Why do we choose to ignore climate change?

Climate change is something that we are all familiar with, a topic that has been brought to the forefront of debate in the past decade. However, because climate change is such a widespread phenomenon, it is mind-boggling as to why so many choose to ignore it. 

Throughout the past few decades, the effects of climate change have become ever so apparent, with news outlets and social media platforms being overflowed with pictures of polar bears on melting ice caps, rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and much more. Yet many of us, including myself, have on countless occasions found ourselves ignoring the issue at hand. Although we are reminded occasionally through watching an episode of national geographic or seeing a WWF advertisement, we still tend to ignore it. This begs the question, if we know so much about it then why do we turn our attention away from it? 

The main reason is the topic of distance: we relate climate change and its impacts to something far away, as most of the impacts caused by climate change have been happening disproportionally in the global South. Furthermore, many look at it as something distant, arguing that climate change is a future problem. Yet, these are only additional ways in which we have chosen to cope with the issue at hand. Cognitive dissonance, the perception of contradictory actions, is at the front line of the debate, illuminated by the fact that we all know that our lifestyles are not sustainable in the long run. This causes many of us to take the easy way out by either making excuses or blaming others to feel better about ourselves. However, it is not unusual to think about climate change and just feel like a small needle in a huge haystack, being only a small component to a much larger issue. Sadly enough, this has been linked to a rise in both depression and anxiety, disproportionally so amongst younger generations who no longer see a gleaming future ahead. Hence, is there any way in which we can cope with climate change in a more productive way? And is there anything we as individuals can do about it?

Firstly, we all know way too much about climate change for us to just ignore it, and should instead aim for making smaller changes to, in the long run, impact the changing climate. Human actions, generally speaking, are commonly illustrated through the “Simon Says” game, meaning that we influence the people around us. Interestingly, a study showed that if just one family in an area chose to install solar panels on their house, more people in the neighbourhood would follow. Hence, if I were to have no friends that recycled, and I began to recycle, there is a large chance that I would cause at least some of my friends to follow suit. This is therefore a potential mindset one can use to make a small change that can have long-lasting effects on the environment; if I stop littering, so will others, if I start educating myself, I can educate others. 

Lastly, the issue of climate change is and will continue to be a part of our day to day lives and ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Thus, something we can all agree on is that educating ourselves is the only way in which we can make clear and decisive decisions to not only make ourselves feel better but also make a contribution. Although you may want to start making big changes, immediately and strenuously typing on the keyboard looking for “what can I do to save the world”, this approach may not lead to a quick fix. Lucky for all of us, there are multiple ways, especially at Lund University, where we can educate ourselves in fun, interesting and interactive ways. Just take a look at LE Sustainability and you may just find a way in which you can make a small difference to be more sustainable.

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