Over the last few months or so I have been having conversations with friends & family about the findings of Seth Wynes & Kimberly Nicholas (2017) with regards to the top five actions each of us can personally do to combat climate change:
One of the most common comments I’ve had in response to the top five is people referring to the often-quoted line “100 companies are responsible for 70% of all carbon emissions”. Which is true, and we need to put pressure on those companies to urgently find ways to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. But I have found it surprising that this quote is used to provide cover for not making individual efforts to try to reduce personal carbon emissions as much as possible. Surely the majority of us can be doing both?
Some people can’t financially afford to fully take all the top five steps, which is fair enough. And some people argue over the wording of the top five and/or question the validity of the findings. And while I’m all for critical thinking, this just feels like sophisticated denial to me.
But besides the reactions above, often what people do in response to hearing the top five steps is react defensively and start justifying why they haven’t started or won’t start doing one or more of the things on the list. It’s not always articulated this way, but it often comes across as “well, yes, OTHER people should start doing those things but I can’t/won’t because…”
It seems to be part of the human condition: these rules don’t apply to me. Or to put it another way, not obeying these rules has no negative consequences for me right now so I’m not going to change my behaviour. I think part of this is an aversion to discomfort and/or change. It’s a perceived threat to “my way of life” which I think some people unconsciously interpret as “a threat to my survival”. Which I can understand, I want to survive too.
But it makes me wonder: this hardwired survival instinct i.e. selfishness, if one way it’s manifesting is a resistance to making personal changes to combat the climate crisis, is the human species ultimately hardwired for extinction?
Here’s my question:
At the scale of billions of people, is it realistic to try to get enough people to cooperate & overcome our selfish instincts in order to ultimately avoid the extinction of the human species?
Please let me know what you think in the comments 🙂👍 >>