Published on May 22nd, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan
Why Are We Fascinated with Short-term Destruction & Fear (i.e. Volcanoes, Rapture) but Oblivious to Long-term Harms (i.e. Global Warming)?
Yeah, this is something I’ve thought about a lot, and read psychological articles on — it’s not new. But with the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Grimsvotin, on top of the hysteria (or mocking of hysteria) regarding Rapture, this question has flooded my thoughts and left me in wonder again.
Seriously, Grimsvotin will never cause even a tiny, little percentage of the harm global warming will cause and has already caused. Similarly, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan that we covered thoroughly and are all, yes, true disasters, won’t cause a significant percentage of the harm global climate change will cause (if we don’t act to stop and reverse it, which it seems we are not likely to do).
So, why do they get our attention so much easier and more intensely?
Well, while I started out just wanting to pose the question, I think I’ll supply some possible answers as well now:
- We are fascinated by what is new and what is happening now, and while global warming is happening now and we are seeing the effects now, the core issue is rather ‘old’ (relatively speaking) and thus like a 1990’s cell phone to many of us. We are not very good at long-term thinking, planning, and action I’d say. We take for granted its importance. This is true on a societal level and on a personal level as well for the large majority of us.
- Furthermore, the feelings of hopelessness most people have (who understand the climatic situation) is one that pushes people towards inaction. We CAN work together to stop catastrophic climate change, but because many people don’t believe that, they give up before giving it a try and try to avoid the topic altogether.
- We are visual species. Sight is very important to humans and visual events like volcanoes erupting (or imaginary visual events like Rapture) are more attractive to us. Global warming will have and is having many clear, visual effects (from floods to fires to hurricanes to temperature maps… ok, the last one might not fit perfectly), but they are not “global warming” and fighting global warming in the long-term is rather disconnected from these in many people’s minds.
We can take action to address global climate change, and we need to, but we need to give more consideration to the long term, have more hope that we can create positive change (even on a societal level), and understand that if we don’t want to see massive devastation from global climate change, we’d better act now.
Those are my main thoughts. Feel free to chime in with more or criticize my thoughts if you are inclined.
Ways to Green Your Life.
- Going Green Tip 1: Step Back
- Are You Acting Like a Coal or Oil Company CEO?
- What to do on Earth Day?
Photo Credit: Rapture via jurvetson