|Publisher:||University of California Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Psychology as a Foundational Science to Confront Climate Change
William Shakespeare's King Lear is our starting point, presenting a major theme that runs throughout this book. The theme concerns sight, the accuracy of our views, and the importance of seeing clearly, for a basic premise of this book is that our distorted vision has given rise to climate change. One implication of this is that if we are to successfully navigate the environmental threat of climate change that lies ahead of us, we need to correct this distorted sight. Only in this way can we set a new course of action that will effectively confront this threat.
In Shakespeare's play, King Lear did not see clearly, and his misrepresentation of reality cost him dearly. A pivotal point in the play occurs when Lear asks his three daughters to profess their love for him. Two of his daughters, Goneril and Regan, have no particular love for their father, but simply say the words he wishes to hear. The third daughter, Cordelia, genuinely loves him in her own way, but finds herself unable to engage in this public stunt. Lear, an old man who wishes to have his ego fed by the pronouncements of his daughters, misperceives the situation. He praises Goneril and Regan for their pronouncements and angrily denounces Cordelia, taking away her inheritance and banishing her from his kingdom.
From this misperception one subplot in the play unfolds. The king, once the highest of the high, becomes a lowly wanderer in the wilderness, perplexed, lost both physically and emotionally, and heartbroken. The tragedy is that all this could have been avoided had Lear been able, at the urging of his loyal attendant Kent, to see better. But Lear, owing to his own vanity and the veiled and forthright actions of those around him, could not accurately see what was before him. Consequently, in response to a misperceived reality, he acted in a manner that led to tragedy.
As in the case of Lear, tragedies can often be avoided. For example, during the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the ship's captain, despite warnings of icebergs in the vicinity, continued to proceed at nearly full speed. Whether this lack of caution was due to a sense of invulnerability, a need to keep on schedule, or failed communications, is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the captain, Edward Smith, in an interview before the ship left port, reflected that he could not "imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that" (Wight 2012). A clear misperception, and the tragedy of the sinking is that the deaths of the more than 1,500 passengers who perished, out of 2,224 passengers on board, might have been avoided had the threat been acknowledged.
In general, as you'll see in subsequent chapters, we often misperceive situations, and at times these misperceptions have dire consequences. Vanity and a misjudged sense of invulnerability are just two factors that have been shown to lead to misperceptions. Hopefully, by articulating these biases, acknowledging them, and taking them into account as we confront the challenge of climate change, we'll be better able to face this challenge, see it for what it is, and effectively take action.
AVERTING A PRESENT-DAY TRAGEDY
Climate change and the environmental challenges that stem from it are the potential tragedies we need to clearly see and confront today. The point of this book is not to debate whether climate change has occurred. Within the scientific community, there is a resounding consensus that this threat is present, affects our lives, and must be addressed before it worsens. Many articles and books are devoted to the science behind it (e.g., IPCC 2014; Hansen 2010; McKibben 2010). Given this, there is no need for me to reiterate this information. Rather, I'll simply introduce you to several challenges related to this threat and provide a few implications associated with it.
Climate change refers to what many people call global warming, climate destabilization, or climate chaos. The terms are meant to characterize thegeneral warming that has been recorded worldwide and the increasingly erratic and unpredictable nature of the climate. Given that people generally think of this issue in terms of climate change or global warming, let's consider climate destabilization and climate chaos for a moment. These terms highlight the idea that weather events are more commonly occurring in places where they have infrequently occurred before, such as tornadoes in North Carolina and hurricanes increasingly affecting the northeast. Additionally, the term climate destabilization or chaos is preferred to the term global warming, because not every region experiences an increase in temperature at each season of the year. For instance, on the one hand, the general global-warming pattern results in hot days being hotter, more intense heat waves, more intense droughts with resultant wildfires, and milder winters for many. On the other hand, eventually, if the warmer waters from the gulf stream no longer flow north toward Great Britain owing to the snowmelt from Greenland and the Artic, Europe may experience colder winters (IPCC 2014). Overall, then, the terms climate destabilization and climate chaos capture the changing climatic conditions that are leading to more erratic and intense weather events. Increasingly, this is the nature of the climate and weather that we presently face and will be dealing with in the future. When hearing the term climate change, then, keep in mind its varied impacts.
Another critical point to reflect upon is that climate change has already occurred. It is present, affecting our lives today. We cannot somehow avoid it. We cannot make it go away. Our actions have changed the atmosphere of the earth we live on, and this change — even if we stopped using all fossil fuels today, no longer emitting even a single iota of CO into the atmosphere — will remain for generations to come.
