Desensitization to Climate Change
Desensitization! I think it’s a common sensation to feel completely disconnected when you hear negative news or think about death, because you just can’t comprehend that it’s real. I think this is what is happening to a lot of people when it comes to climate change.
No one must shut his eyes and regard as non-existent the suffering of which he spared himself the sight.
– Albert Schweitzer
Feeling numb and paralyzed when faced with climate change – while natural, it’s also quite problematic. Here’s my two cents on why we feel this way and what we can do to tackle it.
ARE WE AVERSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE?
No, we’re not averse to climate change. Interestingly, a study conducted at the International School of Curitiba, Brazil outlines that most people demonstrate clear environmental concern as they draw a connection between harm to the environment and harm to themselves – an experience described with the neologism solastalgia.
Solastalgia is “the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment” (Albrecht et al. 2007).
Now, the question arises, if individuals are so concerned about the environment, does desensitization even exist? Well actually, it does.
Degradation Desensitization is the loss of sensitivity to a previously aversive degradation stimulus, due to consistent exposure to that stimulus.
– Alexandra Alhadeff, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
WHY DOES DESENSITIZATION HAPPEN?
• A future shaped by catastrophe, suffering and destruction in unprecedented measures seems impossible and far-fetched to us when we’re caught up in our daily lives where everything seems okay and normal.
• Once we do realize that our future may be dark, the dimensions of this irreversible chain reaction of climate catastrophes overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. So we just stop addressing the issue and go back to our everyday life, hoping the problem will go away by itself.
WHY IS DESENSITIZATION DANGEROUS?
While it is normal to feel helpless when faced with big issues such as climate change, we can’t go back to our daily lives and ignore it. This attitude is dangerous for the following reasons:
• Collective desensitization to climate change can lead to a disconnect from reality. We know what’s happening to the planet, but we can’t BELIEVE it. It hasn’t yet entered our lives, so it can’t be real.
• Desensitization leads to collective inaction; we believe someone else will ‘fix’ climate change, which unfortunately isn’t true.
• We are causing the very problem we’re afraid of by not engaging in the individual action that can help prevent climate catastrophes. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
HOW TO PREVENT DESENSITIZATION?
• Even though its uncomfortable, face the reality. You don’t have to listen to depressing climate news all day, but stay on top of things. Don’t ignore the crisis.
• Although it seems impossible at times, you can not let yourself get paralyzed by climate change. That won’t improve the situation, even though it’s a natural reaction.
• Let yourself be inspired instead of being petrified by the crisis. It’s an emergency, but the wonderful thing is that each and everyone of us can help prevent it right now.
• ACT. There are a million ways to help save the environment, and you can stay informed through the internet and social media.
What are your opinions on desensitization? Have you ever experienced it? Do you think it’s dangerous? I’d love to know!