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The Culture Behind Climate Change

Climate change is complex and dangerous, but some of the key (and too often overlooked) drivers are our industrial cultures.

I’ve been reading lots of climate change news lately, and I’ve noticed something. Reports talk about major carbon sources like fossil fuels and factory farming. But mainstream news sources rarely draw the seemingly obvious line from “these actions are damaging and unsustainable” to “we should stop them to save the environment.”

I think the answer why is pretty simple: people like their lifestyles more than they dislike climate change.

There’s an endless list of things embedded in today’s lifestyles we couldn’t live without: cars, roads, video games, music, books, buildings, restaurants, fast food, pools, saunas, air travel, toys, music, phones, alcohol, computers, heating, coffee, movies, television, pizza, designer clothes, and I could go on. They’re all built on and fueled primarily by unsustainable systems of coal and natural gas. If we stay on this path, eventually the fuel behind them will collapse, and the world…well, I don’t know how the world will be. But it’ll be much worse before it gets better.

But we all like these things too much. We see them as the normal and take them for granted. We don’t want to give them up, even partially. I’m no exception to this - I was raised on them and am just as addicted. They’re products of the industrial age - embedded in our cultures of productivity, consumption, and constant growth.

Culture is the Root of Climate change

Changing these cultural values is the foundation of any long-term, meaningful action against climate change. But culture isn’t easy to change, especially when most people pushing back, in denial, or just apathetic. Some for their interests, and some for their addictions. Hardly anyone knows how to change to a life without all these things and on such short notice.

So when people blame coal companies and propaganda for a lack of action against climate change, I’ll agree that’s a big part of it. The bigger part is the culture around all of us. The roots of all our damaging actions, and how we keep justifying them, starts there.