About 70 percent of Americans believe that the climate is changing, most acknowledge that this change reflects human activity, and more than two-thirds think it will harm future generations. Unless we dramatically alter our way of life, swaths of the planet will become hostile or uninhabitable later this century — spinning out ecological, epidemiological and social disasters like eddies from a current. And yet most Americans would support energy-conserving policies only if they cost households less than $200 per year — woefully short of the investment required to keep warming under catastrophic rates. This inaction is breathtakingly immoral.
Touching the past can connect us to the future, especially when we look back fondly. In one set of studies, psychologists induced people to think about the sacrifices past generations had made for them. These individuals became more willing to sacrifice short-term gains to help future generations, paying forward their forbears’ kindness. Organizations like Longpath are applying these insights to foster sustainable thinking. They reason that gratitude toward the past might empower us to help those who come after — a kind of golden rule across time.
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