Here is the essence of our struggle with climate change.
We come to this day, December 28, and what I sense in myself and in everyone around me, is a deadening of my nerve endings, a low-level panic muted by exhaustion. And up ahead is New Year’s Eve, a supposedly joyous and resolute time of looking forward. Each day now I measure the emotional temperature of those around me. I try to equate that temperature with healthy, and fail.
I talk to Ranger, and we decide that dialing it down would be a fine exercise.
Ranger: “So this is your ‘resolution’? To dial down your panic by spending more time outside? That’s not a bad idea, if you’re willing to take me with you.”
Me: “Our culture induces panic, whether people realize it or not. We are like bugs, scurrying to and fro, programmed to buy and spend and eat. So if I do have a resolution it is to not have one, if you know what I mean. I want to just be, and absorb each moment with Earth as a gift. 2016? May it be calm and quiet for us.”
Ranger and I have been talking today about why changes in behavior must involve emotions, and why emotions seem to govern most of our actions.
It seems to us that, as E. 0. Wilson points out, that we are, “a very odd species…. a mix of Stone Age emotion, medieval self-image, and godlike technology.” Perhaps that is why so many check their intelligence at the door and reach back to emotions when making decisions.
We’ve been thinking back to all the changes we’ve made in the last few years:
1. I cut way back on meat eating, more or less as a desire to “eat lower on the food chain,” an admirable goal based on economic circumstance. But it was also an emotional decision …. I could not afford to buy big, and eating differently was one way to trim expenses. I discovered I loved lentils and beans!
2. I stopped eating meat all together, because I began to look at animal husbandry practices. That too was an emotional decision …to avoid participation in such horrific practices.
3. In Ranger’s case, he began to trust that not all humans were the same threat to his existence, and began to study each person in turn. On our walk today, he met a man who he immediately knew was no threat, and we walked on by. He met another who probably was a threat, and it was all I could do to hold him under control. Ranger reads emotions very carefully.
All of our talk about emotions helps us understand why politicians seem immune to emotional arguments regarding the environment. We conclude that the arguments about policy decisions must appeal to emotions, not reason.