#2 To (really) Fight Climate Change: Practicing Empathy to go from Individual to Global?

This article is following the former and first article of the series # To (really) Fight Climate Change” with: Self-Education to Develop a Critical Mindset?. I wrote the main part of those articles before the Coronavirus crisis became that important. By comparing this crisis to climate change I realised how they were similar in some aspects. I therefore feel that my both articles can be quite relevant to this current worldwide epidemic. I, therefore hope it will resonate and be helpful for some of you.

There are so many ways and levels to reduce our ecological footprints and therefore, minimizing climate change. We all are different, we all have our own way to process information and to decide what to do about it. Therefore, we need to have a bigger picture of the world; what’s actually going on. Understanding this aspect requires to evolve into two dimensions: Knowledge: To understand climate change and how an ecosystem works (ecology) and to sharpen our critical mindset; Empathy: To understand people in their differences to react to climate change (intellectual empathy) and to connect more with their actual feelings (emotional empathy). 

Empathy to Inspire and Empower

The key to fight climate change is to find a new way for mankind to live with nature in a more sustainable way. As mentioned earlier, not everyone is sensitive at the same level concerning global warming. Some get less affected and stay a bit out of the fight, while  others get so much affected that they feel they cannot do anything and, finally a third part that feels the urge to stand up and to act. The role of those last ones is really important as they are the spark in the dark of doubt, the drop in the ocean of possibility. They can seem so small on their own, but they can create some great change, if they succeed to reach the community. Their best weapons: Inspiring and Empowering. This is only possible if they find a way to connect with people thinking or feeling perhaps differently from them. By practicing empathy, they can manage to speak languages that can be understood by many.

Empathy for Successful Sustainable Strategies

Fighting climate change is about reconnecting people with our environment. However, how can we manage if we do not express (enough) empathy towards our own kind? Can we create successful solutions when we ignore or do not want to accept that others think or feel differently? We surely must change our current systems, our current habits, however, can we impose for example, everyone to become vegan; if in our belief that’s the ultimate solution, while for example a  country has limited landscapes and its residents have been living out fishing? On another dimension, can we blame people for feeling sad when Notre-Dame was burning last April, in pointing out that people should rather cry for our planet dying, assuming we cannot feel sad for different things at different level? To create a global movement that can fight climate change, specialists point out the need of acting locally, meaning implementing strategies that match the local possibilities: environmentally, culturally and individually speaking. Empathy is the decoder of how solutions should be designed.

Empathy VS Individualism

In their study The Role of Individualism-Collectivism in Empathy: An Exploratory Study, Duan et al 2019. show that collectisim was correlated to empathy (both intellectual and emotional) unlike individualism. They also stressed that we can find some nations, some cultural groups within a nation and even individuals within the same group on different level in the individualism/collectivism spectrum. We can then wonder the role of individualism and collectivism towards climate change and its fight. On one hand the constant search to satisfy our needs seems coming from our individualism. Indeed, we have never really given that much importance to the environmental and social impacts that it would cause (else it would have not happened!). Even now that climate change is here and it is understood by the majority that our current life time is responsible, the 1% of the population that has as much wealth as the rest of the world still continues that way. On the other hand, if we decide to reverse things, if we consider that our individualism was the Source of our current climate change crisis, can`t empathy be the key to try to fix our mistake?

While Fake News connects people in sharing the wrong information likely to cause unpredictable issues, can`t our Empathy be a way to share the correct information with each other?

Special thanks to Elisa for the corrections and suggestions.

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