“I was wilfully deluded until I began covering global warming,” says author and journalist David Wallace-Wells. He’s the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story Of The Future which begins with these gripping opening lines “It’s worse, much worse, than you think” that are like a voice from your worst nightmare. “People should be scared – I’m scared,” says Wallace-Wells.
Fear for our future and frustration with the inability of the political establishment to deal adequately with the climate crisis are driving the world’s youth to rise. And they will not take no for an answer. They are not, in any way, deluded about their future.
I began following global warming and climate change over a decade ago. At first I naively thought that climate science—the facts—would galvanize the world into taking rapid and immediate steps to bend the curve on greenhouse gases and the warming of the planet. But that did not work out that well.
I also believed that “fear”—for their own future and that of their children and grandchildren—would mobilize millions of people demanding immediate measures and aggressive climate policies from their governments and leaders. And that didn’t work out that well either. In fact, the earlier climate movement may have done itself a lot of harm by trying to weaponize fear as a motivational factor.
Climate psychologists have repeatedly reminded activists and environmentalists that using fear as a motivational tool to fight climate change could be counterproductive. When flooded with “gloom and doom” warnings and mountains of scientific facts, data, reports and analyses about climate change, the average person feels overwhelmed and turns off. Consequently, many of us have let ourselves become desensitised to everything climate.
Willful blindness has set in “because the problem is too disturbing for people to want it dominating their thoughts, or from the knowledge that solving the problem would require extensive effort”—Wikipedia. Rather than engaging in the fight against climate change, most people have chosen to ignore the warnings and retreat into the busy activities of their daily lives. They started looking the other way with the false belief that climate change was still far away in the future or would only occur in a distant land. Until now!
Fear is Back
It’s all about timing when it comes to fear.
Fear is one of the strongest human emotions. It can be too powerful and paralyze people especially when there’s no solution in sight. However, it can be useful when accompanied by a clear solution. Marketers have used fear to sell their products since the beginning of time. First they “present a scenario they hope will invoke our sense of fear. Then they show us a solution—a path back to our comfort zone—that entails using their product or service” writes the author of this blog post. And thus we buy all kinds of products we don’t really need.
“Nothing makes us more uncomfortable than fear…[it]invokes the flight or fight syndrome; and our first reaction is always to flee back to our comfort zone. If we don’t know the way back, we are likely to follow whoever shows us a path,” claims Psychology Today.
To use fear as an effective motivator, a solution must be presented, a new path to follow. And this is happening now. Hundreds of thousands of students on #climatestrike around the globe fear for their future. The FridaysForFuture movement, started by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, is showing the new path forward forcing politicians and world leaders into emergency action. These kids are not deluded. Their fear is real, it is palpable. They are laser-focused on what lies ahead and they want action.
The site and sounds of children in outright fear for their future cannot easily be ignored. It grips decision-makers in the gut and in the heart.
Fear of course works best when the threat is real and imminent. Imagine you live on the top floor of a very tall condo tower. And suddenly fire alarm bells go off. A few minutes later, you start to smell smoke and you even see the smoke and now you’re feeling really worried. You fear for your life. You immediately run for the exits. Fear is driving you to act. It’s an emergency and you’re in a crisis. It’s life and death. Fear works.
What the climate crisis needs is more fear, not less, to nudge a complacent public out of its comfort zone. We need decision-makers to fear for their political lives but more importantly fear for their own lives and that of their love ones. They must see themselves on the top floor of the world’s tallest building. On fire.
Fear of Extinction
The Extinction Rebellion is rising out of the fight for life on a planet which is facing an unprecedented global emergency. It “is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced, but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself,” writes David Wallace-Wells.
The fear of extinction is real. The sixth mass extinction is already happening and we see ample evidence of climate breakdown. Extinction is a very troubling thought to mull over but at least it makes us confront the reality of the possible extinction of our own species if we continue on our current path. “Populations of wild animals have more than halved since 1970, while the human population has doubled,” explains the Population Matters home page.
Thousand Points of Light
But out of the fear for our future and peak frustration over decades of climate inaction, there are bright spots, a “thousand points of light“. Our challenge is to support the global rise of youth as they shine a million points of light on climate action.
Related articles…see wikipedia –
A World Where Leaders Are Childish and Children Are Leaders
The Stakes Could Not Be Higher