Bill McKibben (2010) states that we now live on a changed world, a world he calls "Eaarth." Human emissions of greenhouse gases have already raised Earth's temperature by .8 degrees Celsius. If we were to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions today, Earth's temperature will still rise an estimated additional .8 degrees Celsius because of the lag time between emissions and temperature rise (McKibben 2012). In other words, we have already raised Earth's temperature by approximately 1.6 degrees Celsius, and these changes will last for centuries. Our lives and the lives of future generations will be spent on this new planet, Eaarth.
Other scientists (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000), using different terminology, argue that we have transitioned from the Holocene period to the Anthropocene period, a name reflecting the impact that humans have had on the climate (anthropo- meaning "human," -cene meaning "new"). This transition is important to acknowledge because civilization emerged during the Holocene period, a time of a relatively benevolent climate that enabled humankind to flourish. A major question is whether human civilization can still flourish during this new period.
Generally, scientists agree that, if civilization is going to continue to prosper, it is imperative that Earth warms by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (McKibben 2012b). After that point, it will be increasingly likely that our ability to control the climate will become negligible. At some point after a 2-degree-Celsius increase, climate change may spiral out of control. All of our wants, wishes, and actions will be unable to rein in a climate that will have become uncontrollable. This "tipping point" concept is analogous to a person pushing a precariously perched boulder down a slope. Once it starts rolling, there's nothing that anyone can do to stop it. We have to do everything possible to avoid pushing our climate into a runaway scenario, for at that point civilization will be threatened. So, when thinking of this issue, the best we can hope for is to avoid the worst that this challenge has to offer, minimizing the difference between our old Earth and Eaarth, which we now live on.
This issue in no way means that we need not continue to focus on environmental sustainability. Sustainability is still the number one goal. Equally important, however, is the need for us to figure out how we are going to live on this new Eaarth. This issue is reflected in the increased discussion of resiliency in the environmental literature (Dodman, Ayers, and Hug 2009; Doherty and Clayton 2011; Reser and Swim 2011). Increasing the resiliency of crops to drought, and the resiliency of individuals and communities to the impact of the intensification of weather, has become the topic of that discussion. In this book, I examine the factors that contribute to personal and community resiliency.
The heat waves we experience today are like none that humans have experienced for generations. This is an example of how Eaarth is different from our old Earth. In fact, the intensity of the heat wave that gripped Europe in the summer of 2003 had not been experienced in over five hundred years, and the consequences were devastating. More than fifty-two thousand people, many of them elderly, died that summer from heat-related causes. At the peak of this heat wave, in August, over two hundred people died each day in France. Moreover, the parched landscape fueled brush and forest fires, streams and rivers ran dry, and food crops withered (Larsen 2006).
Similarly, Russia had not experienced a heat wave like it did in the summer of 2010 in over 130 years. More than 550 wildfires burned forests, grasslands, and wheat fields over some 430,000 acres. Army units were called into action to assist local fire departments in quelling these fires. Crops were damaged and destroyed by the extreme heat and by fire. A nation that had been a grain exporter placed a ban on exports (Brown 2010). This is one snapshot of Eaarth, on which we now live. The possible future in which these extreme heat waves become the norm and not the exception would be a tragedy. Indeed, these by-products of climate change could cost lives, damage the ecosystems in which we live, and jeopardize our food security.
On Eaarth today, not only are episodic heat waves more extreme, but also droughts last longer. The American plains states and the Southwest have been especially hard hit by drought. For instance, in 2011, Texas had the driest year in over 100 years (the driest since 1895, to be exact), and in 2013 California had the driest year on record. In fact, the western United States has been in a drought since the year 2000 (Rice 2014).
With increased droughts, farmers and ranchers in the West have few options but to become increasingly reliant on reservoirs of underground water. These underground reservoirs are called aquifers. The major aquifer in the Great Plains is called the Ogallala Aquifer. One of the world's largest aquifers, the Ogallala Aquifer is located under portions of eight states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota). Many farmers and ranchers in these states rely on this water for irrigation of their crops and for cattle and other animals. Eighty-two percent of the people living over this aquifer rely on it for drinking water. This reservoir is being used up faster than it is being replenished. Drought only accelerates this problem. In fact, there are estimates that this aquifer will be dry within 25 years (BBC News 2003). This constitutes a major challenge not only to the livelihoods of farmers in this region but also to the general habitability of the region. This is a food security issue, too. We need to avoid the tragedy of the United States' breadbasket turning into a dust bowl, of megadroughts, lasting from 30 to 100 years, turning agricultural lands and ranchlands into parched deserts. In fact, megadroughts are projected for the Southwest if we do not change our present course of action (McIntee 2015).
On a related note, warming trends also lead to less snowfall in mountain regions of the world, affecting what some refer to as "reservoirs in the sky." During summer, many farmers rely on snowmelt for irrigation. Ranchers rely on this for their animals. Others rely on it for drinking water. For instance, on April 1, 2015, the snowpack reading in the Sierra Nevada was the lowest it had been in sixty years. This led the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to announce an executive order. To highlight the ongoing drought that California is facing, Brown made his announcement from a high meadow in the Sierra Nevada, beginning his speech by saying, "We're standing on dry grass. We should be standing on five feet of snow." He went on to order towns and cities across California to cut water use by 25 percent. Emphasizing that the drought might very well persist, he acknowledged that "it's a different world" we live in today, and that, accordingly, "we have to act differently" (Megerian, Stevens, and Boxall 2015).
This issue of reductions in the snowpack is far reaching. It certainly relates to the snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada that nourishes the farmlands in the Central Valley of California and towns and cities throughout the state. Similarly, the snowmelt in the Rockies feeds the Colorado River. Snowmelt from the Hindu Kush, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountains provides water to many countries in Central Asia (e.g., Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan). And snowmelt from the Himalayas feeds every major river in Asia, where half of the people in the world live.
Himalayan snowmelt feeds the Yellow River. Having less water in the Yellow River will directly affect China's wheat harvest. And if reduced snowmelt lowers the level of the Yangtze River, China's rice production will be directly affected. Similarly, if the water in the Ganges and the Indus Rivers is reduced, shortfalls in India's wheat harvest will occur, while if the Mekong River receives less water, Vietnam's rice harvest will suffer. In this Asian region that is so heavily populated and projected to have a dramatic rise in population in the coming years, food shortages would lead not only to human suffering but also to possible political instability and conflict. This is where we are heading as a human race if we don't curb climate change.
With the melting of the arctic ice, the Greenland glaciers, and the general warming of the oceans, sea-level rise will increasingly affect low-lying coastal areas. Already, some seaside communities on the Eastern Seaboard, ranging from north of Boston south to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, are experiencing the initial challenge of sea-level rise (Sallenger, Doran, and Howd 2012). Many coastal cities in the United States are expected to experience ill effects from rising sea levels later in this century (New York Times 2016). For instance, in Boston, a five-foot sea-level rise would result in parts of Logan Airport disappearing. Boston Harbor would begin to infringe on the downtown area, and the Charles River would flood much of southern Cambridge. As for Charlestown, South Carolina, the coastline is projected to move several miles inland. A similar fate is in store for the Miami area, where the sea is expected to submerge the barrier islands, Miami Beach, and much of suburban Miami. In New York, given a five-foot sea-level rise, La Guardia Airport would be threatened by the encroachment of the East River and the port complexes would be flooded. Much of Atlantic City, too, would be flooded, as would the Meadowlands. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea. The implications of this are staggering. If we do not act to prevent such damage by limiting sea-level rise, tough decisions will have to be made. Do we spend vast sums of money to protect these areas — the facilities, the airports, and the people whose homes are located in these areas — or at some point do we simply decide that these areas are no longer habitable? And if the latter decision is made, where do these people go?
Of course, this issue affects communities and nations around the globe. Millions upon millions of individuals live in coastal areas. In southeast Asia, Bangladesh, a country of 156 million people, experiences flooding each year, which covers a quarter of the country. Climate change is making flooding worse. A number of small islands, such as the Maldives, Tuvalu, and Tegua, are being threatened by sea-level rise. Many of the residents of these islands have already packed up their belongings and relocated (The Guardian 2009).
