Human Failings

We just don’t get it

If allowed to play out, climate change threatens to be the most epic failure in human history, worse than all the wars ever fought combined. Floods and droughts are already leading to clean water and food shortages. Over the next decades, the scale of disruption could increase conflict and refugees to a level unthinkable to us today. But most of us go about our daily business as if the problem did not exist.

We are daunted

Even those able to imagine the world spiralling into chaos are daunted by the scale of the problems needing to be solved.

Tragedy of the Horizon

Human beings are  unable to care much about long term issues.  And when no one else wants to talk about it, that makes it even harder.

Goodies/baddies perception…

We often separate people into the goodies and the baddies. Then all we need to do we need bash the baddies, so only goodies remain to win the day. Job done? This Hollywood school of thought is useful in stories, but the world does not work like that in reality.

Now that climate change is upon us, many dedicated, creative people find themselves working for ‘baddie’ companies, especially fossil fuel companies. But these people will be vital for developing new technologies needed to create a sustainable world. They don’t want a catastrophic outcome any more than anyone else.

..leading to polarisation / tribalism

This is rife in our conversations on environmental issues, especially on the internet. We get accused of being trolls, industrial shills (promoters), warmists (wrong to think the planet is warming) or watermelons (green on the outside and red – left-wing – on the inside). In short, we become baddies to be denounced or discredited.

Spoken conversations are usually more civil than written exchanges, so perhaps a good guide is to ask oneself “Would I say that to this person face to face?”

No one wants to admit they were wrong

It’s difficult to change our minds on long held beliefs, so to avoid looking silly we just evade the issue, even if we know it’s important. We are more interested in being right than the reality. Renowned economist John Maynard Keynes said “When the facts change I change mind mind. What do you do sir?”

Leadership is risky

With a topic as complex and controversial as climate change no one wants to put their head above the parapet, when that risks getting shot at.

For example, many scientists are afraid to speak out about what they see coming down the line. Outspoken climate scientist Dr. James Hansen calls this scientific reticence.

Cultural Failings

Over-moralising turns most people off.

Evolved norms are inadequate to the task of solving problems as big as climate change. For example, most powerful individuals are hard-wired to pursue further accumulation of personal wealth, ignoring their advantageous position for proactive engagement on potential solutions.

Next: Systemic Problems