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

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4.30  ·  Rating details ·  688 ratings  ·  113 reviews
A witty, insightful, and groundbreaking take on one of the most urgent questions of our time: Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do we still ignore climate change?

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
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA
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Shannon
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I made a decision to commit to finally understanding the climate crisis in 2017 (as in, the science, the precise risks, the politics, the necessary actions, the economics, etc.). It's only March 1st, and I think it speaks volumes that I now refer to it as "the climate crisis" rather than the way I referred to it in my New Year's Resolution, which was to learn about "climate change."

In my first month of reading, as I discovered the horror that is certain for humanity unless we make fundamental
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Blair
Looking in the Mirror at the Tea Party

George Marshall bravely steps outside of his role as a long-time environmental activist in order to understand why those who oppose him think the way they do. For example, he describes his visit to the “Tea Party” wing of the conservative movement after arriving there in the biggest SUV he had ever seen, telling us,

“It is easy to focus on differences, and certainly rural Texan Tea Partiers are quite unlike urban liberal environmentalists. But the real
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Linda
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change is both engaging and thought provoking.

At first glance, 42 chapters for a book of 260 pages seem excessive. As it turns out, the short chapters deliver the content in easy to read and digest segments.

Readers will have a chance to learn things like:

Why the word “we” might be more divisive than inclusive.
How the brain is like a Swiss Army knife.
Why there might be a more effective symbol for climate
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Rou Reynolds
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great insight into human psychology when confronted with the reality of climate change. Concise and easy to read with the odd humorous anecdote. Good interviews with a wide range of people and explanations into their position. Some interesting revelations for the communication of climate science to the public and suggestions of ways to galvanise folk more.
Margaret
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Don't even think about not reading this important book.
Ben Thurley
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Don't Even Think About It is a sprightly-written cornucopia of insight into the pitfalls and potential of communicating about climate change. Not as pessimistic as the title and subtitle might suggest, Marshall argues that we are both wired to ignore a problem like climate change (distant, abstract, without clear villians) and that we are wired to respond –capable of putting aside short-term self-interest for quite heroic collective efforts in the face of a shared problem or threat.

Over all, the
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Rachel
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, audio, non-fiction
Don't Even Think About it isn't a book about the science behind climate change; it's a book about why people don't believe the science behind climate change. Marshall delves into the psychological reasons why people don't believe in climate change as well as why the current strategies to try and get them to believe aren't working. He interviews high-profile people on both sides of the debate. His dry wit keeps the book from becoming too depressing.

I listened to the audio version of this book.
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Murtaza
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a well-intentioned book that succeeds in giving good ideas about how to build a popular movement to confront climate change. The issue with it, however, is that it already feels somewhat dated. It’s not that climate change has ceased to be a problem; it has gotten much worse in the five years since the book was published. It is just that all the ideas and the previous decade and a half of attempts that the book runs through have all come to naught. There were many highly effective, ...more
Amy
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Don't Even Think About It was a book about the sociology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology of climate change, rather than about climate change facts. Marshall focused primarily on the use of narrative to reach out to people and the use of close, trusted communicators to convince people to take action on climate change, rather than repeated repetition of fact. There was very interesting research cited from the fields of advertising, storytelling, and psychotherapy that climate change ...more
John Kaufmann
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climate-change
This had a lot of good information about why a lot of people don't accept the reality of climate. Marshall draws upon the findings of cognitive sciences and evolutionary psychology to light his way. The fundamental argument is, "through our long evolution, we have inherited fundamental and universal cognitive wiring that shapes the way we see the world and interpret threats. Climate change has qualities that play poorly to these innate tendencies. It is complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, ...more
Leslie Englehart
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
I've been totally baffled about why so many people are so devoted to denying climate change. It isn't (shouldn't be) a political or religious issue. It is simply a matter of humans taking a very wrong road paved with oil and gas and being willing to follow the road right over the cliff of extinction rather than redirect ourselves to using less energy and making sure that energy is clean and renewable. Seems like common sense to me! This book helped me understand the denier mindset and the need ...more
Tucker
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brain
A fine new contribution that explains a good deal about what makes climate change such an intractably difficult issue to have a reasonable conversation about. There is a long post at Disruptive Dissertation about this book. By the way, who is going to People's Climate March in New York City on 9/21/2014? 350.org has dozens of buses leaving from Boston plus a waiting list of hundreds of people. They are getting more buses. I hope everyone reads Don't Even Think About It before the march because ...more
Miriam L
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wish everyone I knew read this book and could come talk to me about it over tea or brunch! Useful, practical, reflective and open-minded, Marshall is a humble guide through our coming challenges, ultimately calling for us to listen more and cooperate even as we struggle through the loss that will come.
Ryan
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
In Don't Even Think About It, George Marshall tries to figure out how climate change should be communicated. The book is often interesting, so here are some random notes, as opposed to a comprehensive summary.

Narratives beat facts, and people want a worldview they can find themselves in.
"People evaluate new information the light of their recent experience. In rich Western countries they will have little available experience of environmental or social collapse, but they will have a large mental
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Robin
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book quite a bit. Marshall has taken an interesting angle on looking at climate change, the way we think and talk about it, and why we don't act on what we know. From his perspective, we are telling the wrong story about climate change, emphasizing the wrong things if we want people to take it seriously and act accordingly.

His short chapters and straightforward style make this an easy-entry book to read.

Just some tidbits that struck me.

"The missing truth, deliberately avoided . . .
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Christian
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
As I read more about the Climate Crisis I start to wonder more why it is that this isn't one of the main things we talk about. The seriousness of this crisis is pretty much historically unparalleled and while there are obvious reasons why we don't talk about it (such as the concentrated efforts of rich powerful people, and the desire to not lose our lifestyles) none of these seem to be big enough to explain the sheer amount of inaction we are committing.

