George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change is both engaging and provoking.
I enjoy discussion and debate, and am interested in and curious to understand “where people are coming from.” Marshall’s book appeared to offer an opportunity to gain insight into how our brains influence our beliefs and what we do and do not do.
At first glance, 42 chapters for a book of 260 pages seem excessive. As it turns out, the short chapters deliver the content in easy to read and digest segments.
In Don’t Even Think About It, Marshall shares excerpts from his interviews with a wide variety of people and provides snapshots of human behavior gleaned from conversations, studies, and actual events.
Readers will have a chance to learn things like:
- Why the word “we” might be more divisive than inclusive.
- How the brain is like a Swiss Army knife.
- Why there might be a more effective symbol for climate change than a polar bear.
Some ideas in the book will have readers nodding their heads and others might elicit comments like, “Hmm…I never thought of it that way.” or “Say it isn’t so.”
We all have biases based on our prior experiences, assumptions, and prejudices. Marshall shows us that we “cherry-pick” information or modify it to fit into what we already believe.
Framing climate change as the problem that will occur in the far distant future, like in 2050, enables us to think of it as hypothetical or uncertain, thus we can ignore it.
Every year, people, businesses, and governments spend trillions of dollars on insurance and military defense against uncertain and ill-defined threats that may or may not occur.
Each person has a “finite pool of worry,” meaning we can only worry about so many things at a time; immediate concerns take up more of the pool than long-term issues.
Climate change is occurring during the longest prolonged period of peace in the developed world, and we have the technology, people, education, wealth, and international cooperation necessary to deal with it.
The Bottom Line
George Marshall has worked in the environmental field for over 25 years and held positions at Greenpeace and the Rainforest Foundation. In 2004, he co-founded Climate Outreach (formerly COIN). Marshall advises the Welsh government, writes about climate change for several publications and is the author of Carbon Detox.
Don’t Even Think About It is written in a conversational manner geared towards provoking a reaction in its readers. In a way, the book demands that readers ponder and discuss the information and ideas contained within its covers. I like that.
I recommend Don’t Even Think About It to climate change believers and deniers alike. Although its focus is climate change, everyone can benefit from understanding why and how we ignore the things we do not want to think about. Awareness is the first step on the journey to action.