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March 24, 2014 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

A-Pathetic Mindset

I promise that I do give a shit that the planet is hurtling towards its own demise. I swear that I am concerned that my children and my children’s children may not enjoy the wonders of nature that I enjoy. I can assure you that I’m scared of what is happening to our earth, and I promise that I want to change it… But despite my swearing blind that I do care, I am concerned and I want to make a difference, I haven’t stopped driving a car (or being driven in one – learner licence, no hate), or throwing my plastic bottles in the bin rather than the recycling from time to time, or accepting plastic bags from the supermarket.

I let myself think that the solution to climate change will come from somewhere else; that I’m a tiny and insignificant member of the population whose efforts make no difference. I allow myself to be apathetic.

Why is this? Am I lazy? Am I cajoled into thinking that climate change isn’t really a problem by those who refute its existence? Am I just too poor to buy eco-friendly products, and too busy to make my own cleaning solutions?

Some experts, like the secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, think that people like me (and you, you car-driving, aerosol-spraying, apathetic students) are prevented from engaging with the issue of climate change because of a crisis in “eco-communication”. Basically, we all doze off when PhD-waving green-freaks start babbling away in jargon that we don’t understand. We can’t grasp what they’re talking about, so we just continue with our lives as the information pertaining climate change sails over our heads.

Others, such as former The Ecologist news editor Tom Levitt, suggest that “social comparisons” may be the culprit for our lack of drive to make a contribution to the fight against climate change. We compare our actions with those of others, and derive from these comparisons what the correct course of action is. For example, the fact that Al Gore has a large residence has been used in the past as justification for inaction. Not only this, but we tend to hold those who dub themselves ‘environmentalists’ to an impossibly high standard. When they fall below that standard, as they inevitably do, not only are we dissuaded from acting against climate change ourselves but we condemn them. By turning them from heroes into villains, we add to the cycle of apathy and inaction.

Maybe we don’t do anything because we don’t want to front up to what is happening. We don’t want to admit that our planet will likely be destroyed because of our greed and short-sightedness. It is too scary and too awful to think about what we have done, and the disaster that will occur as a result. It is easier to pretend it isn’t happening – to go about our lives as normal and refuse to dwell on such a dark and dire thought.

But apathy is the enemy in this situation. Lack of concern about our little oasis in the midst of a barren solar-space is what led to this crisis in the first place. We’ve got nowhere else to go if our planet is destroyed, and no one to blame but ourselves if we are rendered homeless. At the end of the day, each and every one of us will suffer if Earth becomes inhospitable. When our air becomes poisoned and there’s no fresh water left, when sea levels rise and swallow dry land, when farms become barren and plants no longer produce fruit and vegetables, not a single one of us will be left unscathed. Therefore, the responsibility is spread between all of us to do something about it.

I don’t know what it will take for my apathy to be shaken. Will I wait until something really awful happens before I actually pull finger and do something about it? I hope not. I hope that when I’m older, and I look back at this time when we had the opportunity to shape the future that lay before us, that I can say that I was committed, and found out what all those intellectual eco-warriors were talking about when they frantically warned us about climate change. That I was altruistic, and ignored what others were doing in the face of the issue, instead focussing on what I could do to help. And that I was brave; that I looked into the face of this terrifying future and had the courage to do something about it.


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