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Chapter 5. Guidelines

Marshall (2014). Don’t Even Think About It.

Marshall (2014). Don’t Even Think About It. Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. New York: Bloomsbury

 

“the reason why people do not accept climate change is nothing to do with the information – it is the cultural coding that it contains.” p23

“Attitudes on climate change … have become a social cue like gun control: a shorthand for figuring out who is in our group” p23

“rational scientific data can lose against a compelling emotional story” p24

“during our evolutionary development … being out of sync with the people around us carried a potentially life-threatening danger of ostracism or abandonment. There are, therefore, real and serious risks involved with holding views that are out of step with your social group and your brain is wired to give them greater weight than other risks” p27

“drawing too much attention to an undesirable norm can seriously backfire.”… “Environmental organizations never seem to learn this message.” p30

“The missing truth … in these enemy narratives, is that in high-carbon societies, everyone contributes to the emissions that cause the problem. … This is why I have become convinced that the real battle for mass action will not be won through enemy narratives and that we need to find narratives based on cooperation, mutual interests, and our common humanity.” p42

“.. the real story lies in our flawed psychology… Climate change isn’t the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant we’re all inside of.” p43

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Morton (2013). Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World.

Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 2013.

Summary:

Global warming is fundamentally different from many other threats we as humans have faced. We are actually inside this threat; we are part of it and responsible for it. Dealing with global warming is therefore utterly difficult. Right now we are in denial – which is logical because the danger is really coming from unusual dimensions (a hyperobject). We should pause to see it, and then take responsibility.

Opinion:

As a work of philosophy, this book offers new and original ideas. As a practical guide to living in times of hyperobjects the book takes way to many words to describe what has been summarized above in five sentences. Morton is bold and graceful, however, in his use of art and artworks to construct his argument, and pointing out a role for the arts in communicating the intricate world of hyperobjects into the realm of our unconsciousness.

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Blog

Recent posts:

I’m currently working on a film about solutions for climate change. The work and ideas of Jeremy Rifkin are leading for now. Every social change requires a new narrative, and Rifkin’s narrative of the Third Industrial Revolution has brought him to be an advisor to the European Union and recently even to Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

If CO2 emissions remain unchecked, global warming will probably kill our children and put severe pressure on the survival of the human race. Big words but it’s simple math and complex science that leave not much room for uncertainty on these conclusions.

But doom stories – true or not true  – only lead us to despair.

To bring about a change, a Better and More story is far more effective then the ‘we should do less’ message that the environmental groups have been massively pushing. Look at Tesla’s highly successful strategy: make a car that is better, faster, cooler and greener than the old fossil fuel things. New buildings should be better and more comfortable and cheaper than the old not-so-well insulated buildings without solar roofs.

The new film will probably have the ‘look and feel’ of a nature documentary. Think David Attenborough meets Elon Musk meets Jeremy Rifkin meets 2001 a Space Odyssey.

Please let me know if you want to help in any way.

Here you find the Global Crisis Guide.

On the Psychology of Climate Change

How do people psychologically deal with knowledge of climate change?
This is an excellent overview of recent research.
It seems that alarming messages are counter productive. There has to be  an action perspective, or things will be too much overwhelming. More precise: there seems to be a double bind (psychological catch-22) between (a)  deep concern for planet and (b) deep concern for own lifestyle.
The result of this double bind is apathy and shifting baselines, because the changes are too slow on a human scale.
“Anxiety and helplessness, argues a report published last week by the American Psychological Association, rather than ambivalence or apathy are the biggest barriers to individuals taking action.”
Krosnick and his colleagues at Stanford University. Their study about attitudes related to global warming, published in 2006, found that ‘people stop paying attention to a problem when they realize there is no easy solutions for it”.
“To motivate deniers’ pro-environmental actions, communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society, rather than focusing on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.
“Positive Rather than Fear Based Appeals More Effective Among Skeptics”
“Catastrophic Climate Rhetoric Increases Climate Skepticism”
“Fear-Based Climate Appeals Fail”

Lyubomirsky (2007). The How of Happiness

Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007). The How of Happiness. London: Sphere.

Based on years of research about happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky concludes that:

  • 60% of differences in (personally experienced) happiness are due to external and genetic circumstances
  • 40% of happiness can be explained by specific thinking and behaviour patterns.

So the good thing is: almost half or your well-being can be somehow influenced, and the other half of it just asks for acceptance. It will be useful to teach yourself to think and live in ways that make most people happy. What are these patterns in thinking and behaviour that seem to make people happier?

