“So a one per cent chance of a terrorist attack should be acted on as though it is a certainty, but a ninety per cent chance of severe climate disruption is too uncertain for action.” Why?
This review was first published in the March 2015 edition Reform, the magazine of the United Reformed Church http://www.reform-magazine.co.uk/
Don’t Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change. Bloomsbury, 2014.
“So a one per cent chance of a terrorist attack should be acted on as though it is a certainty, but a ninety per cent chance of severe climate disruption is too uncertain for action.” George Marshall’s words, from this highly readable, thought-provoking book, indicate the problem: despite scientific consensus that severe climate change is underway, with seriously malign consequences for humankind, the world’s peoples seem unable to take appropriate action. Why?
To find answers Marshall observes and visits scientists, politicians, environmental activists, climate change deniers, and even American tele-evangelists. He also draws upon his background as a communications adviser to governments, environmental organisations, faith groups, businesses and trade unions. The outcome is forty-two short, story-rich chapters, never shying away from how serious things are, yet managing to include some genuine ‘I-laughed-out-loud’ moments (not a normal feature in this sort of literature).
Marshall’s bottom line is that we don’t accept climate change because it stirs up too much anxiety and requires too many deep changes from us. Other threats do the same but climate change is a creeping problem, with long term consequences. There is no identifiable enemy to hold responsible (except ourselves), yet many currently competing groups must work together to achieve solutions.
He takes time to meet with and understand those who do not share his views on climate change. He does not shy away from criticising environmental activists who over-use insider-language, and who disdain those with whom they do not agree (even though they depend upon them for a solution). He even has a chapter on ‘what the green team can learn from the God squad’. Everyday values and practices of churches demonstrate ways forward. This includes knowing conviction arises from more than receiving (scientific) information and that receiving forgiveness gives hope, from valuing groups as settings to share both beliefs and doubts, and being committed to ‘sacred values’ which trump personal or local concerns.
This is a good read, helping us understand the problems faced. It also asks how our churches embody values and practices that contribute to finding an adequate response to climate change.
Trevor Jamison is Environmental Chaplain for Eco Congregation Scotland