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Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change and how you can make a difference today

Our brains are wired to ignore climate change.

Climate change is always a difficult topic, it is laced with uncertainty, doubt, pessimism and even guilt, none of which are particularly welcome at a party. No one wants to be the person who brings it up for discussion, and even when it does come up naturally it is far easier to dismiss it than to enter into a debate about why you don't eat meat, especially when you just wanted to go out for a nice meal and a drink! Although most of us are now agreed upon the certainty of climate change and the fact that human activities are speeding it up, it is still not often a welcome topic for conversation. But why?

Nothing I do will make a difference!

It is hard to admit that the actions we take to go about our daily lives are having such a negative impact on the environment. Often, we feel that these actions are unavoidable and there is no-one to blame. After all, we are just living our lives - driving the children to school, getting food from the supermarket and heating our homes. These trivial daily actions are so habitual and small, that it can be hard to imagine how they can possibly have that much of an effect on the environment. It is only once we accept that the threat of climate change is real, that these seemingly small acts become laced with ignorance, intention and guilt. So it's understandable why we immediately reject that knowledge, or react with resentment.

As well as this, addressing the issue of climate change asks us to suffer immediate personal sacrifices now, in order to avoid (uncertain) collective loss in the distant future. An idea that our brains find it very difficult to engage with. Especially when we're shown the 'vegetarian option' at a restaurant, told to take shorter showers or walk to work.

How does climate change affect me?

It is widely understood that carbon dioxide (and other gases) released into the atmosphere contributes to the 'greenhouse effect', stopping the Earth's natural cooling system and causing the atmosphere to get hotter. The effects of this include; melting ice-caps, sea levels rising, more extreme weather incidents, more drought and more flooding.

The difficult part is that all of these ideas seem far away - both geographically and on our personal timeline. If something is not happening to us directly and at present, it is hard to acknowledge (or care!) about the consequences. Most people are only concerned about where they are now and how it will affect their personal experience, so to try to give up that delicious burger to prevent an unimaginable, uncertain future is just too hard to justify. Perhaps this is why some people respond to climate change discussions with something along the lines of 'If I don't eat this, someone else will' or 'I can't wait for the earth to heat up - I love the summer!' The connection between us driving the car to work today in England and flooding in Bangladesh is too distant and therefore we feel too far removed. The consequences of global warming have not negatively affected us directly (yet) and so, understandably, we find it difficult to engage. That's why education and awareness are key.

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. - Robert Swan

If 7.6 billion people believe they can make a difference - they will

It is easy to say that the small actions we take daily to get on with our lives will have no impact and therefore there is no need to do anything about it, we can let someone else sort it out. Unfortunately, if all 7.6 billion of us believe that, it is true.

Instead, if all 7.6 billion of us believed that we could make a difference and made small adjustments to our lives to become more sustainable and reduce our carbon-footprint, then we could in fact make a great deal of difference to the future of our planet.

It is imperative that we work together to make this subject less of a taboo and one that is filled with optimism, in order to start making a difference. The way to start is by talking about it.

Start making those small changes that you think won't make a difference, because they will. Tell others about the positive things you're doing, encourage them to take action. Make it an exciting project with your family - how much can you reduce your carbon-footprint in one week?

Here are 3 things you can do right now to start making a difference:

1. Share this message with as many people as you can. Spread the word, tell your mum, dad, kids, work colleague, worst enemy. It doesn't matter what people's reaction is or what they think of you - you are doing good.

2. Work out your personal carbon-footprint and work towards reducing it. Visit our blog to discover how to do this.

3. Stay positive and motivated - if we all believe we can change the future of our planet, we can 🙏

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