Yuval Noah Harari says a simple story can save the planet


It’s important to have human enemies in order to have a catchy story. With climate change, you don’t. Our minds didn’t evolve for this kind of story. When we evolved as hunter-gatherers, it was never the case that we could somehow change the climate in ways which were bad for us, so it’s not the kind of story that we were interested in. We were interested in the story that some people in the tribe are conspiring to kill me. So we have a narrative problem with climate change. But the good news is that it’s not too late or too difficult to overcome. According to the best reports I’ve read, if we now start investing 2 percent of global annual G.D.P. in developing eco-friendly technologies and eco-friendly infrastructure, that should be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. The beautiful thing about 2 percent is that even though it’s a lot of money, it’s completely feasible. If it was 20 percent then I would tell you forget about it, it’s too late. But 2 percent? The job of the average politician is to shift 2 percent of the budget from here to there. We know how to do it. We need to stay away from the apocalyptic thinking that it’s too late and the world is ending and move toward a more practical thing: 2 percent of the budget. That’s it.

Is shifting 2 percent of global G.D.P. a sufficiently compelling story? The thing about 2 percent of G.D.P., it’s not very impressive, but that’s the whole point. It’s hopeful. It’s not like we have to completely change the entire economy and go live in caves. We just need to shift 2 percent. That’s all. So I think it’s a powerful message. And there are other stories: If you look at movements like Greta Thunberg’s and the whole youth movement, what the young people are telling the world is that you are sacrificing us on the altar of your greed and irresponsibility. It’s no longer something hazy like CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s a human drama of the old sacrificing the young. That’s powerful.

Posted in Environment

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