Why aren't we doing more to save our planet?

Considering the stark warnings that scientists have given about climate change, it's hard to understand how another round of new climate-deniers got elected to Congress. Well, neuroscience may have finally solved that riddle. According to a new analysis over at The Guardian, our brains aren't wired to deal with large, slow-moving threats, and businesses and organizations may be better equipped to get people involved in the fight to save our planet.

As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University explained, “Our brain is essentially a get-out-of-the-way-machine.” He added, “Many environmentalists say climate change is happening too fast. No, it's happening too slowly. It's not happening nearly quickly enough to get our attention.”

Although global warming is an urgent problem, most people don't see the total effect of rising temperatures around the globe. One person may experience a severe drought or super storm, but they don't see the full spectrum of weather weirding going on at any one moment simultaneously around the world. Because they can't see it all, most people – even those who support climate action – simply don't grasp how fast our planet is actually changing.

So, people aren't motivated to take immediate action on climate change, but businesses have a completely different mindset. Unlike human beings, organizations have to plan long in to the future, and they have to consider how floods, droughts, storms, and warmer temperatures may effect their operations.

While some corporations – like oil companies – tend to ignore the obvious, may companies are working to improve their carbon footprint. Businesses and nonprofit organizations can help push millions of people to act more sustainably and more consciously, and could help us save the one-and-only planet we call home.


RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 31 weeks ago

The Business Roundtable inspired by the Powell Memorandum and the Council of Foreign Relations the Neo Liberal think tank. Both institutions agree on the XL pipeline and the exploitation of Americas' coal and natural gas resources. Since both institutions have members sitting on key councils that advise the president and the Business Roundtable members spent (invested) billions of dollars on 2014 elections to ensure a more business friendly House and Senate, with the CEO and Chief occupying the White House, It will be no time before the Appalachian Mounts are turned into dirt mounds and every American citizen will have the chance of their houses catching on fire or exploding because their drinking water is both flammable and combustible.

Like it or not, these are the forces that dominate domestic and foreign policy enacted by the USA. There are plenty of other institutions that hold sway over the US government but these two institution seem to have overlap with all other institution and most importantly they are the two institution that elected and unelected government officials in Washington DC listen too.

Here is a link to both Council of Foreign Relations and Business Roundtable




RFord's picture
RFord 9 years 31 weeks ago

Sceptical climate change-global warming deniers are like a person who has never seen a clock before. You tell them the hour and minute hands are moving on this thing and they look at at for 5 seconds and they tell you that you are crazy because they can't see the hands moving. If they wait for 15 minutes then they can see the hands are indeed moving. Many climate deniers are not going to change their minds until too much time has passed and the climate has indeed changed and the globe has indeed gotten warmer and the oceans have indeed risin. By the time the climate deniers get the proof they need to change their minds it will be too late and then, no matter what we do, it will be too late, and it only gets worse from there. For whatever reason, the people in the USA have elected a majority of climate deniers to run our government and the fossil fuel industry has what looks like an endless supply of money to buy all of the climate deniers they need. We need advertisement to tell people the truth. With enough advertisement about alternative energy sources and the consequences of not not using it, people will stop electing climate deniers to office. The fossil fuel industry needs to convert to the alternative energy industry just like the war industry converted to the civillian products industry after world war II. Either mankind will see the light on climate change or mankind will kill itself off with climate denial.

buckhorn4 9 years 31 weeks ago

maybe if tv weather people include global maps showing the day's droughts, storms, floods, fires, mudslides, etc. it would improve folks day to day perceptions?

ChicagoMatt 9 years 31 weeks ago

In one of my psychology classes, we learned about something called "compassion fatigue". The idea is that someone is more likely to give money to a single homeless person, than they are to give an equal amount of money to a group of homeless people. That is, people feel more compassionate/care more about something when they feel like they can have a significant and positive impact. If you give one homeless person $20, you've changed their entire day. If you give $20 to a charity that helps all homeless people, you don't get the same results. Or, after giving to the same homeless person day after day, and that homeless person's situation doesn't seem to improve, people eventually stop giving.

I bring this up because I see a similar thing happening with climate change. I'm not sure about the baby boomers who frequent this blog, but for me, in my mid-30s, I've been hearing about this my entire life. I remember watching videos about how the world was going to climate hell way back in grammar school. One of the first computer games they made us play in school, in about 1992, focused on using less power in the home. (You got more points for turning off more lights in the house in the game.)

A lot of the things I've learned have stuck with me. I recycle. I turn off lights. I'm about two Christmas bonuses away from getting solar panels on my house.

Yet my little lifestyle changes aren't doing anything but making me feel good about myself. The climate is still getting worse. All I hear is doom and gloom. So now the fatigue sets in. Add on to that the percieved hypocrasy from the left (Companies should pollute less, yet I'm still buying their products. Or, people should reduce their carbon footprint, let me fly to New York to protest this...), and you just get worn out. After awhile, you just quit giving a damn. All of your concern is spent. Your attention turns to other things.

TheTransAtlanticRailroad's picture
TheTransAtlanti... 9 years 31 weeks ago

We hate to admit we are more like the dog characters in "Up" yelling "Squirrel!" in the middle of a sentance when it comes to paying attention to "big" issues.

We hate to admit we are more royalist than democratic sometimes, wanting a divinely annoited leader to make the grand decisions about "the state" or other arbitrarily defined territory in which we live.

We hate to admit when we live at the base of Mt. Vesuvius that we live at the base of Mt. Vesuvius and the steam rising from the summit and the tremors under foot might be a warning to leave and leave quickly.

We hate to admit that human activity caused The Dustbowl, deforested most of what is now the northern United states from Michigan to The Rockies, polluted over 90% of American waterways and created a Texas sized sea of garbage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

We hate to admit, "We have met the enemy and he is us." (Walt Kelly's Pogo)

Nan Harvey's picture
Nan Harvey 9 years 31 weeks ago

What a Great Idea! There is little doubt that purer sweet stuff is blanketed by the sludge which rises to the top and pulls the political strings. I think a major reason (not the only) for this is that the human brain simply cannot juggle the immensity and complications of this phenomena. A quick, very well designed visual every day/night on the news just might open up some nerve endings. "A picture is worth a thousand words." I think this idea is something we can move on to get the networks on it. Thanks for getting outside the box.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 31 weeks ago

buckhorn4, maybe they should show what the last ten years (or more) were like on the same day, so people can see a trend. XKCD did a cartoon about how as snow and ice become rarer, people notice them more, due to rarity, so they think they're seeing evidence against global warming: http://xkcd.com/1321/.

judinebr14's picture
judinebr14 9 years 31 weeks ago

I have been a vegetarian for 14 years but 2 months ago after watching a film "Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret" I have become a vegan. This is an amazing, eye-opening film about how animal agriculture is destroying our planet and if we don't make immediate changes, everything else we do will be futile. It is such an important tool to awake the public on our road to destruction and the powers that don't want anyone to address it. I hope that every person on this planet will see this film.


Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 9 years 31 weeks ago

A well done documentary showing the changes in the artic region and the oil spills damages shown on a popular TV channel would go a long ways.

A picture can say a thousand words.

Pictures of past oil spills would go a long ways in preventing future oil spills.

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