Why are we not talking about the things we don’t usually talk about that need to be involving climate change? Why is it so hard to talk about or hear certain things like a carbon tax, a zero carbon emissions goal, or the many other steps we can or may have to take to address this immense problem, or it’s taking decades which we no longer have?
Mindset barriers or traps are a big part of the reason. They overlap to various degrees with many other concepts, such as world view, mental models, obsolete paradigms, cognitive biases, cognitive sticking points, blind spots or blinders, myths, ideology, stories, narratives, unquestioned assumptions, dogma, mantras, emotionalism, faith, group think, and certitudes. Some of these can have a positive or neutral side, or are necessary in some way.
We also can include unquestioned beliefs about business-as-usual practices—and not just in business, or “that’s just the way it is” shrugs. In certain contexts we can add references to someone’s “mentality,” “psychology,” “temperament,” or “the way the person is wired.” There are also language, framing, and communications issues.
You may have caught the release of the latest IPPC report two weeks ago. That report, Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (IPPC 2018), found that the intense damage of droughts, floods, and everything that goes with that, anticipated to occur at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, will occur at this lower concentration, and earlier, by 2040.
It mentions the term “transformation,” saying “avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has ‘no documented historic precedent” “within just a few years (Davenport 2018).” We’ll mention that term a little later. But a major implication is that we’re going to have to extend our reach, the required speed of getting there, and fundamentally question business-as-usual assumptions which, consciously or not, justify seeking the much smaller, incremental levels of change we usually pursue and, to those of us on this issue, had seemed acceptable.
However, the report says levels of greenhouse gas emissions would have to drop to zero by 2050 (which sounds like a close cousin to New Jersey’s 100% renewable energy goal).
New Jersey, like the rest of the world, is in a period of profound transition. As we come grips with the fact that humanity’s impact on the planet is creating serious risks for all of us, and that each of us must do what we can, where we are, to make a difference—we simultaneously realize that our individual actions are insufficient, and that we need, at all levels, transformational change. We need to foster an awareness within both local and global communities that change is both essential and inevitable. Whether we’re concerned with climate change, or biodiversity loss, or social injustice, it’s clear that above all we need to restructure our economy, to make it cleaner, and fairer, and more restorative of Earth’s systems in order to achieve any degree of sustainable prosperity.
For many people, the sheer size and scope of this challenge may seem beyond their ability to comprehend, so they withdraw into narrower realms of life — making a living, maintaining a relationship, or pursuing “professional development.” Those who do recognize what the planet confronts us with may become cynical and resigned, get burned out, or simply feel overwhelmed and unable to take any meaningful action. The challenge, in this game, is to engage with other social change agents in a common search for the levers of regenerative transformation.