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Don't Even Think about It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

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Don't Even Think about It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change Cover

ISBN13: 9781620401330
ISBN10: 1620401339
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Most of us recognize that climate change is real, and yet we do nothing to stop it. What is this psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? George Marshalls search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and the activists of the Texas Tea Party; the worlds leading climate scientists and the people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals. What he discovered is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall argues that the answers do not lie in the things that make us different and drive us apart, but rather in what we all share: how our human brains are wired—our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blindspots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe. Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and reimagine climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. Rather, it is one we can halt if we can make it our common purpose and common ground. Silence and inaction are the most persuasive of narratives, so we need to change the story.

In the end, Dont Even Think About It is both about climate change and about the qualities that make us human and how we can grow as we deal with the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

Review:

"'Why do the victims of flooding, drought, and severe storms become less willing to talk about climate change or even accept that it is real?' Environmentalist Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, explores this and a host of other questions in an alternately enlightening, yet labored examination of the reasons people have difficulty accepting climate change, even when presented with mountains of evidence. He draws heavily upon interviews with scientists and policy makers, as well as with individuals who have faced the ravages of severe flood or drought, offering several reasons why we have a hard time accepting the reality of climate change. For one, we often believe what we want to believe: 'if you are already inclined... to see climate change as dangerous, then it looks really dangerous. If you are not inclined that way, then it looks exaggerated.' Moreover, climate change is generally framed as a finite challenge that can be resolved or overcome, like winning a military victory. Marshall concludes by pointing out that multiple interpretations of climate change contain the central reason we can ignore it: 'these constructed narratives become so culturally specific that people who do not identify with values can reject the issue they explain.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

A witty, insightful, and original take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: For those of us who believe climate change is real, why do we so easily ignore it?

Synopsis:

A witty, insightful, and groundbreaking take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change?

Synopsis:

What is this psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? In this groundbreaking and engaging look at one of the most important issues facing us today, George Marshall, known for his work on the psychology of climate change denial, shows that even when we accept that climate change is a dire problem, our human brains are wired to ignore it—and argues that we can overcome this.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall confirms that humans are wired to respond strongest to threats that are visible, immediate, have historical precedent, have direct personal impact, and are caused by an “enemy.” Climate change is none of these—its invisible, unprecedented, drawn out, impacts us indirectly, and is caused by us. Taking the reader deep into our evolutionary origins, Marshall argues that once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and reimagine climate change. In the end, his book is both about climate change and about the qualities that make us human: our limitations, our strengths, and how we can grow as we deal with the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

About the Author

George Marshall is founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network and has two decades of experience in research and campaigning for environmental organizations. Hes worked for Greenpeace and the Rainforest Foundation, and has been a policy consultant to the German, Papua New Guinea, and Welsh governments. He lives in Wales. His website is http://climatedenial.org.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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markarena, September 6, 2014 (view all comments by markarena)
In this timely and urgently needed book, George Marshall sets out to answer several questions that he poses in the opening chapter: “What explains out ability to separate what we know from what we believe, to put aside the things that seem too painful to accept? How is it possible, when presented with the evidence of our own eyes, that we can deliberately ignore something ��" while being entirely aware that this is what we are doing?”

Over the course of the book, he explores many of the psychological and social traits that served us well over millions of years of our physical evolution on the savannas of Africa, but which are not serving us so well now, as we face perhaps the greatest existential threat to our civilization. Some of these traits include confirmation bias, present (time) focus, social conformity, group think, procrastination, valuing the messenger over the message, and the different functioning of our rational and emotional brains. He explores these issues with several psychologists and sociologists, who generally believe that climate change is “a threat that our evolved brains are uniquely unsuited to do a damned thing about”, as put by Harvard Professor of Psychology Daniel Gilbert.

However, in order to gain the widest possible perspective on these issues, he immerses himself into cultures that many environmentalists would consider the belly of the beast of denialism, such as Tea Party meetings and evangelical church congregations. That he is able to discover important lessons on climate change communication from such unlikely sources is a testament to his open mindedness and humility.

