Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

by George Marshall
Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

by George Marshall


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An Esquire Essential Book on Climate Change

From the founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, a groundbreaking take on the most urgent question of our time: Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change?

“Please read this book, and think about it.” —Bill Nye

Most of us recognize that climate change is real yet we do nothing to stop it. What is the psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not? George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and Texas Tea Party activists; the world’s leading climate scientists and those who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals. What he discovers is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall argues that the answers do not lie in the things that make us different, but rather in what we share: how our human brains are wired—our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blind spots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe. Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. Rather, we can halt it if we make it our common purpose and common ground. In the end, Don’t Even Think About It is both about climate change and about the qualities that make us human and how we can deal with the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632861023
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 08/18/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 386,118
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

George Marshall founded the Climate Outreach and Information Network and has worked for twenty-five years in the environmental movement, including senior positions for Greenpeace USA and the Rainforest Foundation. He is a leading European expert in climate change communications, is a lead advisor to the Welsh government, and counts major nonprofit organizations, politicians, businesses, and trade unions among his many clients. His website is

Table of Contents

1 Questions 1

2 We'll Deal with That Lofty Stuff Some Other Day 5

Why Disaster Victims Do Not Want to Talk About Climate Change

3 Speaking as a Layman n Why We Think That Extreme Weather Shows We Were Right

All Along

4 You Never Get to See the Whole Picture 17

How the Tea Party Fails to Notice the Greatest Threat to Its Values

5 Polluting the Message 22

How Science Becomes Infected with Social Meaning

6 The jury of Our Peers 26

How We Follow the People Around Us

7 The Power of the Mob 33

How Bullies Hide in the Crowd

8 Through a Glass Darkly 36

The Strange Mirror World of Climate Deniers

9 Inside the Elephant 39

Why We Keep Searching for Enemies

10 The Two Brains 46

Why We Are So Poorly Evolved to Deal with Climate Change

11 Familiar Yet Unimaginable 52

Why Climate Change Does Not Feel Dangerous

12 Uncertain Long-Term Costs 56

How Our Cognitive Biases Line Up Against Climate Change

13 Them, There, and Then 59

How We Push Climate Change Far Away

14 Costing the Earth 65

Why We Want to Gain the Whole World Yet Lose Our Lives

15 Certain About the Uncertainty 72

How We Use Uncertainty as a Justification for Inaction

16 Paddling in the Pool of Worry How We Choose What to Ignore 77

17 Don't Even Talk About It! 81

The Invisible Force Field of Climate Silence

18 The Non-Perfect Non-Storm 91

Why We Think That Climate Change Is Impossibly Difficult

19 Cockroach Tours 99

How Museums Struggle to Tell the Climate Story

20 Tell Me a Story 105

Why Lies Can Be So Appealing

21 Powerful Words 109

How the Words We Use Affect the Way We feel

22 Communicator Trust 116

Why the Messenger Is More Important than the Message

23 If They Don't Understand the Theory, Talk About It Over and Over and Over Again 121

Why Climate Science Does Not Move People

24 Protect, Ban, Save, and Stop 127

How Climate Change Became Environmentalist

25 Polarization 135

Why Polar Bears Make It Harder to Accept Climate Change

26 Turn Off Your Lights or the Puppy Gets It 138

How Doomsday Becomes Dullsville

27 Bright-siding 145

The Dangers of Positive Dreams

28 Winning the Argument 150

How a Scientific Discourse Turned into a Debating Slam

29 Two Billion Bystanders 155

How Live Earth Tried and Failed to Build a Movement

30 Postcard from Hopenhagen 159

How Climate Negotiations Keep Preparing for the Drama Yet to Come

37 Precedents and Presidents 162

How Climate Policy Lost the Plot

32 Wellhead and Tailpipe 168

Why We Keep Fueling the Fire We Want to Put Out

33 The Black Gooey Stuff 175

Why Oil Companies Await Our Permission to Co Out of Business

34 Moral Imperatives 182

How We Diffuse Responsibility for Climate Change

35 What Did You Do in the Great Climate War, Daddy? 187

Why We Don't Really Care What Our Children Think

36 The Power of One 192

How Climate Change Became Your Fault

37 Degrees of Separation 198

How the Climate Experts Cope with What They Know

38 Intimations of Mortality 205

Why the Future Goes Dark

39 From the Head to the Heart 211

The Phony Division Between Science and Religion

40 Climate Conviction 217

What the Green Team Can Learn from the God Squad

41 Why We Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change… And Why We Are Wired to Take Action 226

42 In a Nutshell 231

Some Personal and Highly Biased ideas for Digging Our Way Out of This Hole

Four Degrees: Why This Book Is Important 239

References, Sources, and Further Reading 243

Acknowledgments 249

Index 251

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