The answer is of course that there are a
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Lawrence Bish
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Marshal does an excellent job of explaining the psychology of denial in a comprehensive and accessible language. Equally important, he offers examples and suggestions from his own experience and the experience and advice of thinkers and writers usually too esoteric for general public consumption. I wish this book had a snazzier cover to go with the entertaining style he uses to attempt to breach the communication barriers and ploys of those liars and cheats who know how the world works and use ...more
Debbie
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: green, favorites
I started with the last three chapters, and I was convinced with each passing day as I read it, this should be * required reading * for everyone who is passing on the 'green message'... and why it's not working.
a few takeaways that come to mind:
- 1. The environmentally-coded language is attractive to us in the in-group, but can be very alienating if you're not. I didn't realize this. (Chapter 24, following Michael Brune's comments.) )
- 2. Therefore greenies need to let go of the message and
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Caroline Nadel
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've always wondered why it is that people don't believe in climate change, and why it's even become a thing to believe. This book explores the psychology of non-believers and has helped me to understand how best to approach the issue in my work as an environmental scientist.

Interesting observations are made such as why terrorism with a 1% chance of happening is more greatly focused on by politicians than a 90% chance of catastrophic planetary systems failure. How belief and religion can often
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Lucile Barker
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
109. Don’t even think about It: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall
Marshall posits that even when we know about climate change we are unwilling to do anything about it. His research included speaking to Tea Party members, most of whom have been brainwashed into seeing it as a left-wing hoax (Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage rage about this frequently) and to Nobel prize-winning psychologists who have studied how the mind is into avoidance. He suggests using religious
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Katharine
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
A really excellent analysis of how we are reacting to climate change in the US and around the world, including the road blocks to adequately communicating about this "wicked" problem. Since climate change does not check any of our human mental boxes for issues that we must address immediately--i.e., it is not dangerous to me right now, and effects are remote in both location and time--it is all too easy for us to put it on the mental back burner. Since it is an apparently overwhelming problem ...more
NancyHelen
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
All books about climate change are depressing, and this one is no exception. What was interesting about this book, however, was not the terrifying and tragic truth of climate change but the psychology behind why it is we continue to ignore it. I'm not saying it was any less depressing, but it did provide answers. The author was really balanced, taking into account every viewpoint from every angle and looking at us all as human beings facing a huge existential crisis and dealing with it in the ...more
odina
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very important read, I hope everyone gets to read this. It talks about the struggles of the fight against climate crisis, how both denial and acceptance can fit snugly behind personal biases. A la Game of Thrones, the climate crisis is our Winter, our Long Night, the biggest fight we are going to face in the coming years, and both our actions and our inaction are costing us what little victory we hope to achieve.

People should be more concerned, and people should understand that the effects are
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Joan
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
It has always amazed me that there are people, in the face of evidence, who deny there is an issue with climate change and/or global warming. I appreciate this book on the psychology of belief in climate change. It helps explain so much. Climate change is open to so many interpretations, is something that does not affect my own personal life so much, it is a danger pretty much in the future and one I cannot really see. It came about as the U.S.S.R. fell apart so was perfect for conspiracy buffs. ...more
Nico Van Straalen
This book is not so much about the human brain, as the title suggest, but about the immense difficulties of communicating climate change in a polarized atmosphere torn between honest scientific argumentation, industrial self-interest, wicked lobby, political biases, and environmental idealism. The authors reports on talks with representatives from each of these stakeholder groups and sets an agenda for digging a way out of this hole.
Seb Rattansen
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent style. Reminded me of Michael Lewis, i.e. funny and light, but very engaging. General conclusion is that current messaging on climate change sucks. He suggests climate change advocates look at how other groups have gathered support for policy change– most interestingly religious groups. Lots of good ideas but hard to distill them into one review, so I'll just say, read the book! ...more
Lea
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
This book is fascinating. It provides the psychology behind why we do nothing about climate change and how we accept or deny facts. Because of this, it is also an insight into the current political climate. I recommend everyone give it a look. It does get a bit repetitive, as it looks at the same issue from a lot of points of view. The personal stories add a good touch.
Drew
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting but perhaps too anecdotal at times. The book covers a breadth at the expense of depth. I felt that it lacked a cohesive narrative at the end that left me feeling confused about what to do with the new information I'd learned. Still a worthwhile read.
Gervy
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climate-change
A lot of this seemed like filler to me, but chapters 31 (re policy framework for climate change being based on precedents of successful policies for ozone, SOx and NOx) and chapter 32 (re focus on "tailpipe"gases instead of "wellhead" - exploration, development and production) were eye-opening.
Colin Timbrell
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking. Alarming, but in a positive way. Good insights into why climate change is such a 'wicked' problem. This book provoked me to action. I'm often leaving my fossil fuel car in the driveway and doing more walking. Also loving my solar panels.
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George Marshall is the founder of Climate Outreach based in Oxford UK, and over the past 25 years has worked at all levels of the environmental movement including senior positions for Greenpeace US and the Rainforest Foundation.

He is one of the leading European experts in climate change communications, is a lead advisor to the Welsh Government and counts major environmental organisations,
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“The bottom line is that we do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates and the deep changes it requires. In this regard, it is not unlike any other major threat. However, because it carries none of the clear markers that would normally lead our brains to overrule our short-term interests, we actively conspire with each other, and mobilize our own biases to keep it perpetually in the background.” 3 likes
“The answer to the partisan deadlock and public disinterest starts, I am convinced, with finding new messengers rather than finding new messages, and then creating the means for them to be heard.” 2 likes
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