“We are the climate” – 3 things I learned
The book “We are the Climate” by Jonathan Safran Foer was published at the end of 2019 and has been on everyone’s lips ever since. Personally, the book touched me very much. But instead of writing a conventional review, I would like to share three things the book taught me - about communication, the willingness to change and the complexity of our minds.
About the book
With his book “ We are the Climate ” (ISBN: 978-3-462-05321-0), Jonathan Safran Foer manages to break down a topic as complex as climate change without simply stringing together facts. He approaches the topic through personal stories and historical anecdotes. In this way he manages to captivate readers without making them feel accused. His suggested solution of only consuming animal products once a day (with the main meal) is concrete, feasible and doesn't ask too much of anyone - and yet is extremely effective.
The book has also been published as an audio book, narrated by Christoph Maria Herbst.
About my encounter with the book
Last fall, a friend excitedly told me about a new audio book she was listening to. It would be called “We are the climate” by Jonathan Safran Foer. The author's name told me a lot. As a teenager, I devoured the novel “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and was thrilled by Foer's writing style . His book “Eating Animals” from 2009 also changed my perspective on things forever. That's why I was immediately hooked when my friend recommended his latest book to me. I decided to listen to the book as an audiobook first because it was available to me for free on Apple Music. The book came with me everywhere, on bus rides, walks, train rides and on the way to and from university. In my opinion, Christoph Maria Herbst is an excellent narrator, so I can only recommend the audio book. But because I realized afterwards that I would like to read some excerpts and facts again, I also bought the haptic version of the book.
About the things I've learned
1. It is so difficult for us to do something for the environment because we cannot fully understand climate change
Right at the beginning of the book, Foer tries to get to the bottom of the question of why so few people seem to be interested in the current situation our earth is in. One reason is the topic itself: the weather is boring . Not a topic on which people like to watch hours of documentaries, articles or reports. In addition, climate change is so intangible. We are only gradually feeling the effects of the climate crisis. In many areas they don't even affect us at all because we live in a privileged Western world in which resources seem to be “endlessly” available.
Then there would be people's sense of responsibility : “I alone can't make a difference”, “Politicians are responsible for this”, “I'm fine, why should I change something?”, “I've been like this my whole life lived, I can't suddenly change my habits", "The generation before me is to blame", "The new generation is to blame" ...
All of these things contribute to people not (wanting to – being able to?) paying enough attention to climate change. Fortunately, there are individual people who are dealing intensively with the topic and want to encourage other people to do more or even do something at all for our environment. In general, humans are creatures of habit , sloths.
By examining the question of why it is so difficult for most people to get excited about saving the climate, I have gained a greater understanding of why people act the way they do. It showed me how complex the human mind is and how important it is to approach people with different approaches. Because one way is not always the right way. For people to understand what climate change really is and that it really exists, patience, creativity & a certain amount of forbearance are required.
2. People need concrete instructions
People are, more often than one would think, aware of their own hypocrisy . The problem is that conflicting thoughts and actions that contradict one's inner beliefs lead to cognitive dissonance . In order to resolve these internal contradictions, people have two options: to change their own behavior or to evaluate their actual beliefs differently. Because it takes more effort to change behaviors and habits, people tend to change their own thoughts and beliefs. Views are argued, downplayed or even suppressed. This results in statements like those mentioned in the first point. This is a good way to avoid actually changing something or adjusting your own behavior.
What can help, however, is giving concrete impulses for action . Many people want step-by-step instructions (also in other areas of life). In most cases it is not possible to get them, no matter how nice the idea would be :D. But if there are concrete things that you can gradually implement into your own everyday life, then many people are not so reluctant to change their behavior. It is important that people do not immediately feel overwhelmed and are given the feeling that every change, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.
In a way, Foer does this in his book. He appeals to people to avoid animal products, at least at breakfast. Nevertheless, he also admits to eating a burger or other animal products every now and then. It is important to develop a basic understanding or awareness of the climate problem. Every piece of meat that is not bought, every time the car is left parked, every less flight is a contribution to environmental protection and has value in itself.
3. You forget facts and figures – stories stay in your head
Facts and figures about climate change or the dangers of factory farming amaze me every time I hear them. Unfortunately, a short time later they are usually forgotten again. Even though I sometimes feel like I'm the only one who forgets these things, I know that's not the case. Because we humans can generally remember things better if they are linked to an emotion . And that is exactly where the problem lies with dry numbers and facts. In addition to emotions, images are also important for our brain. The sentence “30 football fields of rainforest are cut down every minute” is much more obvious to us than the representation of the size itself (214,200 square meters).
After listening to or reading Foer's book “We Are the Climate,” I noticed that stories, conversations and anecdotes from human history stuck in my head. As already mentioned above, I bought the book specifically so that I could read certain facts and figures. Because I didn't keep them.
So we should remember that we like to be able to speak in images and emotions when communicating with other people. When we want something to stick. If we want to move other people. Of course, there is a lot more to it if you want to convince people of something or get them excited. And including facts and figures is also important, not just for your own credibility. But stories and other narratives are a good start to attract attention, empathy and interest.
Even if “We are the climate” doesn’t come close to “Eating Animals” for me personally: the book taught me a whole range of things, overall broadened my horizons in relation to the climate and the current climate problem and once again made me realize the complexity of it human understanding demonstrated.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, healthy eating, sustainability or family and pregnancy, check out more exciting blog articles on these topics here .