Socially Constructed Silence

1) A tacit agreement not to talk about a particular subject.

2) A way to avoid a topic or make denial a social norm.

3) A way to make the repression of thoughts about a topic a default behavior so that the avoidance of that topic can continue indefinitely.

A socially constructed silence is a social norm where the avoidance of a topic is established through a variety of cues. People are afraid to violate this social norm and so the silence on the topic is upheld.

What Are Your Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others.

2) You can alert others to the existence of the socially constructed silence on a topic.

3) Because the social cues that impose this silence are tacit, you can choose to be oblivious of them and discuss the topic as though doing so were not a taboo but, in fact, justified by the importance of the topic.

Disinformation Campaign

1) An effort to deprive human beings of knowledge so that they cannot see what choices are available to them.

2) A tactic used to prevent people from making decisions based on the facts or in their best interests because the facts are withheld from them, cast in doubt or buried in lies.

3) An effort by an entity or company to mislead or confuse the public about the consequences of the company’s actions in order to destroy any resistance to those actions.

4) A ploy by a company or entity to conceal harm or risks imposed on the public or to ecosystems; a way to increase informational asymmetries between the company and the public.

The purpose of lies and misinformation is to deprive people of choices.
The purpose of lies and misinformation is to deprive people of choices.

For example, cigarette makers were aware for decades of the dangers of smoking but claimed in public that smoking was safe. This disinformation distorted public policy in order to guard their profits.

Another example is the actions of Exxon. Exxon, whose own scientists warned as early as 1989 of the catastrophic consequences of increased CO2 levels and greenhouse gases (caused by the burning of fossil fuels), funds organizations that run campaigns of disinformation whose purpose is to sew doubt in the public’s mind about the existence or dangers of the warming of the planet. Doubt in the public about the dangers of greenhouse gases has delayed action against this threat.

One report showed that Exxon gave, despite knowing the dangers of climate change, almost $16 million from 1998 to 2005 to organizations who sought to discredit the scientific evidence related to climate change and convince the public that climate change was a hoax. Exxon also spends (if the company’s 2010 expenditure is typical) between $100 million and $300 million a year in advertising. Media companies are the beneficiaries of much of this expenditure.

See also risk asymmetryinstitutional pathology and media.

Institutional Pathology

1) The inability of an institution, or the people running that institution, from ceasing to do what they know to be harmful and destructive.

2) It is where a manager’s duty to a company or organization outweighs all other concerns, including his or her concerns about the viability of the planet to support the human beings and the other species that now reside on it. It is duty to an institution being stronger than anything outside of that institution, including the concerns for his or her own family.

3) It is the mixture, among those running an institution, of a) the knowledge by those running an institution that their actions and decisions cause harm to the living systems of the planet and b) the inability or unwillingness to halt that destruction.

The duty of a manager of a corporations is definite and unqualified: it is to serve the interests of the corporation—increasing profits, avoiding risks, perceiving threats, acting so that the company is unfettered in its growth and its plans to secure profits for its owners. Furthermore, institutions often defend themselves at all costs. A company has no investment in anything but itself and so sees no cost as too great to preserve itself and its source of financial support. In short, a manager is often a servant to an entity that is indifferent to what it destroys.

This pathology results in a dilemma for managers of those institutions. It is the dilemma of being torn between their duty to the institution and their feelings of obligation towards others and toward the planet’s living systems—as well as toward the lives of future generations. One response to this dilemma may be denial among the group of people running the institution or even a culture of silence surrounding these concerns. Another response to this ambivalence may to be to adopt destruction as a social norm by subsuming it into an ideology which gives a different meaning to the act and holds it as a virtue.


What Are Your Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others.

2) Require corporations make public all internal and commissioned studies about the environmental impacts of their actions.

3) Subject managers of corporations who violate environmental regulations to criminal prosecution and change the law so they are not insulated from the consequences of their actions.

4) Make a company’s owners and shareholders financially liable for the actions of the managers they hire to run the company or institution.

5) Alter the legal framework of companies so that the legal and ethical responsibility to ecosystems and those outside of the company are equal or greater than the legal and ethical responsibility to their employer.

