To provoke reactions I will call ‘thought enablers’ of climate inaction ‘crocodiles’. I am not accusing some people of being crocodiles. I am accusing the ‘meme’ or ‘thought enabler’. Those ‘memes’ swim in ideologies that foster inaction. Like ‘genes’ they fight for relevance and procreation. One ‘croc’ is the deity of technology. We don’t need to act, because inventions by smart scientists can fix the problem. Is this 21stcentury arrogance? Another ‘croc’ is loyalty to belief systems either political or religious that promote the defence of the status quo in old tired political parties or ‘we don’t need to do anything since a higher power is in control’. Or the croc of “I don’t need to do anything because whatever I do won’t matter because the corporations control things.” These three ‘crocs’ swim in a pool of people who reinforce each other with the belief that personal action is not required. People are social and want to be included in the conventional wisdom of the group. Memes of the ‘status quo’ control them.
Many of the ‘crocodiles are risk-memes’ that inhibit action, and swim in pools of risk; functional risk ( Will new green innovations really work?); physical risk ( Is the electric car, crash safe etc.,? ); financial risk ( How long is the payback period for my higher cost?); social risk ( If I decide to only ride to work, will others deride me as a tree hugger?); psychological risk ( Will I be rebuked by significant others or colleagues for making a green choice?; temporal risk ( what if I am wasting my time thinking about that stuff when I could be???”); spacial risk ( I don’t want a wind turbine in my neighbourhood – the ‘nimby syndrome’). From R. Gifford <journals.sagepub.com>
We need to wrestle these ‘crocodile’ memes with ‘life saving memes’; save our grandchildren; look at photos of our blue planet from space – treasure it; love of nature-stop extinctions; the importance of life sustaining water; if I cannot afford an electric car, car share, use public transit, stop flying; reasons to eat less meat; be proud of wanting to conserve life on Earth, while accepting some inconveniences. Value hard work to accomplish sacred work of preserving life. See peace as life affirming, that it demands attention and remediation of our human industrial footprint; that peace is not just the opposite of human warfare.
So with all these risk ‘crocodiles’ swimming with us is there any hope for climate action? Here is what I think.
No. There is no hope since humans need to ‘hit bottom’ before they perceive that change is necessary; think of gun laws and violence in the USA, or of the levee that is only built after a flood, or cross walks put in only after too many deaths.
Or, maybe, if psychologists and other social scientists are able to effectively lead a campaign to overcome the psychological ‘crocodile memes’ , the barriers of climate inaction. This will require improving education about climate change, but most importantly, the designing, implementing, and evaluating of more effective interventions; and working with other experts and policy makers.
Or yes, if we tame the crocodiles of risk by opposing them with life affirming memes via a psychologically tweaked education; yes, if an international cohort of youth, energized by the truth about extinctions, apply tried, tested, and trusted peaceful acts of civil disobedience – when necessary – to convince policy makers to act now, to protect the interconnected threads of planetary life; and, if a significant cohort of elders stand forth.
Wally du Temple