In 1979, celebrated author Joan Didion began her essay collection The White Album with the famously potent line: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
Forty years later, this elusive human truth might well be the most important sentence for ensuring the future of humanity in an every-warming world.RELATED STORIESWe’re creating a ‘gold standard’ for rights – but why?
“All the world’s main scientists are lined up,” says climate psychologist George Marshall. “We have this amazing amount of material, we can see with our own eyes and experiences that something weird is happening out there. People accept the problem.
“And yet they don’t believe in it. It doesn’t seem to affect them in any way.”
The antidote, he wrote in his 2014 book Don’t Even Think About it: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, is not more research, facts and dire outlooks. Rather, what the world needs is narrative. Communication. Stories about the future that cast each listener as a protagonist, whose values and most cherished parts of life are put up to the ball of fire in the sky to be illuminated in full – and burn, if kept there unprotected.
The facts about climate change have never been bleaker. In the past year, hundreds of scientists worldwide have pooled their research to tell that 1 million species are at risk of extinction. If global warming isn’t limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, then 99 percent of coral reefs could die, and 50 percent of people could be living under water stress. Globally, a Belgium-sized area of primary forest was lost in 2018, and carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in the U.S., the world’s second-highest emitter.
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