On Climate Change and our Amazing Lack of Imagination

Jane I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately thinking about climate change.  My friend Gloria has talked to me about it for years, but, up to now , I’ve been able to push her message down into the deep recesses of my consciousness.  What has moved it up lately to the top of my list of “Worries about the World We are Passing on to Our Children” is 1) all the horrible natural disasters that have been happening and 2) President Obama’s commissioned study.  But here’s the interesting thing:  no matter how many bleak facts and predictions I hear, I am not out in the streets protesting or on the phone calling my representatives.  There is still a little part of my brain that says, “That information is too horrible even to imagine.”  And, since I can’t take it in, I don’t take action.  I just lie awake at night, worrying.

End Climate Silence

Here’s what worries me most:  I know I am not the only one out there choosing this course.

I’m starting to think that we humans have an amazing ability to “live for today,” despite all the advertising campaigns that seem to believe otherwise.  In fact, living in the present moment and not envisioning long-term future consequences of our actions may be what we do best.  I’m beginning to wonder if we are even capable, as a species, of living in anything but the present.  Maybe this trait got embedded in our DNA from the earliest homo sapiens who had no choice but to live in the present because they had such short tenures on earth,  what with all those predators lurking around every corner!  Maybe evolutionary biology equipped them with the ability to keep telling themselves that everything will be okay because if, for instance, they actually stopped to imagine their chances of surviving an encounter with a saber-toothed tiger, they would fall into despair and choose not to reproduce.  Maybe survival of the fittest actually means survival of the most oblivious.

I have to admit, I go back and forth on whether this is a good or bad human characteristic. There are times when obliviousness is the only sane choice.  But I know that chosen obliviousness  in relation to climate change will lead to disaster, and this time the stakes are not individual lives but the lives of everyone living on this planet.


Think about this:  in the earliest days of Nazi Germany, there were a lot of people, many of them even in positions of power, who could see the writing on the wall about Hitler but who still could not imagine that the boot on the stair would ever really come for their country, so, as a result, they couldn’t take action early enough to stop it.  Or, closer to home, there were even, apparently, a few people at places like the FBI or the CIA who saw 9/11 coming but couldn’t themselves imagine, on a gut level,  the real possibility of it happening fast enough to motivate others to take action.

(I wonder if the heart of our obliviousness is a lack of imagination or a belief in a higher power who can work miracles.  I sometimes think the former, but when I see all the mess we get into as a result of strong, individual religious beliefs, I lean toward the latter.)

All I know is this:  if we cannot imagine the real possibility of climate change quickly enough to realize that it is truly up to us, and not our grandchildren or great grandchildren, to take action, it doesn’t bode well for our planet.

Yes We Can

We still have a chance,  so we have a choice.  Are we going to keep sitting happily and mindlessly on “this pretty planet, ” (to quote one of my favorite children’s songs), using it up until there is nothing left of it and the ground falls away beneath us?   Are we going to keep living in our so-called safe houses,  hearing the boot on the stair, and thinking it is never coming for us?  Or are we going to open our collective eyes, see the reality that is right in front of our noses ,and have the courage and the will and the energy it will take to turn things around?

I worry that, in this case, since we are all only human,  it’s not hard to imagine what choice we will make.

4 thoughts on “On Climate Change and our Amazing Lack of Imagination

  1. Thanks, Grace, Sadhvi, and Va for the comments. I just heard of something concrete that people can do: on September 21st and 22nd, there will be a big march on New York City, near the UN, lead by 350.org, to bring world attention to this issue. Here is a link to an article about this march in Rolling Stone magazine:
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/a-call-to-arms-an-invitation-to-demand-action-on-climate-change-20140521. The more people that show up, the more the world listens!

  2. Jane–I am worried too but I don’t know what to do. I watch our leaders in Congress and in our state legislature who opt to deny or who just opt to put other things before what needs to be done to deal with climate change and I feel helpless. I see how little impact protests seem to make on our state legislature so my voice feels very little. I don’t have any creative ideas–I hope some one(s) else has some–I’m a willing listener.

  3. Do you ever wonder if it is too late? Or is that too much to handle for the future generation and the planet? I am not “giving up”, I am just seeing that maybe the planet has a beginning and it has an end, just like all living things, and we are in the end time. And maybe the only way to not freak out in this time is to really just watch, just witness, just breathe in and breathe out, and be in the moment.

  4. Well, I think you said what so many of us have on our mind…I have a feeling that it would take the powers that rule to just say, ok, we have enough…let us focus on keeping the planet alive. All I can say is, wouldn’t that be nice if that happened?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *