I recently came across something Daniel Kahneman (who won the Nobel Prize for his work on human psychology) observed about the threat of climate change and our collective chance of survival. “It is clear now that stopping climate change is impossible,” he said. “No amount of psychological awareness will overcome people’s reluctance to lower their standard of living.”
It got me to wondering whether I—in my own life—could make any of the big changes that would be required of us all to significantly cut emissions. For example, over the past few years, since learning about the enormous degree to which large-scale beef consumption contributes to global warming, I’ve tried to order chicken, pork, or fish whenever possible, and to avoid eating beef more than twice a week. Even so, it’s difficult for me to contemplate eliminating meat from my diet. I don’t know that I could become a vegetarian, even if conditions significantly worsened.
Likewise for air travel. I have never owned a car, and so long as I live in urban areas, that won’t change. But the notion of never booking another flight is something I can barely allow myself to consider.
It’s terrifying to think that even such small sacrifices remain beyond the pale, even for someone who, at least on an intellectual level, accepts climate change as the most important issue of our time. And that, I know, is still a minority position in a world where most people are simply fighting for survival and can’t afford to think of the problem at all.
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