Long-Term Thinking and Climate Change

One of the reas­ons the gen­er­al pub­lic are slow in act­ing on cli­mate change in the man­ner the situ­ation’s import­ance demands is our reluct­ance to think too far bey­ond our imme­di­ate time hori­zon. How­ever this should­n’t stop us.

That is the sug­ges­tion of Mar­tin Rees, Astro­nomer Royal, who extols the vir­tues of long-term think­ing more elo­quently than I’ve heard before:

“As in polit­ics,” he says, “the imme­di­ate trumps the import­ant.” Our future-blind­ness may reflect a basic lim­it­a­tion of the brain. “In so far as brains evolved to cope with every­day life on the savan­nah, they evolved in a con­text where you didn’t plan 50 years ahead and you cared about your loc­al com­munity. Although…” A pause. A sip of tea. “Although, it’s odd—I gave a talk at Ely cathed­ral not long ago. The people who built the cathed­ral had a lim­ited view of the world. Their world was the fens, and they thought it would end quite soon, but nev­er­the­less built this won­der­ful struc­ture which is part of our her­it­age 1,000 years later. And it’s shame­ful in a way that we, with our longer hori­zons and great­er resources, are reluct­ant to think 50 years ahead.”

via The Browser

Note: The full art­icle is behind a pay wall. The above quote and the con­text there­of is avail­able.