Why we struggle to act on climate change.

Why we struggle to act on climate change.
 Why we struggle to act on climate change. Paddy O Sullivan on Unsplash

Emilio Muñoz and Jesús Rey have recently spoken about an "environmental pandemic." They are designed to encourage action to mitigate climatic change, like many people who write on the subject.

The authors invite reflections on the potential adverse effects on our biological and social development of global warming. But is such a strategy effective, and can reflection just spur us to action?


The Attention Problem


The first step to galvanize climate change action is to focus on it. As people who are involved in publicity or general communication know, it is not easy. Our automatic responses can best be found in the most effective mechanisms: a loud sound, a flamboyant look, and some sharp words.


The problem is that at times the surprise or shock will wear out. You have to increase the level of stimulus because the threshold for sensitivity increases. A new and profitable discipline, cryptology, was therefore developed to deal with the tedious task of retaining attention.


But attention is not sufficient to address the climate crisis: interest must also be stimulated.


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Interest Boundaries


The RAE dictionary says that you can understand that you want, first, "to give someone a share in a business or business in which they have usefulness or interest" and secondly "to get someone involved or interested in the business or interests of others as if they were own." The RAE dictionary states that


We must know that we are part of climate change, that it affects us to be of interest to us. This is why most of the texts on this topic have their effects. These texts are often labeled as catastrophic as the consequences are negative.


Everyone tends to avoid news that we find unpleasant or that invites us to change our customs so that our concern for climate change ends where our disgust is beginning.


Inertia's importance


It is necessary to know the reality but not sufficient to change it. We all know that they should practice regularly, that they should spend 7 or 8 hours a day, that they must comply with traffic regulations and not leave things at the last minute. Why do we not do that? Why do we not? Because action means a series of resistances to be overcome.


Abandoning routine practices that have worked throughout our lives is very expensive and it is time to invest a lot of time (if only because of the donations) in the knowledge about such a complex situation as climate change.


Moreover, as Dan Ariely has shown, we tend to be passive in general. Changing when we do well is understood as an economic choice, and so usually we don't do it without worrying about a misfortune (as in the hackneyed example of the Queen of Hearts in Through the Looking Glass).


Fear, engine, and brake


To change is necessary the fear of becoming worse. There is very limited capacity for the mobilization of the threat, but rational fear is essential.


There is no reason for preventive action without some fear (not panic or terror). These are the findings of Tobias Bosch's recent research on the University of Geneva. And from where other than from knowledge can reasonably fear to arise?


Conclusion: no shortcuts are available


Whatever we try to look for, no tricks or easy ways to tackle climate change are available. Without a combination of information, reflection, fear, and excitement, it is impossible to alleviate complex problems. It takes time, effort, and worse, we need to change our customs, which often involves a certain amount of suffering.


Today's climate is, however, an opportunity to improve our environment with simple actions in addition to the uncomfortable and complicated problem. 


There is no need for other acts to work each act. Everybody can do something if he or she wishes, because climate change is not natural, even though complex, it is not imposed on us, but it is a product of our actions.


Everyone can become a brake on air contamination in that they take certain simple and continuous actions: travel reduction, consumption of local products, recycling, energy production through non-combustion processes, etc. 


The final result is indeed dependent on the participation of other agents, but individual actions must be relevant and beneficial to us without adding action by others (even if this contributes to a greater good).


There are no shortcuts to addressing climate change: only the long road to success collectively and satisfaction for individuals. It takes interest and knowledge to travel this path. It's not enough for them, but there is no way without them. So so many of the articles which have been published here are essential.


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