The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

How Close To Climate Crisis Are We?

How close to climate crisis are we?  Some argue, like Paul Kingsnorth, that we have already passed the tipping point and that the best we can do is to hold a wake.  Once an environmental activist, Kingsnorth now refrains from talking about “saving the planet,” focusing instead on what we can do in the face of the crisis.  Others remain firmly of the belief that things will get better, that we can retreat from the impending crisis.  Both of these perspectives suggest we are very close to climate crisis – one believing the crisis has happened, the other that it is near.

There is another way of asking, and answering the question: how close to climate crisis are we?  That is to ask it from the perspective of our individual and collective psychology.

Perhaps the first book (and research) to be published alerting the world to the limits to growth was -The Limits to Growth,1 published in 1972.  Tellingly, the first figure in that book (on p19 of more than 200 pages) was one that looked like the following:

People’s concerns lie somewhere in this time/space continuum.  For most people their concerns are close to home; for their family, friends, and perhaps local community.  Their concerns are for the near future; getting the kids to school today, or next months annual holiday.  The further out from the immediate local environment we go, the less the number of people with concerns.  Similarly, the further into the future we venture, the less the number of people concerned.

This understanding is pertinent to climate change activism.  Climate change, for many people, is not near at hand, it is screened onto our TV from elsewhere in the world.  Climate change is also seen as being off in the future.  Climate change for many is not here and now.

For those concerned about climate change, this perspective is of concern.  Climate change dialogue, activism, policies, and research is mostly situated in the upper right hand corner of the time/space continuum, as pictured below:


Hence, the key question for those concerned about climate change must be: how do we shift the debate from the upper right hand corner to the lower left hand sector, where most people are?  

I do not know the answers to that question.  However, there are some psychological understandings that may be worth looking at when attempting answers.
  • When people are faced with a crisis that they can see no way of preventing, they will tend to withdraw and stop thinking about it.
  • People tend to try to prevent present suffering without regard to long-term consequences.
  • People are often more concerned about something concrete, rather than abstract.
  • People will tend towards the social norm.  People are influenced by the behaviour of those close to them.
  • When faced with bad news, or something scary (e.g. climate crisis) there is a tendency towards the classic fight or flight.  Thus, faced with activism, people will either turn away or will oppose vigorously.
What does all this suggest?

Those concerned with climate crisis need to think about:
  • how to work with established neighbourhoods, communities, and networks,
  • speak to local issues and local concerns,
  • work towards an empathic approach to those in opposition (they may be “fighting” from fear),
  • bring the possibilities of change into the here and now – focus less on UN agreements and global summits.  Make the concerns “real,” and not far off in other times and other places.
Well, I said I didn’t have the answers.  Perhaps I have stimulated some questions though.

Notes:

1. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens III, Limits to Growth, Universe Books, New York, 1972.

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