Forget the national debt, don’t worry about the next election cycle, no big deal if you can’t drop those extra couple of pounds before swimsuit season. As a species, climate change is the largest challenge we face. So why then are our elected officials doing almost nothing to address a phenomenon that could make the planet uninhabitable for human beings? Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently sat down with Bill Moyers to discuss the public’s understanding and reactions to global warming.
Lesierowitz has identified six groups of American by levels of knowledge about and engagement with the issue of climate change. As a specialist in the psychology of risk and perception, he explains how climate change is almost the perfect challenge for human beings. While we are wired to deal with immediate physical survival, global warming and its causes are practically invisible. For the most part, we cannot see the greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere, and the gradual changes we have made since the Industrial Revolution tend to escape our notice. Only by amassing large amounts of data taken from a variety of sources across the world can we begin to understand our effects on the planet.
Part of the difficulties climate activists face is working amidst a very vocal and well connected association of deniers and special interests that dominate the political discourse. In addition to clarifying the science for those who still do not believe in the myriad of reports and drastic weather conditions affecting the country, each of the six groups requires a completely different type of social engagement. The best way to connect with each demographic is to identify their core values, and meet their concerns on terms that are familiar.
The stakes are high, the problems that we are causing are getting worse, and are on track to escalate in intensity. At the heart of the dilemma is how human being see themselves in relationship to the natural world. What are our responsibilities to nature and one another? How do we organize to tackle such a huge problem? What is the best way to sound the alarm and put climate change at the top of the agenda?
The first step is come together. Check out 350.org and other movements that are working towards shifting our political system and economy to take action!