Climate Change. . .  and why we are not taking it seriously

open car open rooad closed mindLisa Bennett,  a writer and communications strategist focusing on climate change, has just published an article in Grist in which she picks out ten problems that we just about all have with our behaviour, our psychology and our attitude toward the future, and in particular the inevitably uncertain future of climate change. We have extracted the ten points she speaks to in this summary below. For the full article you will have to turn to Grist here –

The bottom line has to be that to the extent all those concerned are until now unable to mobilize enough people on these issues to make a difference, we are simply going to have to be  far better in making our case — and making and making and making it — than we have been up to now. Hard work ahead. Brain work! Let’s listen to Lisa.

10 things you want to know about human nature if you’re fighting climate change

By Lisa Bennett, on 10 Jun 2015

I’ve spent nearly a decade thinking about why people get stuck on climate change: stuck in debates, denial, what looks like indifference, and the awful discomfort that comes with the question “But what can I do?”

In search of answers, I’ve interviewed dozens of experts in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, economics, political science, and other fields — and many more Americans across a broad spectrum of political affiliations, income brackets, and ages. I’ve also read widely to tap the thinking of those who were once more commonly looked to for insights into human nature, such as poets, philosophers, and spiritual leaders.

What I’ve come up with is my own climate-centric version of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Climate change has been my window into learning about human nature — or, at least, about what we humans do when faced with a challenge much greater than ourselves. The experience has also persuaded me that a better understanding of our own nature can help inspire a more effective response to what is happening to the natural world.

Here then are 10 things I’ve learned, along with some ideas about how these insights might be applied by those working on climate change:

  1. We are overly optimistic about the future — our future, that is.
  1. We can be blasé about the most important issues in the world because the global perspective is way beyond ordinary human scale.
  1. We are wired to refute imperatives.
  1. We are vulnerable to peer pressure, especially about things that confuse us.
  1. We shy away from topics that remind us of our mortality but can be motivated to take action on behalf of beings more vulnerable than us.
  1. We perceive and respond to risks only when we feel them.
  1. We are motivated more by hope than fear, at least in matters of social change.
  1. We are more likely to take action when we know precisely what we can influence.
  1. We need to believe our actions will make a difference.
  2. We will continue to behave the same way we always have — even after we know it is problematic — until there is a realistic alternative.

Again: The full text of this article is available here –

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Lisa BennettAbout the author: 

Lisa Bennett, coauthor of Ecoliterate, is a writer and communications strategist focused on climate change and what helps people rise to challenges great and small. Currently writing about what our encounter with an increasingly uncertain world reveals about human nature–how, for example we relate to risk; think about power; navigate fears; respond to change; develop resilience; deeply experience the preciousness of something, or someone, when we no longer take it for granted; and above all, surprise ourselves with our own capacity to rise to challenges. She blogs at, and is on Twitter at @LisaPBennett.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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One thought on “Climate Change. . .  and why we are not taking it seriously

  1. I’m not convinced by this. It seems to me that there are a whole lot of other issues which according to this argument shouldn’t be major concerns, but which plainly are. How about listing some issues which are or are not of major concern and trying to identify which of the factors mentioned in the article apply to which issues ?

    As far as I am concerned I want to feel that I have in some way contributed to the common heritage. For that reason I respond most to issues which I feel may threaten our civilisation.
    Climate change is one of them. So are or were agricultural productiveness, antibiotic resistance, epidemics, solar storms and Y2K. I feel that politicians are being irresponsible when they take these issues casually while pouring enormous resources into military spending and the war on drugs, and are prepared to curtail our civil liberties in response to child abductions and other admittedly awful crimes.

    I believe that people take their lead from the media (who are influenced by advertisers) and politicians. None of these would like the idea that consumption is not the be all and end all of happiness, so they continue to encourage people to travel in individual vehicles and to fly rather than take the train even though this means that even if we don’t own a car and don’t fly we still have to put up with noise intruding into our very homes, as well as polluted air, dangerous streets and climate change.


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