Why we can’t avoid dooming our grandchildren

A recent Slate article proposes a neurological mechanism for why human behaviour so frequently consists of choices where we harm our own long-term future prospects and those of others in order to satisfy near-term preferences.

Not only do our brains seem to regard our future selves as strangers, but most people rarely think about the “far future” more than a few years out, and imagining the future becomes harder as people age: “The data showed that having children or grandchildren did not increase future thinking.”

This may help explain why so many grandparents maintain behaviours and continue to support politicians who are burning up their grandkids’ future by rapidly destabilizing the climate.

Lately it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we’re going to permanently wreck the climate and any prospects for peace and stability in human civilization because we’re psychologically incapable of behaving otherwise. Climate change is racing at full speed through a gap in human reasoning, all because we can’t really accept how serious the consequences will be and because we are so unwilling to be the first to undertake a shared sacrifice to avoid disaster.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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