The thought spreading from one mind to another around the world is that every form of extreme weather—wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods, and melting glaciers—could be a sign of Climate Change. While climate science is not precise enough yet to link specific storms or heat waves with Climate Change, there’s enough information to say that it is more probable that these extreme weather events are connected with anthropogenic warming of our planet’s atmosphere. And while this sort of wildfire meme probably drives deniers crazy, there is no getting around it: Every major twist in the weather propagates a flurry of articles on whether the event is due to warming or not.
Like “…tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches…” (Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene) the Climate Change meme is now spreading in the public’s mind, hopefully self-replicating to a point where we actually do something on a scale that will matter to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change.
Freedom, the idea that each individual has the right to be treated equally in the eyes of the law, is another such a meme, one that took centuries to grow and is still locked in the minds of all cultures, especially since the rise of the Internet. But with Climate Change we don’t have centuries to grow and nurture our responsibility to adapt to and mitigate planetary Climate Change. We are living in a time where the window of opportunity to save future generations from extreme climactic havoc is quickly closing.
If the dire consequences of Climate Change on agriculture, ecosystems, forests, transportation, coasts, energy, human health, society, and water resources don’t galvanize us into action, perhaps the lives of those heroes who risk their lives to save the homes of those who build in risky areas will.
Wildfires Will Worsen, And Further Strain The Forest Service The deaths of 19 firefighters near Yarnell, Ariz., this summer have focused a lot of attention on just how bad wildfire has become in the West. And research predicts the situation is going to get worse. Over the past decade, the region has seen some of the worst fire seasons on record. In addition to lives lost, the fires have cost billions in terms of lost property and in taxpayer money spent fighting the blazes. Ray Rasker, an economist who lives in the fire country of southwestern Montana, tracks fire records the way other economists study business cycles or commodity prices. He's seen a disturbing trend. (July 19, 2013) NPR
‘Will’ is the operative word in the above story. It’s code for Climate Change. But here’s the message you need to take home. At some point, probably not very far from now, insurance companies and our government are going to have to ‘do something’ about folks building and maintaining residences in high risk wildfire or coastal flooding areas. It’s not about our slide into becoming a nanny state; it’s about our inability to compensate for losses in increasingly high risk regions as Climate Change ramps up those risks. (A couple of governors say our government has already passed the point where we can pay for large disasters: Climate and Politics.) It is also about protecting our best and most courageous public servants who must save homes built in what are now danger zones.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we addressed this issue now before insurance companies and our government went broke over this Climate Change financial threat, while we still have the time and ability to plan for disasters? Instead of just reacting to them like a species too preoccupied with other things to save itself?
It has been suggested that psychology might help us figure out how we can motivate ourselves to address Climate Change in a timely matter. Perhaps, though I’m not convinced.
Here’s an example of our inability to get large numbers of folks to act altruistically for all in a kind of traffic ‘tragedy of the commons’. It goes like this: The reason large backups occur at a highway construction a site is because too many motorists try to stay in the lane that is closing until they are ‘forced’ into the slower line, thus causing a bottleneck that could be avoided if everyone moved into the correct lane at the first practical moment. So, how would a psychologist design highway signage so all motorists would slow down and begin changing lanes at the first opportunity instead of the last? If the experiment worked, everyone would have to slow down some, but there overall traffic flow would be much faster.
I’d like to see this experiment carried off successfully, but I don’t think anyone can do it. Motorists would just ignore the signs, just like most of us are ignoring the signs of Climate Change. My thought is, If psychologists cannot get folks to act together to stop something as small as unnecessary traffic jams, because there will always be many who’ll try and game the system, how in the world can they help humanity get together to solve something as thoroughly overwhelming as Climate Change?
My guess is that we don’t need psychology to solve Climate Change; we need a form of mind surgery where we can operate on seven billion folks at once and get their minds adjusted to the new reality. Just saying…