Expert discusses why people ignore climate change
Humanity is headed downhill and needs to act now to get the climate back to normal, George Marshall said.
Marshall, author of “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate,” addressed this dilemma at a lecture and book signing held yesterday at the Cook Student Center.
Marshall is the co-founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, a 10-year-old nonprofit organization based in Oxford, England, that deals with communication of climate change. COIN usually works with people involved in politics, but is most interested in communicating with people who usually ignore climate change, which Marshall specified was mostly the working class.
People tend to disassociate bits of information they view as unnecessary and become focused on one thing, Marshall said. He claims people do not talk about climate change because they are presented with a moral challenge and know they are not innocent.
This scares people, and it is this fear that prevents the subject of climate change to spread.
The times when climate change is brought up, it is discussed with what Marshall called “socially constructed stories,” narratives that involve the effects of the climate change rather than the facts behind it.
“Climate change does not have an enemy, so we insert our own enemy,” Marshall said. “Climate change exists to create social facts.”
He said researchers and policy makers must reshape social narratives to make the issue urgent. In his opinion, universities are doing a lot more than other institutions to inform people about climate change, but not enough.
He would prefer information be spread “student to student” because that is how people will connect with the topic. If he were in charge of a university, he would have the issue of climate change addressed in every class.
The People’s Climate March last Sunday was an example of how to spread awareness of the issue and get more people talking.
“Sheer numbers creates form of action,” Marshall said.
Nirmala Mary Thomas, a graduate student, believes climate change is the biggest problem the world currently faces.
“[The] tilting of the axis, freezing of Lake Michigan and other problems that climate change has caused are all very serious,” she said.
Thomas proposed the idea that the Rutgers Climatology Departments take it further and inform the students about the facts behind climate change, as well as specific information on the state of the climate.
Various organizations and even the climate change organization on campus all do their best to inform the student body, she said.
Matthew Leconey, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, also personally believes that climate change is the biggest issue society faces. But since the effects of climate change are mostly relegated to the future, he said, most people are unconcerned about it.
“Because it is not present in our lives, the natural tendency is to ignore it,” Leconey said.