American author and occasional politician Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. once famously observed that:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
Nowhere is the truth of this observation more clearly seen than in Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s recent dismissal of climate change as:
“Complete and utter rubbish!”
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Countrywide, O’Leary went on to heap scorn on scientists and campaigners concerned about climate change:
“They remind me of these people who used to hang around the market squares 2,000 years ago, saying the end of the world is nigh. You go back to London in the 18th century, they all thought they were going to die of smog.”
But then – to use a line made famous by Mandy Rice-Davies – he would say that wouldn’t he. After all, as the CEO of a commercial airline, to say otherwise would be to admit that he more than most people alive today is responsible for bringing about changes to the climate that at best threaten our civilisation and at worse may wipe humanity off the face of the earth.
Interestingly, O’Leary goes on to use what psychologists would call a “displacement device”:
“If you’re concerned about these issues, the obvious one is more nuclear fuel, but you ask the likes of Mary Robinson, the climate change justice mob, and they recoil in horror because it’s not trendy or liberal.”
In effect he is claiming that climate change cannot be real because we cannot or will not shift to alternative forms of electricity generation. This, of course, does not follow logically. There is plenty of evidence for people believing in climate change but failing to act on the belief. It is entirely possible – indeed, most likely – that humanity will soon face the double whammy of insufficient energy (including from nuclear and fossil carbon fuels) and runaway climate change. The two are not mutually exclusive and it is a measure of human stupidity that we are currently failing to adapt to either looming crisis.
Like the majority of people in Western civilisation, O’Leary refuses to accept that anything that stands in the way of his way of life can possibly be real:
“This nonsense that we’ll have to cut back on beef consumption or all become vegans or start riding bicycles is not the way forward.”
The problem, however, is that by continuing to engage in such energy-consuming and habitat-destroying activities as the commercial air travel that O’Leary’s salary depends upon, in the near future we may discover that riding a bike and eating vegan food will have become a luxury many can only aspire to.