It seems to me that all of us are in denial. We know climate change is almost certainly coming, and it’s going to be bad. Yet we continue to fly around in airplanes and can’t even conceive of a future in which air travel is prohibitively expensive and unethical. Some of us try to be as green as possible, but all that means in practice is turning off a light now and then. People say they recycle, they’ve changed their lightbulbs, but this sort of action is completely trivial in the face of what is needed if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. I’m not sure why people even think doing such tiny things is an achievement, why isn’t it just the norm?
I think there’s an interesting parallel between illegal file sharing and climate change. We know file sharing is wrong, and probably harmful to the creators of the movies, TV shows and music we enjoy. Yet we keep on doing it with abandon. We know it’s wrong, but continue to do nothing to change our behaviour. It’s just too hard.
My generation and young people generally, have the most to lose from a continuation of the status quo – yet we continue to act like nothing is wrong. In our lifetimes, the world will get warmer, the seas will rise, millions of people will be displaced, the poor will be forced further into poverty. I realise that there are a number of extremely concerned, energetic and active youth activists who are working tirelessly to raise awareness about climate change, but why don’t the rest of us really care? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?
I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t understand the gravity of the situation, or we are just in a state of denial. Maybe the doubt that well-financed campaigns of climate change denial have made the possibility of climate change uncertain in our minds. Or maybe we are in a situation of double think – simultaneously thinking climate change is a serious problem, and thinking we don’t need to do anything about it. The truth is just too inconvenient, the necessary changes too big. I struggle with the implications of climate change myself – it’s all very well to be as ethical as possible, but to actually take the next step and ‘do without’ is difficult. The disconnect between concrete sacrifices now and uncertain benefits far into the future makes it all the harder. Are we just innately wired to think no more than a few years into the future? Do we just not care about our survival?
I think what we need to keep in mind is that our generation, children of the baby-boomers and younger, has had it really good. Things we take for granted need to be reassessed. International air travel was almost impossibly expensive for ordinary people just a couple of generations ago, yet the idea of a world where it isn’t possible to travel overseas for trivial reasons is hard to imagine. To our consumerist ears a world where companies don’t churn out an endless array of gadgets year after year, sounds like a world where progress has ground to a halt. But we’re going to have to go back to these unfamiliar situations. We are going to have to just accept that things aren’t going to be the same, and if we don’t do something soon, they’re going to be a lot worse.