Climate Change - Are You in Denial Without Realising It?
Anyone who spends time with me knows I am one of those annoying eco warriors, always babbling about saving the bees, living plastic free, rising sea levels and overconsumption. I have had more than a few heated debates on the topic over the years, with friends, family, colleagues and on social media and I find that rather than motivating people to want to mobilise to create change, people are often triggered into defensive thinking patterns, which happens whether I speak in a matter of fact fashion, passionately or with subtlety.
I'm wondering how I can share my feelings on the topic in an inspiring way, rather than it coming across in a nagging or judgmental way, to encourage people to do more of their own research, challenge their current ideals and find out whether they can be a bigger part of the solution. I thought I would start by sharing some of the common points that come up in these debates, alongside my counters to those arguments, with a bunch of articles I found helpful in exploring these topics when I first started thinking deeper about it.
Common Reasons People Don’t Think They Should Do More
“I already recycle and try to buy responsibly, you’re trying to convince the wrong person”
We can all do better, myself included, I’m always looking to find new ways to improve my efforts. What you’re already doing isn’t an excuse to avoid doing more, it shows you have the resources to find new solutions. Ask yourself honestly if there is more you can do, know that it won’t be easy, but it will be possible. If you’re smart enough to already be taking action, you’re smart enough to know you can do more.
“Even if we do everything we can, in other countries they are doing worse than we are so it feels pointless”
How much of what you own and eat has come from other countries? When you buy something that was made elsewhere, you are asking them to deal with the pollution and emissions associated with making that product. If you buy imported items, you are also responsible for the carbon emissions generated to transport that item to you. Most of the items we import have been manufactured in poorer countries, who might be less able to make choices about their environmental efforts, we have to accept that we need to offset that pressure. The dyes in the rivers in developing countries come from clothes we buy here, the plastic bottles in the oceans around the world come from companies who put plastic bottles in your fridge, the palm oil in your food and toiletries, the soybean in your tofu burger and meat on your plate has made its way to you at the cost of worldwide deforestation.
“Climate change is happening, but slowly, we won’t see effects in our lifetimes”
We are already seeing the effects of climate change, with an increase in extreme weather events, the reduction and extinction of the majority of wild species, sweeping wildfires and rising sea levels. Parts of Bangladesh have been contaminated by salt water making soil unusable and by the end of the century it’s predicted that many areas including the Maldives will be uninhabitable. Most experts say that the rate of temperature rise has been underestimated and figures have been calculated assuming an unlikely linear rise. Drought, famine, heatwaves and land loss and contamination due to rising sea levels are happening now and will happen more in your lifetime. What will it be like for those who are currently children, when they reach your age?
“I don’t believe things are as bad as you’re suggesting”
You are welcome to believe whatever you like, but beliefs and facts are two different things. It’s also easy to be confused about what to believe if you gain your information from the media instead of science, as media is always slanted to serve political and consumer pursuits, or by the views of the writer, such as this one! One article will tell you eating meat is damaging, another will suggest being vegan is damaging. Who is funding the people behind those articles? Seek out the science, look for articles that have reliable referencing and actually go and read the references and data sources in articles . People used to believe the world was flat. Facts tell, stories sell.
“My efforts are so tiny, it feels futile, we may as well just enjoy our lives”
To be completely honest, I find myself having thoughts like this all time. But if I spend the rest of my time worrying about disaster and it never happens, I will have wasted my whole life. If I spend the rest of my time worrying about disaster and it does happen, I will have wasted the good years worrying about the bad years yet to come. The only solution is to do what you can, everything that you can and learn to feel proud of your efforts and motivated to do more. There’s no point in trying to save a life you don’t love, so find the joy in every moment, even the hard ones and keep working on treading environmental water until someone finds further reaching solutions. The answer could be just around the corner, let’s buy enough time for us to figure it out.
“It’s up to the government and big companies to make these changes, I’m just one person”
The government and big companies will always act to protect their positions of power and financial gain, therefore the only way make them act in the interest of the people is to put pressure on their position and pockets. Stop buying products from the companies who don’t act ethically. Writing to them, petitioning and activism are all great too, but ultimately you have to stop giving them your money, otherwise it’s like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking whilst you pour them a nice cold beer. Government will have to respond if the big corporations who fund them become financially challenged, change those companies and change at a governmental level will occur.
“You can’t force people to change their lives, it’s not realistic and it’s unfair”
I can’t really argue against it seeming unrealistic, but if I didn’t try I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, because forcing individuals and companies to change for the better of every living creature and the very Earth itself is absolutely fair. Forcing the poorest people on the planet, the most vulnerable species and the children of tomorrow to suffer the consequences of our greed and determination to deny cold hard facts is the definition of unfair. Couldn’t you handle a little inconvenience, a little discomfort, a little less luxury, a little less choice to secure a chance of a future for those who walk behind you?
Looking at the evidence I feel very passionately that within our lifetime we will face epic climate upset, that we are already seeing it, but we aren’t all choosing to join the dots. I want the little ones in my family to have the chance to see wild animals, to have kiddies of their own and to look back and be proud that we tried our best to slow down environmental decline.
I know it's a complex and contentious issue and my reading choices are obviously slanted by my feelings towards environmental decline, but read them with an open mind and everytime you find yourself experiencing defensive thoughts, question if that’s an indication that a nerve has been hit.
A number of the articles are from media outlets, so do check out the references within the articles to see more scientific evidence to help you make up your own mind on what more you can do to limit your impact on the Earth.
I will be following up with more blogs containing ideas on how to live more sustainably, I have spent years researching how to serve your daily needs with as little of a ripple effect as possible and I’m excited to share those ideas and hear all of yours, so I can keep improving too.
We can only fight this if we do it together.