Cavemen and Climate Change

Just finished reading a fascinating post at The Oil Drum that Prof. Goose emailed out on Friday. Titled “Climate Change, Sabre Tooth Tigers and Devaluing the Future,” writer Nate Hagens thinks about the inability to generate wide-scale action on peak oil (the focus at TOD) and climate change. Digging deeply (for a blog post, anyway) into both evolutionary biology and economics, Hagens ultimately comes to the conclusion that the pay-off isn’t close enough for us: we’re “wired” to focus on needs and desires that bring relatively immediate rewards. If we’re going to move people to action, we have to create a means of marketing these issues that creates emotional triggers for immediate action — getting people to think about it won’t work on its own. That’s a really quick and dirty summary, but it’s an issue that most of us here should be familiar. Read the post… it’s full of ideas that all of concerned about environmental challenges need to consider.

The big question, of course, is what to do about it: how do we address long-term changes with results that we likely won’t live to see? Is it simply a matter of marketing? Seth Godin brought up the problems with the term “global warming” last year, and that seems particularly relevant to this discussion. On the other hand, if we try to reframe these issues in such a way to produce more desire for immediate action, are we playing right into charges of “chicken little” pronouncements? It’s a conundrum, and a new one: we’ve only been able to make these kinds of predictions (with any accuracy) for a very tiny portion of our history as a species; for most of our collective existence, we’ve focused on the here and now.

I could ramble on, but I think I’ll leave it at that, and open it up to the rest of you.Whaddaya think?

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