine that, a couple of weeks ago, he broke a four-year prohibition and walked back into Burger King. "Intensive beef production, clone town Britain, just so much blah," he said, by way of explanation. "Nobody else really seems to be doing much about it, so why should I bother?"

My friend is the embodiment of one of the great fears of the environmental lobby. Fifteen years ago, the term "compassion fatigue" indicated a general disillusionment with fund-raising concerts and famine appeals. The cause was too hopeless, governments too apathetic, and individuals too impotent. Slowly, and for similar reasons, the term "green fatigue" has started to creep into the dinner-party conversations of the composting classes.

And, if anything, with more reason. Environmental campaigners worry that individuals see their actions as largely irrelevant when set against the enormity of global climate change. While famine appeals parade a simple, striking message – send a tenner, save a child – no such easy cause and effect exists for global warming. By contrast, the solutions to climate change seem hugely complex and controversial.

"The problems we face are of a magnitude no one has seen in at least two generations," says Alex Steffen, the executive editor of WorldChanging, a website and book that promote innovative solutions for sustainable living. "The scale of the actions people are being told to take by green consumerism groups and businesses, on the other hand, are so small as to seem meaningless. I think that more and more people see this widening gulf and lose hope."

And if we're not all losing hope just yet, many of us are becoming increasingly cynical. To campaigners, that's not surprising. As Steffen suggests, businesses have turned environmentalism into a marketing strategy. A new term, "green-washing", describes companies that paint a superficial green gloss on conventional business practices. When firms such as BP and Wal-Mart parade their environmentally friendly credentials, scepticism is not only inevitable, says Steffen, it's "a necessary antidote".

At least the green lobby can count on celebrities to spread the message. Unfortunately, the message too often seems to be, "do as I say, not as I do". Celebrity is an intrinsically unsustainable condition. The reaction to the Live Earth concerts – which prompted as much debate on the carbon footprint of the A-listers who'd been chauffeured in for the occasion as the campaign they were there to endorse – showed the insidious spread of green fatigue.

It could have been worse. In the States, Sheryl Crow's "Stop Global Warming College Tour" was panned for stipulating parking for three tractor-trailers, four buses and six cars. John Travolta recently urged the British public to "do their bit" to combat global warming after flying in on his private Boeing 707, and got trounced in the press for his efforts. None of this is likely to keep the public on side in the long run – and countering climate change is likely to be a very long run indeed. [GREEN HYPOCRISY BREEDS CONSUMER SKEPTICISM & GREEN FATIGUE.]

Even the pronouncements of more committed celebrities can seem, well, a little misjudged. A new book, edited by the socialite and former model Sheherazade Goldsmith, the wife of the Ecologist editor Zac, advises concerned greens to keep geese and make their own goat's cheese. As my sceptical friend said: "The goose can stay on the balcony, but I doubt you'd call it free-range."

Of course, many celebrities and businesses now offset their carbon emissions by paying for trees to be planted in sustainable forests or investments made in green energy projects. But "magic bullet" solutions to climate change are quickly losing their sheen. Recent investigations – including a widely trailed Dispatches programme on Channel 4 – question the effectiveness of carbon offsetting and suggest that it might even be counterproductive.

Some environmentalists worry that carbon offsetting promotes the idea that if you throw a few quid at the problem you can carry on as normal. According to Michael R Solomon, the author of Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having and Being: "Consumers are always going to gravitate toward a more parsimonious solution that requires less behavioural change. We know that new products or ideas are more likely to be adopted if they don't require us to alter our routines very much."

Unfortunately, most environmentalists agree that altering our routines quite fundamentally is the only real way to save the planet. Meanwhile, another "magic bullet" solution – and one that would also allow many of us to carry on pretty much as normal – is coming in for unexpected criticism: a recent study has suggested that any widespread uptake of biofuels in Europe could decimate Asian rainforests.

What all this adds up to, experts fear, is a recipe for disillusionment and – eventually – disengagement. Psychologically, we're primed to walk away from problems that are too complex to understand and too difficult to solve, and we'll break into a run if we think cynical marketers and self-publicising celebrities are jumping on a green bandwagon. And green campaigners who think a deluge of apocalyptic information will cut through our cynicism are probably mistaken.

"In an information-filled world, people screen heavily what new information they let in, and I suspect that the run-of-the-mill global-warming story is just not crossing the threshold," says the climate scientist Dr Susanne Moser, the co-author of Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change. By run-of-the-mill, she means those all-too-familiar stories about melting ice shelves or endangered species. "Thinking about a global, complex, challenging, and potentially very dangerous and disastrous thing and not knowing what to do about it makes us go numb or into denial."

The antidote to numbness and denial is a sense of progress, of things getting better. But in the fight against climate change, progress is hard to come by. Moser uses the analogy of a diet. How long would you stay on a diet that demanded stringent effort over a prolonged period and promised only that that your weight gain might slow down a bit? Let's face it, it wouldn't make the cover of Grazia.

She also admits that "we have terribly failed our audience" by focusing on apocalyptic scenarios and complex science. Instead, one key factor in keeping people enthused in the fight against climate change will be local, collective action, she says.

"Why do people go to Alcoholics Anonymous, or to Weight Watchers? Because in a group of like-minded people they have the support, accountability, peer pressure and the shared experience of others to help make the change. They also have opportunities to come together, check on progress, and get support around setbacks. That's what we need for climate change – to recover from our fuel addiction."

Progress on a small and local scale – such as saving a beloved local shop, voting in a councillor who will push green issues, or increasing local recycling rates – and even a desire to keep up with the Joneses ("if everybody's ditching the gas-guzzler, I'll do it, too") are far more effective motivators than media-inspired guilt and vague fears of an uncertain future, she adds.

Alex Steffen also believes in the need for a local, community focus. But he says that we need to be honest about the scale of the changes that have to be made, and to counter green fatigue by imbuing the fight against climate change with an almost heroic spirit.

"I don't think we need to sugar-coat the challenges we face," he says. "We just need to ask people to rise to their real potential, and see that this is our moment for greatness. If we create a sustainable future for everyone, it will be an accomplishment as great as winning the Second World War.

"Many environmentalists assume people won't do anything more than small steps, and hope those small steps will build the political will for more substantive changes. But history has shown a thousand times that "regular" people are capable of extraordinary courage, dedication and ingenuity when asked to answer the call. It's time we put out that call, rather than another marketing pitch."

The small actions that can make a big difference

* You've heard it before, but changing to energy-efficient light bulbs really can make a difference. Lighting uses 20 per cent of the world's electricity, the equivalent of burning 600,000 tons of coal a day. Phasing out old bulbs would avoid the release of 700 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.

* Shop local. If your food shopping amounts to £100 a week, that's £5,200 a year that could be going into the pocket of a local butcher, grocer and baker, rather than the supermarket till. Imagine if 100 people in your area had the same idea.

* Is recycling really worth it? Yes. Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours. Glass can be reused an infinite number of times. Think of all the jars recycled in your street in a year.

* Recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water.

* Turning your thermostat down by two degrees can save 2,000 pounds of carbon every year.

Just imagine if everyone in your family and everyone in your office did it.