In 2015, Nepal was hit by a 7.9 on the rector scale earthquake. Our first impulse was to run for our lives. In the aftershocks that followed, people spent their time finding ways to stay safe, like camping out for days, staying away from tall constructions.
6 years on, people are back to living in high rise apartment complexes, although Nepal, and special the Kathmandu valley sits on a seismically active zone.
In other parts of the world, people are being hit by climate induced disasters – floods in Uttarakhand, Hurricanes in Philippines and the US, sea level rise in Venice. We declare emergencies, humans show great resilience and strength, many lose their lives, many show up to help others. Then we revert back to our ways of burning fossil fuels and a highly carbon dependent economy.
Why is this?
According to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, humans are hard wired to respond to some threats better than others. For example, he says, we take alarm at terrorism, but much less to global warming, even though the odds of a disgruntled shoe bomber attacking our plane are, he claims, far longer than the chances of the ocean swallowing parts of Manhattan.
Could it be that Evolution has programmed us to deal with immediate dangers better – the adrenaline rush when we sense a prey nearby, the instinct to protect ourselves and our families, the surge of bravery in the face of danger – however, it did not prepare us to think about, prepare for and mitigate future dangers?
The citizens of California know that they live in an earthquake prone area. Residents of Miami know that they’re going to lose two feet of land to sea level rise by 2060. However, property prices in both areas continue to rise, specially oceanfront real state.
Having said this, it seems that Millenials and Gen Z kids are more worried about their future than any other generation before them. 4 out of 10 millennials say they are concerned about having a child because of climate change (myself included), while Gen Z marches the streets and gets on the podium at the UN demanding climate action.
Maybe we have finally evolved to care about long term threats in the last two decades?
Featured Image by Apeman Garden Decor Close-up Photography