In the spirit of PowerShift...
How do you make people REALLY
care about a future they'll probably
That's one of the big questions for me in the whole global warming thing. I suspect we haven't figured out the answer, otherwise there might not be (quite) so much trouble getting certain of the developed nations onboard with making serious efforts to curb their carbon emissions and to adopt more environmentally friendly infrastructures.
With the more unpleasant projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looking all the way ahead to 2100, when many of us probably won't be around anymore, the usually-reliable self-interest argument can't come into play with much effectiveness. Especially (but not only) for those of us who remain unconvinced that we will be Judged by a Higher Power after our lives on this planet and/or identify as moral skeptics in some sense or another, it's hard to be totally certain why we shouldn't just enjoy and accumulate as much as we can while we're here, and let the future take care of itself.
Maybe we can worry about our own children, but after that, hard to care, right? Not that just finding it "hard to care" means we shouldn't do our utmost to go green. But people being as we are, knowing what we "should" do in a moral sense doesn't always overlap with actually feeling compelled to do it. I do think we (America, the West, whoever) should make an effort to cool the planet down, but I'm not sure I can give you reasons that I find "objectively" convincing. (I found that bit with the CG polar bears in An Inconvenient Truth depressing; I like trees; I hate summer heat; disaster movies freaked me the hell out when I was younger...) OK, yes, if we fail to act, future generations will pay dearly. On an intellectual level, I'm sure most parents and would-be parents are struck by this. But it still doesn't seem to be translating into a punch in the gut that says "DO SOMETHING!" Neither does the occasional rattling off of statistics about the extinction of various species. When I learn of such things, I feel distantly disturbed, but I'm fairly sure that we just aren't built to be able to really grasp the ecological repercussions AND link them, in our heads and hearts, to those extinctions (and to the ways in which we're causally responsible).
It would be convenient to be able to blame the Bush administration for careless disregard of scientific authority like that of the IPCC, but important things are rarely that simple, and besides, each of us can do our part--but not everyone does. And I won't take the supercynical route of ranting about how scientific evidence is ignored by those concerned only with a financial bottom line. It seems, after all, that the smarter of such people are beginning to realize the opportunities presented by green technologies. But they, and the relative handful of activists whose wherewithal and work ethic match their passion, are still shining exceptions to rules of sloth and stubbornness. So rather than just a matter of rhetorical convincingness, I think a lack of true comprehension is at work here. If we cannot see and hear and feel the dire future probably in store for our descendants if we fail to save the world, then can we ever understand, in a manner sufficiently gut-wrenching and asskicking, what all those scientific projections mean? If the future is not ours, can we bring ourselves to give a damn about it? I sure hope so. But I don't know why.