Today’s Talk Topic: Climate Change—the Apathy of the Enlightened

9287609827_31e783887f_zPhoto by Asian Development Bank via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

51+FU1nWWdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We aren’t really worried about climate change in America—even those of us who are convinced the doomsday warnings are true, notes Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. In fact, interest in the coming catastrophe has decreased in First World countries since 1989. “After 25 years of doom, we have a little apocalypse fatigue,” Dr. Stoknes says. He sets forth his concerns in his new book, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action.

Humans have a “psychological capacity to know something and live as if we don’t know it,” he told NPR radio host Leonard Lopate in a recent NPR interview. (Listen to the audio below.) Why? Because, for one thing, we have a hard time maintaining our zeal when the disaster is distant—and the deadline for this catastrophe (2100) puts it just too far away. Sure, our grandchildren will be living then, but “Some studies show that, do we care about our grandchildren? No, not really,” Dr. Stoknes told Lopate, mildly He says everything mildly, but his gentle voice is the persuasive voice of reason.

He ticked off what we do think about instead of thinking about the coming calamity: “nearer things—personal things, social relations, sex.” And, paradoxically, “The more science knowledge you have, the more you will use your intelligence and knowledge to explain away global warning”—if it affects core values, like, for instance, antipathy to government intervention. We simply don’t like to be told what to do: stop watering the lawn, buy an electric car (sales of gas-guzzlers are increasing, now that gas is cheap), make your toilet-flushes use only X gallons of water . . .

Dr. Stoknes believes that “America is where the solutions lie.” To hear what he thinks we, the enlightened, should be doing right now to help prevent the slow-moving cataclysm, read the book, go to, or listen below.



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