Not Giving In To Powerlessness

David Trammel's picture

Rachel Riederer wrote a good article about facing the changes we have coming on the New Yorker,

The Other Kind of Climate Denialism

"In 2008 and 2009, the American Psychological Association put together a task force to examine the relationship between psychology and climate change. It found that, although people said that climate change was important, they did not “feel a sense of urgency.” The task force identified several mental barriers that contributed to this blasé stance. People were uncertain about climate change, mistrustful of the science, or denied that it was related to human activity. They tended to minimize the risks and believe that there was plenty of time to make changes before the real impacts were felt. Just ten years later, these attitudes about climate feel like ancient relics. But two key factors, which the task force identified as keeping people from taking action, have stood the test of time: one was habit, and the other was lack of control. “Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change,” the group stated. “People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.”

Wallace-Wells hits this note in his book, too, writing, “We seem most comfortable adopting a learned posture of powerlessness.” As uncertainty and denial about climate have diminished, they have been replaced by similarly paralyzing feelings of panic, anxiety, and resignation. As we begin to live through the massive dangers imparted by climate change, as one psychologist put it to me, “We are in psychological terrain, whether we like it or not.”


I believe that we have the power to adopt personal change, and that change will help each of us survive and even prosper in a "World Growing Harsh".

Its easy sometimes to give in to the futility of trying to make change in our Lives and the Lives of our Family and Friends. Especially if those people in your tribe don't recognize the predicaments that face us, and the difficult Future before us.

We don't have to make the big changes, we just have to keep getting better each and every day. We over estimate the power of big ideas like the "Green New Deal", hoping they will solve things, and we underestimate the power of little ideas, like growing sprouts, cutting back on our energy use or even just talking to a friend over lunch about what's coming and how perhaps you each can modify your lifestyle.

I don't believe that I'm powerless to make change. You shouldn't either.

Kiashu's picture

A big part of the way I think is "overlap." For example, in my profession of fitness, there's a lot of argument about the best way to do things. Even something as simple as a squat has ferocious argument. Rippetoe says "low-bar back squat", weightlifting coaches "high-bar back squat", Dan John, "barbell front squat", Tstatsouline "double kettlebell front squat." We can argue about those differences, or think... well, they all say: squat! So if you're squatting, you're probably alright.

Likewise with Green Wizardry. I think first of the things to do which are good for the environment, and for our health, and for our wallets, and so on. Walking more, eating more food prepared from whole ingredients, using less natural gas and electricity, having regular dinners with family, buying less junk to clutter our houses and reduce our debt, spending friendly time with neighbours rather than all night on social media, and so on. Even if you think the Earth has a creamy nougat center of oil and burning coal gives us vitamin C, those are all good things to do anyway.

I think first of the things which have multiple benefits, and focus on doing and encouraging them.