With our earth being at the receiving end of the natural consequences of climate change and many ecosystems being at the point of no return, I want to share another quote by my favourite artist Ryan O’Neal, which is called “Earth”, and write about climate change today:
But I put it out of my mind / Long enough to call it courage / To live without a lifeline / I bend the definition of faith / To exonerate my blind eye / ‘Til the sirens sound, I’m safe“Earth” ( Sleeping At Last)
On the one hand, the song “is utilizing the idea of Earth in order to commentate on faith” (genius.com). But more importantly, on the other hand the song talks very clearly about us humans actively but also passively destructing our planet. It sheds light on the part we actively play as humans in the development and continuation of climate change. We can see this in the line “We cried ourselves a hurricane”. But it also takes a look at the way we ignore our responsibility, the passivity of our actions. We may sometimes not realize parts of our behaviour as something harmful and that this is damaging the earth. That is expressed in the lines “I bend the definition of faith / To exonerate my blind eye”. We may continue to do things like polluting the environment, etc. and say “This isn’t harmful to the environment” when it is in fact damaging the earth. Even if it doesn’t look like it in the moment, the accumulation of such actions by multiple people in the world has dire consequences in the long run.
So I think the most important moral of “Earth” is the following: We can deny the part we as humans play in climate change all we want, but it doesn’t change the outcome. Until we admit the part we played and still play in where the world is at right now, global warming will continue to grow, water won’t cease to overflow and pollution will continue to happen.
Humanity’s role in climate change
Let’s take a look at the scientific perspective. In an article, NASA shared the distinct statement that “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Evidence like carbon dioxide being at an all-time high compared to the last millennias show us that climate change is real and humans play a not inconsiderable role in it. In fact, according to a survey from 2021, which examined a random smaple of 3000 studies from 88,125 climate related studies from 2012 to 2020, human activity is the primal cause for climate change. In an update to a paper from 2012, the assessment from 2021 came to the consensus that “the scientific consensus on human-caused contemporary climate change […] exceeds 99% in the peer reviewed scientific literature” (Lynas et al., 2021). However, there are still many people who are in denial. According to a paper by the Pew Research Center, “only 27% of U.S. adults believe that “almost all” scientists agreed that climate change is due to human activity” (Cornell Chronicle, 2021). But why is that the case? Why are most people not acting?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at the psychology behind anthropogenic climate change: Milfont et al. mentioned the key term “environmental numbness” in their paper “Global warming, climate change and human psychology”. This means that humans, while being able to think about climate change, choose not to do so. Along with that there are also several psychological mechanisms that can create barriers to the awareness of climate change. What they all have in common is that they create a form of “psychological distance”, meaning that our emotional involvement changes depending on how close we are to a perceived event. Looking at the term from an environmental perceptive, we can say that countries thay lay closer to a specific issue in proximity tend to have a higher emotional involvement and place a higher level of importance on it than countries that are farther away in proximity. They simply don’t exceed the “threshold of discernability” (Milfont et al., 2010). According to the 2010 paper “climate change has weak physical signs [psychophysiological barriers] […], so is perceived to be less likely to occur [judgemental barriers], takes place farther into the future (temporal distance), and is perceived to be more likely in more remote locations (spatial distance) and to people less like oneself (social distance)” (Milfont et al. 2010). The following figure shows the barrier of social distance.
Apart from the scientific perspective, there is also the spiritual perspective to this topic which comes from Eckart Tolle: Many people in today’s world are unhappy with their lives and this may result in them projecting their unhappiness outward. “The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution” (Tolle, “The Power Of Now”, 1999).
Whether psychological or spiritual, all these factors can have an important impact on how humans can deny climate change and their responsibility in it. The consequences are only generally known.
Where is the world at right now?
When it comes to the evidence of rapid climate change, there is aplenty. Firstly, global temperature and the sea levels are rising. Milfont et al. state that “Global mean temperature has risen approximately 0.76° Celsius [about 2 degress Fahrenheit] since 1850” and that “sea level is projected to rise by about 0.5m by 2100”. Moreover, the artic sea ice is declining and extreme events are increasing in frequency (NASA). It is obvious that these changes in in climate aren’t just a change in weather, we can see that in the daily news. But not just in the daily news: This april I was walking across a beautiful meadow with daisies and dandelions and fast forward to this July it beared more resemblance to a veld than a blooming oasis. On the contrary, I haven’t experienced a winter with much snow for more than a decade. Ten years ago there was this winter where there was so much snow that you could build an igloo in the back of your house! These days seem long gone now. We need to notice these events to consciously become aware of the changes our world is facing and to aquire knowledge how to live more ecoconscious.
What you can do
So, what can you do to live a more ecoconscious life? Firstly, walk through your world with open eyes. Don’t switch channels when the news come on and climate news are broadcasted. Listen and talk to people about it. What you can do as well is donate. The Clean Air Task Force, the World Wildlife Foundation or Green Peace are three examples of organisations you can donate to in order to help fight climate change. And lastly, you can actively change your lifestyle. With that, I don’t mean you need to become a minimalist or turn into a vegan overnight. What I mean is that you try and find your individual way to become more ecoconscious. Start with, for example, taking a jute bag with you every time you go shopping for new clothes or start saving energy by switching off the lights before you leave a room. Here is a compiled set of advice where you can see what works for you.https://www.thewholesomewitch.com/green-sustainable-eco-conscious-living/: Do you turn a blind eye towards the earth?
Thank you very much for reading this entry. Feel free to share this entry with relatives, friends and/or coworkers!
“Betrayal” (Mario Sanchez)
– NASA (2022). Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?. [online] Available at: <https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/> [Accessed 11 September 2022].
– Lynas, M., Houlton, B. and Perry, S., 2021. Greater than 99% consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 16(11), p.114005.0
– Ramanujan, K., 2022. More than 99.9% of studies agree: Humans caused climate change | Cornell Chronicle. [online] Cornell Chronicle. Available at: <https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2021/10/more-999-studies-agree-humans-caused-climate-change> [Accessed 11 September 2022].
– Milfont, T. L. (2010). Global warming, climate change and human psychology. Psychological approaches to sustainability: Current trends in theory, research and practice, 19, 42.
– Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. New World Library.
– Jordan, K., 2022. Green Living: 10 Easy Ways to be More Eco-friendly. [online] The Wholesome Witch. Available at: <https://www.thewholesomewitch.com/green-sustainable-eco-conscious-living/> [Accessed 11 September 2022].