As time passes in this century, climate change will increasingly force people to relocate. In 2008 alone, some 20 million people were displaced by climate-related natural disasters (The Guardian 2009). As President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives stated in testimony to the Environmental Justice Foundation, the people in his country do not want to "trade a paradise for a climate refugee camp." Yet, if climate change goes unabated, over the next forty years an estimated 150 million climate refugees will be forced to move to other countries. This is a tragedy on a global level. We need to see that this threat never becomes a reality.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Transforming Psychological Worldviews to Confront Climate Change"
Copyright © 2019 F. Stephan Mayer.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 See Better: Psychology as a Foundational Science to Confront Climate Change
Averting a Present-Day Tragedy 2
Envisioning Psychology as a Foundational Science to Confront the Environmental Threat of Climate Change 9
The Psychology of Perception versus Reality 12
Schemas and Misperceptions 15
Cultural Worldviews, Cultural Schemas, and Unjustified Clarity Distortions 17
Do Cultural Schemas Help or Hinder Us? 19
The Issue of Critiquing Worldviews 21
The Emphasis within the Environmental Movement: Is it Severely Limited? 24
In Summary: Five Major Issues 25
Final Thoughts 26
2 The Fundamental Problem: The Psychology Behind Climate Change
Unjustified Clarity Distortions: A Further Elaboration 29
Why Critique the United States' Worldview? 33
The General Argument 34
Feelings of Separation, Distance, and Indifference 34
Cultural Striving for Superiority and Self-Enhancement 37
Articulating and Critiquing the Worldview of the United States 40
The Individualistic Cultural Lens: The Autonomous Self and Distancing 40
Feelings of Superiority: Hierarchy and Distancing 44
The Big Picture: Shifting from an Ego to an Eco Orientation 52
The Idea of Progress: Striving for Personal Success and Material Wealth 55
Analytic as Opposed to Holistic Thinking: Seeing Parts, Not Wholes 61
The Belief in a Just World: Moral Distancing and Denial of Impropriety 62
Final Thoughts 64
Seeing Clearly Means Seeing Connections 65
Looking Ahead 66
3 The Emergency of Climate Change: Why are we Failing to Take Action?
Introducing Latane and Darley's Model of Prosocial Behavior 68
The Psychology behind Pro environmental Behavior 72
Stage 1. Noticing the Event 75
Sensory Limitations 75
Our Ancient Brain 76
Urban Lifestyle/Living indoors 77
Technological Devices 78
Being Self-Absorbed 78
Lack of Place Attachment 79
Escapist Activities 80
General Ignorance 80
Stage 2. Interpreting the Event as an Emergency 81
Incongruity of Pleasant Weather as Threat 81
Optimism Bias 82
Technosalvation/Suprahuman Powers 83
Discounting the Messenger/Mistrust 84
Right-Whig Political Ideology 85
Disinformation Campaigns 87
A General Atmosphere of Uncertainty 88
Social Comparison 88
Selective Exposure 89
Social Norms/Pluralistic Ignorance 90
Psychological Distance 92
Stage 3. Feeling Personal Responsibility and a Sense of "We" 92
Mastery-Oriented Individualistic Worldview 93
Lack of Place Attachment 94
Factors Influencing Causal Attributions 94
Diffusion of Responsibility 95
Temporal/Spatial Proximity 95
Self Enhancing Tendencies 95
Just-World Beliefs 96
Ethnocentric Beliefs 96
Magnitude of Cause and Effect 96
Stages 4 and 5. Forming an Idea of What to Do and Having the Ability to Do It 97
Feeling Overwhelmed 97
Perceived Self-Efficacy and Collective Efficacy 98
Depleted Directed Attention 99
Lack of Creativity 99
An Emphasis on Cleverness and Analytic Thinking 100
Rebound Effect 101
The Overriding Cost/Benefit Analysis 101
Financial Investments 103
Perceived Inequity 103
System Justification 103
Conflicting Values, Goals, Aspirations 103
Final Thoughts: How Can We Overcome the Obstacles to Helping? 104
Being Realistic about the Opposition and Barriers 104
The Great Transition 106
4 The Great Transition: From Separateness to Interconnectedness
The Land Ethic Worldview 110
Measuring the Land Ethic Worldview. The Connectedness to Nature Scale 114
Other Related Measures of Connectedness to Nature 115
Final Comments on Scales 122
The Land Ethic, Self-Enhancement, and Self-Transcendence 126
The Land Ethic and Distancing Effects 127
The Issue of Materialism 129
The Land Ethic, Perspective-Taking, and Environmental Concern 130
The Land Ethic and Proenvironmental Behavior 131
Lifestyle/Consumer Practices 132
Support for and Involvement in Environmental Organizations 136
Political Activism on Behalf of the Environment 137
The Land Ethic and Well-Being 138
The Land Ethic and Problem Solving, Holistic Thinking, and Creativity 143
The Land Ethic and Spirituality 144
Final Thoughts 145
Creating Greater Harmony between Human and Environmental Systems 145
Creating Greater Harmony between People 146
The Value of Interconnectedness 147
Reflections on the Great Transition 148
A Word of Caution 149
Can It Be Done? 149
5 Actions Being Taken to Transition to the Land Ethic Worldview
The Oberlin Project 152
Transition Town Totnes 160
Everyday Transitions 164
The Children and Nature Network 165
Urban Planning 167
The Role of Churches 168
Final Thoughts 170