I know climate change is real. I don’t question the science or the fact that the ice is melting and the seas are rising. I also know that mankind is the culprit. And that includes me. I know my behaviors are causing climate change. But is it enough to know that something is true? What good is that knowledge if it doesn’t change the way you live?
So I must not really care about climate change because I haven’t changed my behaviors. Sure, I vote and support politicians that claim to back action on the issue. But personally, I haven’t changed my behavior, not really.
In reflecting on the disconnect between my thoughts and actions I’ve come to see knowing and caring as very different things. It starts with how we experience knowledge and concern.
Knowledge lives in the brain and caring in the gut.
There are hormones powering caring (feelings), with neurons powering knowledge (understanding) — at least on a basic level. And when it comes to behavior, chemicals almost always win. Our feelings run the show.
Also, there is a physicality to caring. Just a touch from another human releases hormones (oxytocin) and we begin to bond with them, we begin to care.
But knowledge, by nature, is abstract. There is no way to “touch” it. We can “know” many things but that is not the same thing as experiencing and feeling those things. With caring we struggle to leave the neighborhood. The further away the object of concern, the less we care. Outta site, outta mind.
We notice what is front of us, right…now. I was watching Fox News a while back (why? I’m not sure) when a certain Sarah Palin looked out her snowy Alaska window and stated as fact — “so much for climate change!”
As ignorant as this might be it speaks to our human experience. We are wired for weather, not climate. Scale is a real problem with caring. We can feel concern for a plant more easily than a planet. Caring for something as large as a planet is very hard for humans to do.
So what will it take for us to care? Clearly something needs to be done and it’s going to take individual, local and global action.
What will it take to get us off our asses and do something?
How can we bring climate change into our lives and make it real? To still care about it even on a perfect summer’s day? Can we transcend our human nature to really feel something as big as this planet? Or can we use technology to make the planet feel “smaller” and more tangible?
As for me, I’m beginning the journey, committing myself to taking real steps in 2016: to curb my contribution to climate change.
I think this starts with finding my care “triggers”. Ways to feel climate change. How can it be more real for me, and others? If I can tap into that powerful hormone-fueled engine of care I am confident the commitment and behavior will follow.