Friday, October 5, 2018

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall is another book from Bustle's list of books that will inspire you to live a more sustainable life that I wanted to read.  My local library didn't have a copy, but they were able to bring it in for me through interlibrary loan, so yay!

Marshall is an expert in climate change communications.  Over the years he has seen scientists struggle to get their message out while climate change skeptics have increasingly banded together.  He also knows that many people agree that climate change is real, but do nothing to stop it.  So he decided to investigate why all of this is.  He met with psychologists, environmental activists, skeptics, people who work for the oil industry, evangelicals, and pretty much everyone else he possibly could to examine the issue.  What he found is that humans look at climate change as a simple problem, even though it is in reality a very complex problem.  Because of its complexity it can be framed in a variety of ways, such as as an environmental issue. Some people will support a particular frame while others will oppose it, and so this divides people on the issue.  He also found that the skeptics are having more success at building their narrative than people who support climate change are.  Humans are hard-wired for stories and narrative, so this means supporters are having a harder time convincing people. 

I found Don't Even Think About It fascinating (full disclosure: I have a background in psychology).  It's rather amazing how climate change happens to work against our brains in a lot of ways.  Most of the book is a bit depressing, but the end is rather hopeful: even though we are wired to ignore climate change, in some ways we're also wired to take action, as long as we can change the narrative from one of competition to one of cooperation.   

I will warn you though: Don't Even Think About It is in many ways a dense read.  I found myself only able to read about 20-40 pages in a sitting before having to take a bit of a break.  Thankfully the book is about half the size of This Changes Everything though, so I was able to get through it a bit faster.

Oh and one really nice touch that Marshall added to the book was a periodic summary of what he has examined thus far.  I don't think I've ever seen that in a book before, but it was great to kind of take a deep breath and have a chance to look at everything a little more in context within the larger narrative of the book.

All in all, I am really glad I read Don't Even Think About It; I'll have to keep an eye out for some of Marshall's other books (Carbon Detox, I'm looking at you!)

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