I recognize that for a lot of people – even those living in large cities or who are otherwise disconnected from the natural world – climate change still feels like a present and pressing problem. But somewhere in my seven years since moving from British Columbia to New York, the future of our planet slipped to the bottom of my priorities.
That wasn’t something I actually recognized until a friend from home visited me one recent weekend and asked about the environmental activism scene in New York, a question I was totally unequipped to answer. (Turns out “sometimes people sort the recycling out of trash cans in the subway?” and “You can choose not to get plastic cutlery with your delivery!” are unsatisfactory answers when you’re talking to someone studying environmental law.)
I think some of my apathy comes from fear fatigue – climate change is such an overwhelming and seemingly unsolvable problem, and the consequences of failure so dire, that I resort to thinking ”Elon Musk will figure it out” rather than considering the very real and very scary permanent implications for the future of our species.
But rejecting or postponing concerns about the climate can be a symptom of privilege, as well. Noticing the natural world is like noticing your own body – it’s easy to ignore as long as everything’s functioning smoothly in the short-run, but if food or clean water were an immediate problem for me, you can bet I’d see the value in taking action on global warming now.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone in my apathy. An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that American are increasingly less interested in politicians taking action to end climate change. Of the people called for the poll, only 47% said they felt the government should be doing more to end climate change.