A-Z activities

A-Z countries

What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Book review: Don't Even Think About It - why our brains are hardwired to ignore climate change by George Marshall

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This is a book review of climatologist George Marshall's newest work, Don't Even Think About It. George has written a short piece about why climate change is the perfect crime - we all contribute but there doesn't seem to be a motive here.  His book is a must read - and the chapters are short. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).
People walk on by between London's iconic St Paul's and the Tate Modern art gallery, ignoring a UN exhibition by the wobbly bridge trying to raise awareness about the thousands of people who will become climate refugees as the global temperature keeps warming.

As a family we used to discuss climate change a lot. But I’ve noticed that since we got our terrace house somewhat into energy-efficiency order – with the insulation and the better boiler - we’ve parked the climate change conversation. When we daydream about our kids being grown up we don’t factor in what a 4 degrees C rise in temperature might mean.

Admittedly my family has developed some good use habits, but what we’ve done less of is trying to pull people along with us. Who wants to be told to turn their lights off, stop driving to school or forego the half term flight for a well-earned mini-break with their kids? Not many people that’s for sure.  They probably didn’t like reading it either. A fact the climate deniers have expertly exploited.

Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall.
Don’t Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change by George Marshall (Bloomsbury, £20 hardcover, also paperback and Kindle) out 9 October 2014 is a force field of ideas about how to get people doing something about climate change. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Even-Think-About-It/dp/1620401339

In Don’t Even ThinkAbout It he moves on the intriguing image in his earlier book Climate Detox about your evil carbon twin – the person living over the road from you, whose profligate use of fossil fuels makes even the smallest cut-backs or energy saving you do seem utterly pointless.  This time he presents the cultural, psychological – and business reasons – Americans, Australians, Norwegians, British people, etc, are addicted to fossil fuels and so good at blocking talk about our wicked climate problem.  It’s evolution stupid. 

Marshall asks why when so many know climate change is happening (except a few active deniers) do us creative humans do nothing as if we are stalled in the headlights? Why do we have faith in climate talks that keep failing? Why do we justify our own plane travel use? Why does telling people that saving the planet also saves them cash turn out to be such an unpopular message?

“If global warming were caused by eating puppies, millions of Americans would be massing in the streets.” Do you agree? 
Early in the book Marshall answers these questions – showing how humans are hard-wired to ignore climate change. We understand the house burning down, but understate threats to our existence. To prove his point he quotes one interviewee saying, “If global warming were caused by eating puppies, millions of Americans would be massing in the streets.” Plenty of Brits might join them. Yet the best green organisations have done so far to help people visualise the climate change as a proper threat is to imagine a world as “if carbon dioxide was purple”.

I know Marshall, so anticipated environmental communicators would get a good bashing – especially advocates of lifestyle solutions. Turns out environmentalists – and their polar bear-laced imagery - aren’t trusted by anyone but… environmentalists. This is a point Naomi Klein also makes in her new book on climate change and capitalism, This Changes Everything.

My daughter and friend at the September 2014 climate march in London. Lots of people get climate change - but most don't. George Marshall's new book helps explain why, and how to make the crisis real for a human brain that's hardwired to ignore climate change.
Eco-bunnies will have to grit their teeth because we know Marshall’s points are correct. He’s been worrying about climate communications for much of his working life and thus writes with considerable authority, all the while allowing his esoteric interests to pop out. He loves architecture and has 1000s of comic books. If there’s room for a saucy joke he’ll make it. The result is a book that ought to be a dry telling off – the ‘are you doing enough?’ – yet it is utterly the opposite. It inspires you to do more, in a different way.

Don’t Even Think About It succeeds by dragging psychology into the mix. Once the readers understand how this effects our actions Marshall takes us along to meet top ranking climate scientists, all sorts of opinion makers (including faith leaders) plus fossil fuel communication specialists (and other deniers). The result is a positivity manual – something you do not get reading Klein’s book.

Although Marshall saves it for the back chapter (an impressive bit of editorial control), the info that a 40C  increase in global temperature will lead to such out of control climate change that people will die and species will go extinct is probably understood by many of the intended readers.

So what’s to be done? Two key solutions are suggested. One’s to tackle the actual industries causing the fossil fuel pollution, rather than focusing campaign or legislative attention on the tailpipe gases all that burning releases.

Climate campaigners: it's time to get out of that polar bear outfit.
The other is to let real people - rather than scientists, who so love their graphs, or browbeating campaigners with their polar-bear-gets-it pictures - talk about what they’ve done when faced with climate change impacts, and how they feel. Marshall lets us grieve for the places and people we love. Then wants us to pick ourselves up and take action again, but differently.

The penultimate chapter on how to get your act together is a bit of a shouty section filled with sentences in upper case. But if you read the whole book then it falls into place as an easy-to-follow memory jogger, which could help revitalise your climate conversation. I am certainly trying. [Yes, I realise this has two meanings!]

This is a must read. It’s funny. It’s serious. It’s important and it stacks up advice by using story telling – most often interviews – to help keep the advice front of our shrew-like skull. So many of us respond to our gut feelings without realising why, shying away from the elephant in the room because that's our programming. There isn’t much we can do: and yet there’s so much. Don’t Even Think About It will help you do it. Best of all Marshall's book empowers you – and me - to think and talk about climate change in more palatable ways.

If you are interested in finding out more – see contacts below. George Marshall is running talks in the UK from October, fresh from a US book tour.
Twitter @climategeorge
Book website 
www.climateconviction.org
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dont-Even-Think-About-It-How-Our-Brains-Ignore-Climate-Change/457763901035475

To buy the book or kindle copy on Amazon visit here.

Over to you
Any thoughts about how to take positive action to tackle climate change? Would you drop the polar bear gets it line? Do you talk to people about climate change, or fear to - and if so why? Or what could you do to change this? And have you read this book yet - did it change the way you approach climate change?