Climate destruction: We’re built to reason poorly, but it will kill us all the same.
Have you seen the latest stories about global warming? It seems that we’re already committed to an 8 inch rise in sea levels and significant other warming. Some folks are saying that since it’s inevitable, we may as well not bother doing anything.
Um, hello? The actions we take today will have an effect several decades down the road. We can’t change today’s situation by acting today, but we can certainly reduce future catastrophe by acting today.
Unfortunately, humans aren’t built to reason well about time. We tend to ignore the long-term in our thinking, even if we intellectually know it’s there. When the effects of our actions won’t happen for a while, we think short-term.
Imagine if eating a fat and cholesteral-laden Big Mac immediately added those inches to a person’s waste, or caused their arteries to harden with an audible creaking sound? You can bet McDonald’s would be out of business faster than you can shake a stick.
Or how about cigarettes–if lighting up caused instant yellowed teeth, spotted hands, and blood-laced coughing fits, tobacco would likely be a lot less popular with the teenage set. And it would be too powerful an image to be put down, even by such a charistmatic figure as Joe Camel.
Just because we don’t think through future implications doesn’t mean they don’t happen, however. If we charge more on our credit cards than we can pay back, we’ll either have to declare bankruptcy (which may not be effective much longer), or … or what? Or we lose everything. And it will happen even if we don’t think that far ahead when buying that rhinestone encrusted, Dolly Parton-shaped fireplace rug.
I don’t know what the solution is, but we need to find a way to make the future consequences of our actions feel as real as if they were happening today. Think through some of the long-term beneficial things you know you should be doing… Now really consider them in detail. Find out how to make them real enough to you so you change your behavior. Your life, and the lives of those you love, just may depend on it.
This is about us. Global warming, indeed, global broiling, will affect all of us, in our lifetimes. We can’t change it for ourselves, but let’s at least try to do something for our kids, shall we?