In the sustainability industry we clearly know that climate change is a huge factor impacting the future of our planet. So why does it seem like there are many people who would rather pretend we aren’t damaging our world each and every day?
In a piece last fall by Art Markam, he explored the reasons that people don’t seem to be motivated to address climate change. Perhaps if we can understand these issues it will be easier to find a way to get those who don’t want to make any changes to their behavior to truly understand the dangerous road we are on.
What Markam admits is so strange about this circumstance is typically people are pretty concerned about avoiding imminent danger in their lives. Need to walk down a dark alley? You are likely to move quickly. Passing an aggressive looking dog? You may cross the street. So why don’t people realize the magnitude of global climate change and how pressing it is to make a difference?
Because it is easier to ignore it. By pretending that climate change isn’t real or not that big of a threat, a person can continue to drive a gas guzzling SUV, buy an enormous home that they don’t really need or shop without regard for the impact their carbon footprint has on the environment. For companies, turning a blind eye could very well mean cheaper processes, despite the fact that investing in greener efforts would likely lower costs in the long run.
We are a right here, right now type of society that doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for the long term. Markam notes that there are a few others reasons holding people back. Including that climate change isn’t a linear issue. Take spending money — if you go out to eat lunch every day, you are going to see a clear impact that this expense has on your bottom line. But by deciding to make changes to you routines in order to benefit the world around you, well, that impact isn’t as obvious.
Another reason people may have a hard time accepting that climate change is a real problem is that most of us aren’t directly feeling the impact in a tangible way. Even with extreme weather, it is relatively intangible so most people don’t make the connection to the bigger picture. As a society we also tend to view the future as less predictable than the present — so who knows what’s going to happen with the environment down the road?
Well, we do know what is happening and despite these challenges there is hope that we can influence change. Try exploring the values your colleagues or peers hold in terms of the world they’d like their children or grandchildren to experience. Or bring up a way in which human behavior is really is impacting climate change. Markam’s suggest that if your peer indicates a lack of regard for this human impact follow up with a specific question like “would you give something up today that would allow you to invest in research that could help your great-grandchild in the future?” they are likely to say yes. Using this logic, how can they continue to turn a blind eye to climate change?
By putting our values on the table, we can connect with those who continue to disregard their impact on the future of our planet and help them see the immense benefit in making changes to their personal live or business practices.