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Mindful : December 2015
While extreme weather does get our attention, it fails to incite mass con- cern because it carries the “natural” label: In common parlance, floods and storms are “natural disasters” or “acts of God.” Scientists can tell us repeatedly that global warming increases the frequency and severity of weather extremes, but the events just don’t feel like the result of human activity. “ We don’t respond to ‘natural’ events with the outrage we bring to a terrorist strike or a nuclear accident,” Leiserowitz said. “ Psychologically, we’re wired to respond to a human enemy that’s com- ing to get us.” If the polar bear cam- paign was a misfire, so have been the related attempts by climate activ- ists to g uilt people into conserving energ y and decrease the carbon emis- sions that contribute to global warming. Guilt feels lousy; rather than allow- ing g uilt to motivate us to change our behavior, we mentally flail around for ways to deny the purported reason for the g uilt some- one is trying to lay on us. What’s easier than denying that global warming is even a problem? Guilt-avoidance isn’t the only psychological foible that sabotages environmen- talists’ efforts to win over the public on global warm- ing. When we deeply, emo- tionally, believe something, and that belief is linked with our identity and worldview, we are primed to engage in “motivated reasoning,” in which emo- tions bias how we absorb and weigh information. In this case, climate change has become so politically polarizing that one’s stance on the matter is a nearly foolproof indica- tion of one’s political ideol- ogy. People who believe in individualism and limited government interference in the free market tend to be climate-change doubters because recognizing the reality of climate change is the first step in a slippery slope toward acknowledg- ing that combatting it will require collective action by national governments and international organizations such as the UN, as well as interference in individual choice (get your hands off my Hummer!) and the free market (if, say, carbon emissions are capped or taxed). That is abhorrent to many conservatives, libertarians, and free-mar- keteers. The brain therefore rebels, and instead denies the existence of global warming. According to a Pew Research Center analysis released last sum- mer, 71% of self-identified Democrats say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with 27% of Republicans. How strong is motivated reasoning? When it snowed in Washington, DC last February, climate change denier Sen. James Inhofe threw a snowball in the US Senate, contending that winter snow in Washington disproved global warm- ing. Against our primitive brains and their psycholog- ical defenses, even science and the cleverest com- munication strategies are often helpless. ● December 2015 mindful 21 DharmaCraf ts THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES Meditation Cushions Yoga Mats Inspirational Jewelry Meditation CDs DharmaKids Collection since 1979 dharmacrafts.com 866.339.4198 Keycode MFA Request a Catalog Call for Volume Discounts on Cushions Sign Up for Teaching Emails