I’m not so sure we will change our behaviors enough to stop climate change. Many blogs, articles, and thought pieces focus on what we can do to keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. The suggestions are somewhat endless: move to vegan lifestyles; eating bugs (WHO recommends this!); living in dense urban environments with ample integrated flora (Spain has started to have urban renewal with many trees built into the buildings); rationed water; the end of consumer culture; and the end of planned obsolescence.
Yet, we have done very little. We still eat tons of beef each year in the developed world (even more tons of meat across the globe as developing economies adopt western habits). We still consume for the sake of consumption. We have even lost our ability to recycle as China decides to stop taking the world’s trash. Sadly, I do not see a cultural change coming.
I do not see it because I do not think humanity has the capacity to change quickly enough. Humans are irrational creatures feigning rationality. Humans are emotional creatures feigning logic. We are not interested in truth, but rather the confirmation of our worldview. We are creatures of the present, and the present holds tangible problems. Climate change is someone else’s problem for too many today. Those communities who have been most impacted by climate change are distant and often intangible to those in the West most responsible for climate change. So when we see major hurricanes impact people, we do not equate those hurricanes as our fault. Even when they hit us in the western world, we create excuses within our worldview. And even those of us who agree that humans are changing the climate also know that most of us alive today will not be alive to see the climate change: literally someone else’s problem.
Finally, the biggest reason I believe we will fail to curb climate change is: freedom.
In the United States, the world’s biggest contributor to climate change, our culture of freedom is the chief contributor because it teaches each person their desires and wants are more important than the group’s needs. We have stated our intention to leave the Paris Agreement because of freedom. Can you imagine a serious American politician advocating for the banning of meat? Or legally imposed recycling? Limited use of fresh water? Rationed…anything? Perhaps in the face of war Americans might accept these temporary restraints, but lifelong prohibitions in the face of an intangible likely impacting people somewhere else? I believe by the time the US experiences the catastrophic impacts of climate change, it might be too late to reverse them. Ask yourself, how many changes have I made in life because of climate change? I don’t see a critical mass of change. We cannot even agree how to end the gun violence in America that is taking lives in the tangible present.
The only path I see requires the type of energy bubbling up in the youngest citizens and a unique approach to change: how can we use our brains and technology to alter the outcomes of our behaviors? I believe technologies that allow the production of meat without the raising of animals (lab grown meat) could greatly reduce methane gasses and allow grazing land to be repopulated with diverse flora. I believe technologies that increase re-use capacities will greatly reduce our use of finite resources. One area that is showing great promise is the electric engine. Though the price point for electric cars is unsustainable for the masses, the technology will become cheaper and more countries will have regulations requiring electric cars – I read recently that China is moving in that direction, yet in the States we are still officially advocating the burning of coal and oil.
We will not change our behaviors in my opinion, yet I believe we will address climate change: we will alter the outcomes of our actions. We need to devote considerable investment in new technologies. It is our only hope of avoiding dystopian deserts dreamed up in so many nightmares.