“Below is a sample of my observations, as well as those of other researchers, of the thinking and behaviour patters of the happiest participants in our studies.

  • They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  • They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  • They are often the first to offer a helping hand to co-workers and passers-by.
  • They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  • They savour life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  • They make physical exercise a weekly – and sometimes daily – habit.
  • They are deeply committed to life-long goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
  • And, last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stress, crises and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the pose and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.”[1]

 

  1. [1]Lyubormisky 2007: 23.

Image of Humanity – What is One Man?

PREAMBLE: Man is a social being. Individual development is always dependent on social development. Man is empathetic and able to love. This is the basis of human community.

The image of what a human being actually is has been narrowed down by science. Schumacher argued[1] that man is considered to be a machine more than a living being. The dominant scientific paradigm, what Schumacher calls materialistic scientism, has deaf ears and blind eyes towards non-materialistic qualities of life thereby stripping it of most of its meaning – meaning that seems to be experienced by individuals as crucial.

A consequence is that the social aspects like relationships to peers, ancestors and offspring are neglected; we need both a latitudinal and longitudinal extension of human image.

Maslov’s hierarchy of needs is an example of what happens when human beings are considered to be singular machine-like creatures. The hierarchy, often depicted as a pyramid of needs, implies that the top needs are most important; self-actualisation would be the highest goal of a human being. But is this universally true? For one single individual it might be, but humanity doesn’t function as a collection of individuals. Maslov’s needs in reality are only being met in patterns of collective behaviour and collective growth. As research on well being shows,[2] being connected to others might be at least as important as self-actualisation. As a model for building a society, Maslov is too much focused on the individual. A model of society should have groups of people as building blocks.

So what is a human being? To what extent is his or her context part of the individual? What does latitudinal and longitudinal extension of the human image look like?

Latitudinal (peers) and longitudinal (ancestors and offspring) extension of human image

A consequence of increasing specialization in science is that categories and descriptions of singularities are abundant but relationships between objects go largely unseen. Our theoretic lenses of science do not put relationships in focus, while relationships are defining what and who we are to a large extent.

Research into subjective well being shows that happy people have in common that they spend a lot of time with others and cherishing relationships.[3] Research into innovation and trade shows that prosperity and wealth only come from trust based exchange with other people.[4].

Not only we literally do not exist without others; we need others to be happy, to prosper and to thrive.

  1. [1]See Schumacher 1977
  2. [2]Lyubomirsky 2007: 23
  3. [3]Lyubomirksy 2007: 23
  4. [4]Ridley 2011

Living by Values or Survival by Defence?

Survival in times of turbulence requires adaptation; living requires a radical rethinking of the world as we see it, and doing the things we do in life quite differently. Where are we flawed and what should we be doing?

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Should value of ecosystems be economized?

When did a bee actually send you an invoice? Pavan Suhkdev asks whether  evaluating the economic value of natural resources help averting crisis. He argues how for the coral reefs it’s too late – and how this will influence millions of people dependent on these ecosystems for their food. How to deal with rapidly declining biodiversity, threatening livelihoods worldwide? Economics is the language of politics; perhaps we should move the ecosystems’ value into the equation. I think this will help but only in addition to strengthening a core-value based discourse.

Why Complexity necessitates trial and error but With a Plan

Why did complex systems theory become important? Because complex systems like changing climate and financial economy are increasingly influencing our dayly lives. What are complex systems, and how to deal with them?

To make things simple, let’s break the world apart in two. The Simple and the Complex. In the simple world, the position of the sun in twenty and two thousand years can be predicted. If we can do that, then predicting the weather is a matter of making better models, right?

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Zizek’s Nose or Need for Borders

Slavoj Zizek touches his nose exactly 365 times during this 76 minute lecture. Once for each day of the year. I discovered it totally accidentally. Is he so boring that I am so easily distracted? Still it was gripping; from a psychological point of view he has a point, claiming that people in our globalised world might be needing more borders and boundaries, in stead of less. He makes the argument at nose-touch 188. The title of the video work: Distraction 188 (Sven Jense, 2011).

Touching the nose is a classic gesture of untruth, or hiding. And it’s never a bad idea to distrust a self-acclaimed communist. Turning towards his latest book though, Living in the End Times (Zizek, 2011), it makes more sense.

And wouldn’t you think that the nationalistic movements in many Western-European countries can be related to open borders and resulting feelings of insecurity? In terms of job-insecurity, these feelings are not at all unjustified.

This is why we argue for a healthy and partially closed nation state as basis for national governance and international cooperation; vision 10 of our Declaration of Human Direction.