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Don’t even think about it – why our brains are wired to ignore climate change George Marshall


This fascinating book explains very clearly why most people don’t want to think about climate change. Marshall interviewed a very wide range of people, and discusses varied reasons under many headings. The strongest message I took is that we have two sides to our brains, logical and emotional. We make decisions when both sides agree. The science appeals to our logical side, but, if we emotionally engage with it we get scared, push it away, and think about something else. We are able to do this because our brains are evolved to address threats which are near to us, in time and in space. Threats to poor people in the third world, or which are decades in the future, are not urgent, and not therefore at the forefront of our attention.

So Climate Change Communicators need to think carefully about what messages they use. On a related topic, I have seen several articles in a wide variety of publications about intrinsic and extrinsic values. The former are about such things as the common good, generosity, compassion and so on. The latter are about amassing personal wealth and status. We all have values in both areas, but 1. We get confused if we try to engage both sets at once; so advocating measures which prevent climate change and personally save money are like to confuse. We should stress one or the other. 2. Exercise of anything makes it stronger, so advocating intrinsic action, if responded to positively, makes further intrinsic action more likely, and vice versa.

So maybe climate change communicators should never appeal to people’s pockets?!?  Does this feel right or wrong to you?


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