Driving this work was a desire to share in a discovery process, where open-minded people could share how they viewed the world, and find and challenge the core assumptions in their lives so they could avoid making mistakes and seize opportunities to live better lives. I had an underlying hope which bordered on faith: that everyone would choose to be open-minded if they were exposed to new ideas that exposed gaps in their own. I didn’t count on the fact that this approach would just as likely scare the heck out of people, resulting in something resembling a fight-or-flight response.
I experienced something like that myself recently, after reading a pair of reports about global warming (yes, “global warming” and not “climate change”). One of them warned that it may be all but impossible to avoid catastrophic effects, which could be much worse than previously expected. The other detailed how Canadian diplomats tried to subvert U.S. attempts at controlling global warming so their country could export more oil. This punctured both my hope for fixing things before it’s too late and my belief that people will do the right thing if the stakes are high enough. My immediate, gut reaction was the fight response, wanting to shout to the world, “Global warming deniers are either uninformed, misinformed, or greedy monsters who are killing the planet for fun and profit!” In a calmer moment, I realized that the “greedy monsters” are just as likely to be acting out of fear, fear for the loss of livelihoods on which they, their families, and their friends depend, and fear that they will lose whatever control they think they already have over the rest of their lives.
Resistance to global warming is really just a variant of resistance to challenging ideas, which is manifested as a tradeoff between short-term comfort for individuals and long-term security for the larger population. Unless we can successfully deal with this fear of change, we will be tragically unprepared when even greater change is forced upon us.