What a refreshing and deeply informative conversation with environmental advocate George Marshall (read his book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change!). We covered a whole host of issues and possible solutions. George has been at this a long time and yet he still has a buoyant spirit and positive attitude. He has also written a brilliant book about why our brains are not wired to overcome the challenges of climate change.
Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change? And what does it need for us to become fully convinced of what we already know?
George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and the activists of the Texas Tea Party; the world’s leading climate scientists and the people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals.
Along the way his research raised other intriguing questions:
- Why do most people never talk about climate change, even people with personal experience of extreme record breaking weather?
- Why did scientists, normally the most trusted professionals in our society, become distrusted, hated, and the targets for violent abuse?
- Why do the people who say climate change is too uncertain become more agitated about the threats of cell phones, meteorite strikes or alien invasion?
- Why does having children make people less concerned about climate change not more?
- And, why is Shell Oil so much more concerned about the threat posed by its slippery floors than the threats posed by its products?
Don’t Even Think About It argues that the answers to these questions do not lie in the things that make us different and drive us apart, but rather in what we all share: how our human brains are wired, our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blindspots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe.
With witty and engaging stories, drawing on years of his own research, Marshall shows how the scientific facts of climate change can become less important to us than the social facts – the views of the people who surround us. He argues that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.
He argues that once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and reimagine climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. Rather, it is one we can halt if we can make it our common purpose and common ground.
And so this book does not talk in detail about the impacts of climate change or the things that make us turn away. There are no graphs, data sets, or complex statistics, because, in the end, all of the computer models and scientific predictions are constructed around the most important and uncertain variable of all: whether our collective choice will be to accept or to deny what the science is telling us. And this, says Marshall, is the most engrossing and intriguing question of all.
“Over the past 25 years I have worked at all levels of the environmental movement, including many years in the US as a senior campaigner for Greenpeace US and the Rainforest Foundation.
“The Oxford-based Climate Outreach and Information Network, the charity I co-founded in 2004, has become a leader in climate change communications and widely recognised specialist in reaching new audiences. We have worked with trades unions, scouts, women’s organisations, churches, Rotary Clubs, and many government departments and councils. We are a lead advisor to the Welsh Government.
“Please follow me for my news and views, research and observations on the themes in the book – climate change psychology, narratives, communications and the weirdness of our collective response.”