By Eileen Peck
wonder if others have had the same experiences as myself – coming
across normally well-informed and caring people who don’t want to
talk about global heating, and my feelings of anxiety when I try to
bring up what seems to be a taboo subject? Not something to be
mentioned in polite conversation!
If I hadn’t read George Marshall’s insightful ‘Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change’ I would have struggled to understand just why so many of my caring and intelligent friends, even (dare I say it?), in the environment movement, feel ambivalent about XR. Why are they asking ‘Do they really need to be stopping ordinary people from getting to work?’
Why are so many going along with ideas (promoted, of course, by mainstream media) such as ‘This action will only impact on ordinary people, not those at the top’ and ‘Emma Thompson is a hypocrite flying in to support the protest.’ And, most importantly how do we encourage people to look at the emergency seriously and support the brave action being taken by the rebels?
‘Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change’ helped me to understand that the difficulty in perceiving the imminent danger of global heating arises from our primitive brain’s inability to see the bigger picture. The analogy is drawn with primitive man needing to worry about the tiger at the cave door before giving any attention to the bigger picture further afield.
And, don’t those
who want to keep us from looking too closely at the ‘bigger
picture’ ensure that we are kept busy with many tigers at the door:
Gloom and doom pervade our mainstream media; terrorism and wars,
crime and strife are our regular diet. The BMA even coined the phrase
‘The politics of fear’ which is seen as making people ill. We go
about our daily lives dealing with getting ourselves to work, the
children to school, paying the bills and generally dealing with the
stresses and strains of everyday life. Global heating is low down on
most people’s priorities. If we do start to think about it, we come
close to feeling powerless and overwhelmed. How well I know those
If ‘Don’t Even Think About It’ has given me some insight into why conversations often steer clear of climate change, Matthew Crawford’s in ‘The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction’ sees our ‘distractibility’ in the modern world as the mental equivalent of obesity. ‘Distractibility’ is fed by a constant stream of stimuli in the same way that obesity comes from being fed junk food.
Since reading about ‘distractability’ I’ve become ever more aware of the deluge of information under which I seem to be buried daily. I’m constantly distracted by adverts in every available space: the back of car park tickets, popping up on computer screens, even inside toilet doors when I go for a wee!
Yuval Harari in his ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ sees clarity as power and that censorship works not by blocking the flow of information but rather by flooding people with disinformation. ‘What happens now?’ ‘What should we pay attention to?’ He says: ‘We can’t take on all these pressing questions – we have to go to work, look after the children. The future of humanity is decided in your absence.’
it is that conversations usually centre around holidays and everyday
domestic problems, while the questions often asked are ‘Is it is
really necessary to disrupt people getting to work?’ and ‘Aren’t
there other ways to bring the government to get them to do what is
necessary to tackle climate change?’
The problem is that ‘other ways’ have been tried. I hope I’ve got this right but I understand that:
• International conferences have been held and agreements on cutting carbon emissions have been made and broken. Even the US, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, quit the Paris agreement.
• The UK government passed the Climate Change Act in 2008 which made the UK the first country to establish a long-term legally binding framework to cut carbon emissions. The UK government crow about their success at reducing carbon emissions but from my car-clogged corner of S E Essex I wonder just how this can be true. Then I notice the convey of freight-carrying container ships making their way up to the Thames to the Dubai deep port in Essex and have a light-bulb moment: Yes, our domestic manufacturing industry has been destroyed so our ‘stuff’ is now made in China and other overseas countries. We import goods and export carbon emissions!
• The UK government which says it is committed to reducing carbon emissions even gives the go-ahead to a new coal mine and to fracking.
the face of this inaction what else can we do? With the power of the
fossil fuel industry dictating to governments and calling the tune
worldwide, I reckon that to deal with a drastic emergency, drastic
action is required which is why I’m behind XR.
All I think is ‘Thank goodness for XR, why has it been such a long time coming?!’