Updated: Mar 24
For over thirty years, scientists have agreed that the rapidly changing climate is the result of human activity and that our failure to take action will bring adverse consequences. Recent public opinion data has shown that the majority of people around the world consider climate change an emergency. Despite the concern, many still drag their feet when it comes to adopting pro-climate choices and actions. While it is true that some people have taken many steps in that direction, most are still far behind on being climate-positive. Why is this happening?
The environmental psychologist Robert Gifford has identified thirty-three psychological blocks that keep many people from fighting climate change, known as “dragons of inaction”. He believes that these dragons can be overcome, and they should be overcome if we want to transition into a sustainable world. In this article, you will learn about four dragons of inaction you would likely encounter and what you can do to deal with them.
1. Ancient brain
Our brain has not evolved much in thousands of years. By the time it reached its current form, our ancestors were merely concerned with immediate dangers (from animals and other people) and exploitable resources. But climate change couldn’t be more different. It is slow, distant, and seems to be non-threatening at the present. Although we can recognize climate change as a threat, it does not come naturally to our ancient brains.
To deal with this dragon, try bringing climate change closer to you. Read books and articles about the issue, or watch videos about it. Visiting a place that has taken a heavy toll from climate change would be even better. But for now, as an example, below are some documentaries on climate change you can watch:
Chasing Ice (2012)
This film follows the environmental photographer James Balog in capturing the impact climate change has on Jakobshavn Glaciers through time-lapse photography.
Thank You for the Rain (2017)
Kenyan farmer Kisilu Musya has used his camera for five years to capture the life of his family, village, and the impacts of climate change.
Chasing Coral (2017)
Chasing Coral is a 2017 Netflix documentary that follows a team of divers, scientists, and photographers in capturing the worldwide epidemic of coral bleaching as the impact of climate change.
Breaking the Boundaries (2021)
This film follows the journey of scientist Johan Rockström examining the science behind our planet’s biodiversity collapse and how the crisis can still be averted.
We all know that technology has a long history of improving the quality of living, and it can help solve many problems including environmental ones. But some people take this further and believe that technology alone can solve climate change. And that belief is causing many people to become more passive in their actions.
We can overcome this dragon by realizing that as important technology is, it is just one part of the puzzle in tackling climate change. Technological innovation is of minimal use if there is no political environment to support its development and implementation. The public and private sectors must be on board to support the transition towards a sustainable economy. Also, individuals have an important role in mitigating climate change by practicing a more sustainable lifestyle.
3. Social risk
The cost of acting pro-climate can be socially expensive since we are constantly prone to other people’s judgment. Many times it hinders us from taking action. You may wonder, will other people deride you if you become a vegan, or will using a bike to get around make you the odd one out?
However, we can deal with this dragon by building a strong ground in our pro-climate choices, so we can be more confident in our actions. Convince yourself that the gains of taking action outweigh the social cost. Our planet is in a critical state, and if you choose to comply with other people’s bad sayings and don’t act, its condition will get worse. Alleviate your fear of being judged by joining forces with like-minded people. Know that many people are concerned about climate change. Doing climate action together can actually reduce your fear because you know you’re not fighting alone.
4. Lack of self-efficacy
Climate change is a huge global issue, hence many people think that their actions will not have any significant impact. This lack of confidence is causing many people to become passive and may lead to a phenomenon called fatalism, which is a belief that climate change is unstoppable and nothing can be done about it.
To deal with this dragon, try to be responsible at least for your own contribution to climate change. Of course, large-scale changes are needed to really solve the issue, but our individual action matters too. Manage your carbon emissions and offset them if possible to ensure that your carbon footprint is as small as possible. Participate in shaping large-scale changes by communicating your concerns about climate change with elected representatives. Engage in a climate strike to accelerate making pro-climate policies. Lastly, you can join organizations where you interact with like-minded people working to decelerate the climate crisis.
It’s time to take action on climate change
These four dragons are just some of the many challenges that one may encounter when mitigating climate change. As an individual, remember that we have the capability to fight climate change and that our actions matter. Work together with others, including leaders to really step up our efforts to solve climate change. Indeed, dealing with dragons of inaction as well as climate change is not easy and takes time, but it's worth the effort.
Writer: Kemas Saddam
Editor: Stevenson Ramsey