See also Risk Asymmetry.


A pollutant entering the digestive systems and blood streams of a wide variety of fish, reptiles and mammals, including sapiens.

The chemicals used to produced plastics are absorbed by organisms on the bottom of the food chain and enter the systems of many, if not most, living species. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 93 percent of the population had detectable levels of BPA, a hormone disruptor, in their urine. Also, plastic from landfills seep into the groundwater and are then consumed in drinking water.

See the video: When did we become a plastic society?

What Are My Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others and tell others about the environmental and health costs of plastic use.

2) Support legislation for a plastic tax to be paid by producers and sellers of single-use plastics (such as food containers and shopping bags).

3) Do not use plastic bags at the grocery store or plastic utensils for take-out food. Use reusable shopping bags, water bottles and utensils.

4) Ask your political representatives to increase restrictions on pollution, such as BPA, from chemical manufacturers.

5) Hold plastic producers financially responsible, with fines or penalties, for plastic pollution.

6) Ask your grocery store and local merchants to use bio-degradable plastic or reusable materials as opposed to plastic.

The Public Trust Doctrine

The public trust doctrine is the principle (which began with the Roman Empire and later become common law in the England and the United States) that the air, sea, water and other natural resources is the common property of the public and is to be held in trust for the public.

The responsibility for holding these resources in trust for the public is, according to the doctrine, to lie with the state or nation. This requires states to prevent the loss or destruction of these resources that might result from pollution or from company turning that publicly-owned resource into a commodity for sale or profit.

This principle can be expanded to hold that these resources must be held in trust not only for those living today but those who will be living in the future.

This doctrine stands in contradiction to a number of common government practices, such as allowing companies to redirect water supplies for its own use, granting resource exploitation rights in public lands such as parks and allowing companies to dump waste from their operations into the air or bodies of water.


1) A numerical value human beings place on a thing to draw it into the human sphere; a way for human beings to see a thing on their terms.

2) A way label all things and dismiss all that people don’t know about them as irrelevant; a practice of reductionism.

3) A way to conceal what we don’t know about a thing and its role in an ecosystem, its mechanics and it history; a way to push away our anxiety about our lack of knowledge about a thing.

4) A way for people to feel important and confident in their mastery over the planet and in their place in the universe.

5) A way to subordinate all things on the planet and see them only in terms of their short term utility to a human being.

Zero Carbon Energy Certification Label

A label on a product that certifies that no carbon-based fuel (oil, gas, coal) was used to manufacture the product. This label allows people, when making a purchase, to select products made using only sustainable energy sources, thereby directing money away from C02 intensive products and giving manufacturers incentives to reduce pollution.


1) A person who, by shaping people’s tastes for certain types of buildings, establishes a demand for ecologically-friendly houses.

2) A person whose expertise allows them to design buildings compatible with the planet’s ecosystems (both minimizing destruction of habitats and minimizing fuel and resource use).

3) A person capable of designing houses and buildings that do not require energy to heat or cool them, and understands how to reduce the typical inputs (heating fuel, electricity and water) and outputs (waste) of a building.

A significant portion of annual CO2 emissions (as much as 40%) are from the heating of homes. However, it is now possible to build homes and buildings which do not require any type of heating appliance (even in cold climates). The cost of constructing these homes and buildings are approximately equivalent to buildings which use oil, propane, natural gas, electricity or wood burning to heat them.


Fossil Energy Capital Gains Tax

A special capital gains tax that is applied only to the sale of equities (shares of a company’s stock) of companies in the fossil fuel energy sector.

This tax is an incentive for investors to divest from oil, coal and gas energy companies, as it will make these investments less profitable to these investors. The divestment of funds from these companies speeds the transition of the energy sector toward wind, solar and tidal energy sources. The proceeds from the fossil energy capital gains tax can be used to invest in the infrastructure necessary for this transition.

This special capital gain tax is a device designed after the principle that it is wrong for investors to profit from the destruction of the atmosphere.

A window of time before the start date of this special capital gains tax would allow the current holders of these stocks to divest without penalty.