So, climate change. That huge, unstoppable force that most of us try not to think about during the majority of our existence, even if we believe whole-heartedly that it does indeed exist and has largely human causes.
We’re reminded of its horrific scope only when we read articles like “The Uninhabitable Earth” or “This is how your world can end.” These apocalyptic views of the future are so incredibly bleak that they’re difficult to even wrap one’s mind around.
We forget that there are people that still disagree with the basic principle that it exists (if you are one of those people, I’m not going to try to convince you).
We forget that there are people seriously considering colonizing Mars or the moon (find sources), two places with no resources able to sustain human life, in order to escape what truly seems inevitable.
We forget that the United States left the agreement that may have been our best shot at preventing some of the more extreme visions of climate change from being realized. We forget that the current administration has gutted the government agency tasked with protecting the environment. (Find sources)
Even during weeks like this, when weather patterns all over America, and the world as a whole, seem to be going haywire, climate change seems to be an afterthought. A casual comment in a conversation about how it’s ten degrees warmer in New York than LA, isn’t that strange? Maybe that’s just my limited worldview talking, but it often seems like no one cares. Myself included.
To be fair, it can seem like no one cares about a lot of issues. But you would think that people would care about something that could potentially lead to their own misfortunes and upend their entire lives.
An article in Psychology Today states that this lack of caring is because the issue is simply too large for people to comprehend. It’s not specific enough, and thus can feel that it is too overwhelming to do anything substantial about. This has to do with the idea of statistical numbing; if someone tells us that millions of children are dying in a far-off place, we feel as though there is nothing we can do to solve this situation, but if we are shown a picture of one dying child, we feel as though we can make a difference in this child’s life.
Maybe part of the problem with climate change specifically is that grand, apocalyptic warnings a la An Inconvenient Truth don’t show people the human side of the issue. They’re incredibly important in terms of educating people, but they’re too broad to inspire change on a human level.
One can ask whether there’s even any point in caring about an issue that at this point seems unstoppable. Taking shorter showers and riding a bike instead of driving every once in a while isn’t going to stop sea level rise or save the polar bears. Because what we really need is structural change: we need the people in power to actually care about this. And they don’t.
No amount of calling our congressional representatives or marching in the streets is going to convert those who are backed by oil companies. But if we do absolutely nothing, this vicious cycle continues. Unfortunately, the only truly effective way for citizens to exert power in this capitalist society is through our purchasing power. So in actuality, all those insignificant-seeming decisions to take public transit, buy solar panels, eat less meat, and recycle do add up. One perk of overpopulation is that “the masses” are now nearly 7 billion strong, while those in power are still a relatively miniscule number.
If those 7 billion care, we have some hope.