I once heard of an experiment where a subject was placed in a room – and when smoke appeared under the door, she rightly raised the alarm immediately. However, when the experiment was repeated with another subject, but this time with a handful of actors in the room who deliberately did nothing when the smoke appeared, it look a long time (until the room was completely full of smoke) before the subject ignored the inertia of the actors and raised the alarm.
This suggests that we don’t take action as readily when we see others around us not doing so. Is there a connection with health and climate change? Climate change is not one of the most important health threats – it is the most important health threat we face.
So why, despite the evidence, are we not taking action, at individual, community, national, and global levels, in ways proportionate to the size of the risks we face? Well, let’s try and establish a possible sequence of attitudes and responses.
Firstly we may be ignorant of any evidence concerning climate change – unlikely, unless we are hermits. Secondly, we simply may not know the size and urgency of the threat we face. (Most policy makers I have ever worked with have been well aware that smoking is dangerous, but few seem to have realised that half of all smokers die prematurely.) Thirdly, we may be aware of the evidence but simply not believe it – after all, denial must be one of the most powerful coping mechanisms we human beings possess. Fourthly, we may know and believe but simply not care. Fifthly, we may believe the evidence and care, but feel powerless to do anything significant about it.
Whatever the reason, let’s try and sort this before it’s too late – the room is rapidly becoming full of smoke, Don’t wait until everybody else acts before you do.