The id and the eco

Categories: How To
Published on: April 16, 2018

AEON / Rosemary Randall / 05 December 2012

When I was young, I was told that there were a number of topics I shouldn’t talk about at dinner parties: politics, religion, sex, money and death usually featured on the list. Today we might add climate change. Like politics or religion, the subject can lead to conflict or controversy. Like sex or money, it can cause embarrassment. Most importantly, like death, it can raise fears and anxieties that people feel have no place in polite conversation.

Climate change is a disturbing subject that casts a shadow across ordinary life. I recall an encounter with a woman called Sandra at a community project I was running. As we completed a questionnaire to calculate her individual carbon footprint, she pushed her coffee cup awkwardly away and said: ‘I hate all that advice about “Don’t overfill the kettle, turn your thermostat down, unplug your phone charger.” I try to follow it but, every time I do one of those things, it makes me think about climate change and I feel hopeless, upset. So then I don’t bother. Why make yourself feel bad when there isn’t really anything you can do?’ Sandra expressed openly what most people don’t admit — thinking about climate change is upsetting and brings to the surface an internal conflict about how to respond.

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