Friday, August 21, 2015

Using empathy to combat climate change

People seem to come to conclusions about global warming based more on politics and emotion, than on hard science or practical realities. Usually advocates claim to be making scientific arguments, but this interview tries to make more emotional arguments:
What can we, as individuals, do to help with climate change?

Dr Roman Krznaric is from the London-based a cultural enterprise think tank 'School of Life' and he’s also author of Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution.

So what exactly is empathy and how can evoking empathy combat climate change?

Kat - So, can you explain a little bit about, how does the issue of empathy tie-up with climate change?

Roman - Normally, we think of climate change as something that needs technological scientific solutions, but try and think about it through the lens of empathy. I mean, 98% of us have the ability to empathise, to step into other people’s shoes, wired into our brains. And climate change can be seen as a problem of a huge empathy deficit. We’re not putting our empathy into practice in two ways. We’re failing to step into the shoes of people in developing countries who were being hit by extreme weather events related to climate change. We just heard about Anneil there in Bangladesh being hit by floods. And equally, we’re failing to step into the shoes of future generations. What's it like to be a teenager living in Dublin or Dubai in 2100 in a climate changed world? Unless we can make that empathic leap, we’re not actually going to create the kind of grassroots social movements, the kind of political action, that is required to push the politicians to come to new global agreements.
If you could really make an empathic leap to a teenager living in Dublin or Dubai in 2100, you would probably be in favor of burning more fossil fuels. The warming is helping Dublin, and Dubai has gotten rich from the oil.
Kat - How do we evoke empathy for the climate? Is the solution just, cute pictures of polar bears?

Roman - I'm sorry to say that all those cute polar bear pictures haven't actually been very good at galvanising people over the last few years on climate change because the social science research tells us that actually, what motivates us is caring about other people more than plants or animals. That’s the reality of it and there needs to be much more campaigning about trying to give a human face to the people whose lives are being affected by climate change today and in the future.
I would have thought that many people care more about cute polar bears than teenagers in Dubai. Either way, be prepared for scientifically tuned propaganda to manipulate you by triggering emotional responses in your brain.

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