20 April 2014

Why We Can't Solve the Climate Crisis ... We're Useless, Narcissistic and Disconnected

Caveat: I'm talking about EuroAmericans in this post. I don't want to assume that all human beings on this planet are as useless as we are.

When you spend hours every day reading about climate change, researching climate change, writing about climate change, teaching about climate change and talking with others about climate change, it's easy to get a little miffed at times about the slowness of our reaction time.

And when I say "reaction time," I'm talking about society's general apathy about climate change, but also about how long it's taken the average Joe Public person in our culture to wake up. The latest instalment of the IPCC's 5th assessment report has people talking though (with thanks to the media). Generally misquoting the report and not understanding who or what the IPCC is, but finally talking at least.

Unfortunately, it seems people are talking ... but still not thinking. And that's probably because we still aren't taking the time to sit down and think about what we're hearing on the news and in the other media.*** 

Case in point: given all the warnings in the Working Group 3 report on mitigation about food security, I'm still hearing people go on and on about sea level rise. Our food security is extremely fragile. Food emergencies have already started. Every aspect of global warming and climate change (from loss of Arctic summer sea ice to yes, sea level rise) can affect our food production. Sea level rise -- the kind that people are picturing and pseudo-panicking about -- on the other hand, is a creeping problem that will likely take decades if not a century or more.

My husband and I (he's the one who spends hours and hours every day on climate change) were talking about how blessed we are, food-wise, at this time in this place -- and how we're throwing it all away. Environmental NGOs still create climate change campaigns that don't mention food security while others are creating food security campaigns that don't even mention climate change. It's crazy!

Why can't people (of all ilks and intelligences) critically think their way to seeing the connection between food security and climate change? We came up with two theories:

1. Pathological cultural narcissism (this one comes from an old friend who practises psychiatry in a large Canadian city)

Narcissism is excessive interest in oneself; extreme selfishness; a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration. Because it runs our lives (remember, I'm talking societally here) and we have no insight into the fact that it's controlling us, it is a psychosis (a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality).

We are disconnected from reality.

2. Pathological cultural uselessness (again, please remember that I'm talking societally and about EuroAmericans) 

People in this culture no longer know how to ensure our own survival. Practically no one knows how to grow, prepare or preserve all their own food. We don't know how to grow or forage our own fibre plants to make our own cloth and clothing. We have to hire tradespeople to create our shelters (and even then, each one has a specialty and very few can build a whole house). We don't know how to collect our own clean drinking water or generate our own electricity.... All we know how to do is shop, shop, shop ... buy, buy, buy. In other words, we're useless. 

We are disconnected from reality. 

So if we don't understand our connection to the "real world" there's little chance that people are going to see/understand/act on the connections that are being impacted by climate disruption.

Which brings me to the children and what they should be learning in school. The most important curriculum in a child's life today is learning how to build their own soil, grow their own food, collect their own rainwater, and generate their own energy. Let them study reading and writing, math and science, social studies and physical education through their real-world learning about how to survive. 

On this day of religious rebirth for many millions of people around the world, may you find some time to reconnect with Creation.

*** Perhaps every time we sit on the toilet, we could take that time to think about climate change. It's not like we've got anything else to do (I'm obviously desperately trying to figure out ways to get the public thinking up climate change solutions ;-).

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?