The psychology of becoming the change you wish to see



“Empathy and global mindedness are cultural variables. We can strengthen synapses between caring for far away people and situations, the same way we learn new instruments or language.” Susan Greenfield, in The Burning Question (Berners-Lee and Clark)

In The Burning Question a great analogy is used that compared the concept of social inertia to what happens in the event of a fire:

When a fire alarm goes off we don’t look around trying to see the smoke to determine whether or not they need to evacuate a building. We follow what we are taught to do. Therefore when applying this to climate change. The lack of action is caused by the continuation of business as usual by those in charge. I.e- politicians. If they were to make it the norm to live less environmentally destructive lifestyles. To incorporate the real-time repercussions of things they buy and things they do in their daily lives, then it would be the norm. People wouldn’t be questioning if climate change was actually happening, they would accept it and behave accordingly.

Kahan in his book, Why are we poles apart on climate change?, believes that people’s beliefs on climate change reflects who they are as a person. People whose beliefs are contest with the accepted narrative that exists in society today risk being labelled as either obnoxious or strange. Either way, so often people swallow their real opinions on how things should be to avoid jeopardizing relationships with those that they actually rely on for financial support.

When it comes to climate change, we aren’t dealing with a binary concept here, despite the need for numbers in business terms. We are looking at the preservation of a planet upon which the health of it is crucial to our own health. Numbers are important, yes, but extract yourself from the true subject and you are disengaging yourself from the connection necessary to get people to stand up and actively change the problems around them.

The numbers create a feeling of overwhelming and apathy to do anything.

‘The problems too massive’…or the lack of foresight for the power that lots of individuals can have;

’We’re doomed, may as well live well while we can.’

Then there is the lack of attachment to fellow humans and your own doings having a knock-on effect; ’it’s their own government’s job to help them’. We are all intertwined, we all live on the same planet! …

This then unfortunately evolves into ’they’re too far away for me to care’…

This is probably the most ignorant of arguments as climate change problem will undoubtedly affect people worldwide.

The global climate crisis has also been observed creating a closer knit global community. The issues affecting the most remote islands in the Pacific Ocean may have otherwise not been known of without the headlines of their imminent peril of rising sea levels. The people of Papua New Guinea and the recent droughts that have meant school closures are occurring rapidly due to food and water shortages.

Furthermore, a rise in awareness to humanitarian crises has also been prevalent with the mass inequality and poverty that’s swathed across much of South America with a push to develop in countries such as Brazil with hydropower to source electricity as the expense of ancient tribes. The destructive impacts that our consumptions of industrial scale crop production and the meat industry can no longer be ignored. Even if knowing the environmental impacts is not enough to jump start people into action surely witnessing the people who are engulfed in the destruction and failing to act would be an act of atrocious cold heartedness to fellow human beings.

“It’s not my problem’, ’It won’t affect me’ and ‘It costs too much’. These excuses are made by people yet to realise that they can do something to address any of the social and environmental problems of today. To bring in the economic element is an interesting topic.

Essentially the economic system is simply a medium through which the root cause of social unrest and inequality stems. The environment is the backdrop to which humans function with or without an economic structure, humankind depend on nature to literally survive and we cannot continue our lifestyles of constant consumption without a ‘place’ to get our stuff from. This ‘place’ is earth and as we cannot simulate nature well enough to justify technology as a way out of all our mess. It has been tried already,just watch the video below.

To fail to act, according to the formal economic models, the overall costs and risks of climate change will equate to a loss of 5% global GDP annually. If the wider risks and secondary impacts of change are taken into account, estimates of damage could rise further to 20% GDP or more…
In contrast, to take action and reduce GHGs, clean up our act and make the world socially just then we can avoid the worse impacts of climate change, the global GDP spend could be limited to 1% of global GDP annually. Acting now makes sense, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Although encouragement from one may be the only way we can shake everyone into action…


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