Fear Is Our Friend
This blog and www.weconsumetoomuch.com have explored barriers impeding effective action against climate change and to adapt to what is already inevitable. The reluctant conclusion has been that avoiding the catastrophic results from continuation of “too many people consuming too much” is now unlikely. Several prevention and mitigation strategies were explored and found lacking:
1) Religion – For believers, God has entrusted the Earth to humanity and believers should care for the health and the future of what God has given. Even Pope Francis’s mighty 2015 encyclical on climate change, Laudato si, has been mostly ignored, despite the Catholic Church’s assertions that climate change is mainly “a result of human activity” and that “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the past two hundred years”;
2) Morality – It’s wrong for people “to foul the nest” of Earth without giving weight to the welfare of others now alive and of generations to follow. Our Homo sapiens species is tribal, and concern for other people declines sharply with distance and time from the here and now. It is unrealistic to expect much significant sacrifice in favor of people one doesn’t know, despite the commands of many world morality systems; and
3) Respecting the Future – Humans live in the present and often ignore the importance of foreseeable, game-changing new circumstances, particularly if they are unpleasant. Our genes tell us to worry more about the saber tooth tiger who might be around the corner and about today’s food and shelter rather than very big things which are future threats.
We are left with personal fear as the best available persuader and motivator. Massive wildfires, unprecedented heat waves around the world killing people, massive storms with flood and wind damage, drought leading to crop failure and famine, have each occurred and been widely publicized in the past year. The desire for hurt to our fellow man offends moral codes, but civilization might benefit immeasurably from horrendous heat, drought, storms, hunger, mass migrations fleeing climate change effects, and, yes, many deaths from those conditions in 2019. The closer fear and pain from climate change strikes the individual and the group, the quicker lethargy and passivity are discarded. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 scared and angered Americans and led to the tsunami which brought victory in 1945.
If we had the ability to focus the damages, the climate change harms would first be inflicted on world political decision makers to motivate, and perhaps necessitate, radical actions from them. Worldwide, political leaders’ frightened, aggressive cooperation and tablet-breaking innovations are essential to persuading and, when necessary, forcing every human being to change consumption expectations and habits. President Trump says he doesn’t believe in man-caused global warming. Possibly winds and waters that destroyed his properties, including his Florida house, club and golf course, and even damaged Trump Tower, could change his mind and lead to intelligent self-preservation moves by this Administration.