I won’t try and tell you how to live. Your lifestyle is very personal. So personal in fact, that the only person who has any real control over changing it is you. Some of us have more control over their lifestyles than others. The fact remains that we have the final say in the way we live. This is why I don’t understand why people get into this mindset of comparison when they are considering making changes to their lifestyle.
The way other people live is none of your damn business and you have no real control over it.
Everyone around you is free to believe what they choose to believe and value what they choose to value. Just as you have the right to value nature and the environment (and the resulting continuation of the human species), others have the right to simply not care. We can’t expect or demand that people have the same values as us.
I was recently listening to an episode of the Wilosophy Podcast with Damon Gameau who is the creator of the documentary ’2040’. They touched on the vilification of coal miners and their communities. They talked about the fact that these miners are people too. They are just as informed as anyone else and most understand and appreciate the issues with mining coal and the effect that burning it has on the future of our planet. There’s a lot of misinformation out there but anyone with a mild interest doesn’t have to look very far to understand the scale and urgency of the problem that we are facing. Most people understand the problem, they just don’t know what to do about it.
When people hear about the dangers of climate change and the effects that it is already having, when they hear the predictions about what life and the world will be like for their children and grandchildren, they generally shut down. This reaction is primarily caused by the fact that because we can’t physically see both the effects and the scale of climate change, our brain wants to treat the issue as a question of morals and emotion. When we see it as a question of emotion and are presented with a bleak picture, we get a deep, painful and emotional reaction. This reaction impedes the prefrontal cortex in our brain which is responsible for problem-solving and strategic thinking. This means that instead of trying to solve the problem we are presented with, we just get sad.
So what’s the solution?
I think that part of the solution is messages of hope and opportunity such as the 2040 documentary. These messages of opportunity that showcase the solutions that are already available, help us have a positive emotional reaction to the issue rather than a negative one. This allows us to be more effective in making a change and shifts us from a mindset of crisis to a mindset of opportunity.
Hope is an important part of the solution. Alone, it won’t save us.
Like small changes to your lifestyle, messages of hope are a good place to start on the mental journey of tackling climate change. And just like small changes to your lifestyle, they’re not a great place to stop. Once we’ve gotten out of the crippling state of climate anxiety and found some hope for our future, the only way that we will actually be able to achieve it is if we pair that hope with some much-needed pragmatism.
For me, the closest person to a deity is Greta Thunberg because she is the epitome of this much-needed pragmatism.
Greta has a quote, “Adults keep saying, “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear that I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”
In my opinion, Greta and young activists like her are the role models of today. Young people who are both fiercely aware of issues and ready to work hard to solve them. Even though Greta has sparked a global movement of student strikes, she still does everything she can to reduce her own impact. She gets public transport wherever she can. Just recently, she announced that she will be sailing on a racing yacht to attend the UN Climate Summit in New York. She limits her consumption of animal products and does all sorts of other things to make her own lifestyle more sustainable. Greta is at a level of pragmatism that I think we all should strive for.
We know the problem, we have all the solutions, we know exactly what we need to do and how long we have to do it before it becomes irreversible, all we have to do now is actually do it.
No one can make you do it. Governments and businesses can make it slightly easier and cheaper but we are all going to have to change our lifestyles if we are to prevent irreversible climate change.
It is up to all of us to find the changes that work for us personally and go about making them. Sort yourself out first and people are more likely to follow your lead.