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    Science of Us | David Wallace-Wells | 12/31/19 | 7 min
    27 reads9 comments
    9.6
    Science of Us
    27 reads
    9.6
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    • Alexa
      Scout
      10 months ago

      David Wallace-Wells with a sombre, disturbing assessment on how the catastrophic, ongoing fires in Australia already have a normalising effect on us and how easily we disconnect the suffering of people elsewhere (specifically in poorer countries) from our own lives – largely due to “the desire to look away, to avoid contemplating the scariest aspects of contemporary life or what they portend for our future, the shortsightedness of the media, reluctant to cover climate disasters, at least as climate disasters, and the forces of denial now seemingly embodied as much by Australian prime minister Scott Morrison as they are by Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro.”

      Perhaps if it had lasted longer, even burning with equal ferocity, we would nevertheless simply have gotten used to it as the white noise of catastrophe all around us, as impossible as that may seem to imagine, given the scale of suffering involved.

      It's a bit different from the standard report on the fires and climate change. Human's ability to adapt and take anything as "the new normal" has allowed us to thrive for aeons, but now it seems to be a less ideal skill. There's a lot to take in every day for sure.

      • Karenz
        Scribe
        10 months ago

        It’s a phenomenon similar to the tons of solicitations you get every single day if you regularly donate to any causes. All the world’s misery arriving in your mailbox daily!! Then I at least have to pick and choose where I put my resources and toss the rest away without even retrieving my free list pad, nickel or address stickers. It’s impossible to pay attention to all the suffering in this world. Just the magnitude is overwhelming. But if we each react to whatever moves us, individual differences will account for a spreading out of concern and response. It’s not ideal but better than tuning out all misery.

    • Jessica10 months ago

      I am guilty of paying less attention to the Australia fires than I probably would have if this were a few years ago. On the contrary, I pay excessive attention to the California fires.. because I am a California resident and identify as Californian through and through.

      I do feel massive guilt for not giving as much attention as I should. It is difficult to put more energy on such a heartbreaking climate scenario on a different continent when I have (what feels like) limitless situations local to me that I can barely pay my full attention to..

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        10 months ago

        Yup. Echo all of this. It’s surprisingly hard to be intentional about what we pay attention to these days. And harder still to come to terms with occasionally tuning stuff out that’s heartbreaking, devastating and important. But we all have some upper limit on our emotional capacity, and only so much time to do work.

        • jeff
          Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
          10 months ago

          Upvote!

    • erica10 months ago

      It's so scary and sad to think that, the longer a catastrophe lasts, the more it becomes normalized and the easier it is to forget. If a disaster isn't sudden but drags on, we learn to live with it. The focus required to address climate change is antithetical to the way our attention spans work now.

      The author writes that he expected more media coverage of the fires because the U.S. usually pays more attention to countries like Australia than to the developing world:

      I would have expected the same prejudices would bind the sympathy and empathy of millions across the U.S. and Europe to the plight of a mostly white, English-speaking “First World” former colony like Australia.

      I can't decide if I would be even more disappointed if we did care deeply about what was happening in Australia while completely ignoring poorer countries.

      • TinaCamera10 months ago

        Absolutely, Erica! Definitely a bit of a catch 22. And the way I see it, Australia has actually been dwarfing other castostrophic global events.

    • jbuchana10 months ago

      To quote Bob Dylan:

      How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?

      The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

      Prescient words from 50 years ago.

      • joanne10 months ago

        Right on Bob