He also points out many of the approaches that environmental activists take that are proving to be counterproductive, if the goal is to move beyond preaching to the choir and encourage a mass movement to address climate change. Perhaps the most important of these is the tendency of environmentalists to adhere to the “information deficit” model of social change, which is the belief that if just the right information is provided to people, that they will see the light and act upon that knowledge. Much of the content of the book is showing just how completely untrue this is.

He emphasizes that since the early days of climate change awareness, the policy focus has been on reducing emissions at the tailpipe, or smokestack, and not at the well-head or mine. This framing has hampered the ability to develop truly effective solutions, as policies should ideally address impacts at both ends of the carbon chain.

He discusses how the framing of climate change as primarily an environmental issue was an early error of activists and environmental organizations. Those whose social groups reject environmentalism as mainly the purview of egg-headed liberal elites (e.g. Al Gore), have come to distrust the message of human caused climate change because they distrust the messengers. The way in which climate change has become politicized hampers the ability of people who are not environmental activists to accept it.

The author does provide recommendations for effective climate change communication, but without giving away the punchline, this quote on the need to engage both the rational and emotional aspects of our psyches sums them up well: “So, advocates for action on climate change have to do everything they can to speak to both. They need to maintain enough data and evidence to satisfy the rational mind that they are a credible source. They then need to translate that data into a form that will engage and motivate the emotional brain using the tools of immediacy, proximity, social meaning, stories and metaphors that draw on personal experience.”

The book is well structured, with many easy to read short chapters that make for easy pacing. He also provides two summary chapters that distill the many points he makes, which I found very useful. I believe this book is a must read for everyone involved in communicating about this “wicked” problem, as he puts it. I propose that we place copies of this book in time capsules around the world, in case our civilization does not heed the messages of this book, at least future survivors will know why.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9781620401330
Author:
Marshall, George
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Psychology & Psychiatry
Subject:
Global Warming & Climate Change
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140831
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.125 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Climate Change and Global Warming

Don't Even Think about It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$27.00 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - English 9781620401330 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'Why do the victims of flooding, drought, and severe storms become less willing to talk about climate change or even accept that it is real?' Environmentalist Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, explores this and a host of other questions in an alternately enlightening, yet labored examination of the reasons people have difficulty accepting climate change, even when presented with mountains of evidence. He draws heavily upon interviews with scientists and policy makers, as well as with individuals who have faced the ravages of severe flood or drought, offering several reasons why we have a hard time accepting the reality of climate change. For one, we often believe what we want to believe: 'if you are already inclined... to see climate change as dangerous, then it looks really dangerous. If you are not inclined that way, then it looks exaggerated.' Moreover, climate change is generally framed as a finite challenge that can be resolved or overcome, like winning a military victory. Marshall concludes by pointing out that multiple interpretations of climate change contain the central reason we can ignore it: 'these constructed narratives become so culturally specific that people who do not identify with values can reject the issue they explain.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , A witty, insightful, and original take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: For those of us who believe climate change is real, why do we so easily ignore it?
"Synopsis" by , A witty, insightful, and groundbreaking take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change?
"Synopsis" by ,
What is this psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? In this groundbreaking and engaging look at one of the most important issues facing us today, George Marshall, known for his work on the psychology of climate change denial, shows that even when we accept that climate change is a dire problem, our human brains are wired to ignore it—and argues that we can overcome this.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall confirms that humans are wired to respond strongest to threats that are visible, immediate, have historical precedent, have direct personal impact, and are caused by an “enemy.” Climate change is none of these—its invisible, unprecedented, drawn out, impacts us indirectly, and is caused by us. Taking the reader deep into our evolutionary origins, Marshall argues that once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and reimagine climate change. In the end, his book is both about climate change and about the qualities that make us human: our limitations, our strengths, and how we can grow as we deal with the greatest challenge we have ever faced.
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