Constructive dissent or destructive consent? #howyoucansleep

How does any of us sleep? How do we sleep while the planet burns around us, while the chances for a tolerable old age for people now children (let alone unborn generations) are boiled away in a frenzy of apathy and bullshit as usual?  How do we tell our children – if we have them – that we are doing our best to make Manchester etc sustainable? How do we sleep during the sixth great extinction?

I don’t know. But I suppose, as Alice Walker said, activism is the rent you pay for living on this screwed-over planet. And activism worthy of the name is about ‘constructive dissenting.’ It is not about ‘destructive consenting’, about being a fig leaf for whatever the powerful want to do today. You know who you are.

“While at the individual level this involves changing attitudes, mental models and cognitive frames (see for example Kahneman and his colleagues suggestion about using ‘mental bias’ checklists before important decisions; Kahneman et al., 2011), at the social-psychological level this implies the formal or informal institutionalization of the norm of ‘constructive dissenting’ instead of the ‘destructive consenting’ (Grint, 2005b) characterizing many of our institutions today.
(Kiraly et al. 2017: 141)


Grint, K., 2005b. Leadership: Limits and Possibilities. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Kahneman, D., Lovallo, D., Sibony, O., 2011. Before you make that big decision. Harvard
Business. Review. 89, 50-60.

Kiraly, G. Koves, A. and Balazs, B. 2017. Contradictions between political leadership and systems thinking. Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 140, (1), pp.134-143.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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3 Responses to Constructive dissent or destructive consent? #howyoucansleep

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Sidebar: I don’t know if the Kahneman citation above is involved in the questions that have been raised about some of the research he relied on for his book. But if you’re interested in checking, I recently stumbled on this: ‘How a Pioneer in the Science of Mistakes Ended Up Mistaken’
    excerpt: ‘The replication crisis in psychology does not extend to every line of inquiry, and just a portion of the work described in Thinking, Fast and Slow has been cast in shadows. Kahneman and Tversky’s own research, for example, turns out to be resilient. ‘

  2. Sam Gunsch says:


    David Roberts’ excerpt: ‘One of the morbidly fascinating aspects of climate change is how much cognitive dissonance it generates, in individuals and nations alike.

    The more you understand the brutal logic of climate change — what it could mean, the effort necessary to forestall it — the more the intensity of the situation seems out of whack with the workaday routines of day-to-day life. It’s a species-level emergency, but almost no one is acting like it is. And it’s very, very difficult to be the only one acting like there’s an emergency, especially when the emergency is abstract and science-derived, grasped primarily by the intellect.

    This psychological schism is true for individuals, and it’s true for nations. Take the Paris climate agreement.’

  3. Sam Gunsch says:

    FWIW Kevin Anderson is cited here re reality:

    excerpt: ‘1) In the event that massive carbon sequestration proves infeasible, avoiding dangerous climate change will require an immediate and precipitous decline in global carbon emissions over a decade or two. Given that most present-day economic activity is driven by fossil fuels, it would mean, at least temporarily, a net decline in economic activity. No one wants to discuss this, except climate scientist Kevin Anderson:’

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