We shouldn't be shocked by public apathy

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The Independent Online

The news that the mortal threat of global warming is being greeted with a yawn by half the population of Britain may shock you. It shouldn't. For it illustrates a key truth for anyone concerned with climate change: the difference between activists and citizens. Activists are on top of the agenda, hyper-aware of problems and issues, and because they mainly talk to other activists, they think everyone sees the world they way they do. But people don't. Most citizens, most ordinary people, are not idealists, never mind activists; their main concerns are naturally self-regarding. Thus polls tell us they care most about their income, and then about their health, and then about the education of their children.

This is not evil, or even lamentable; it is the human condition. If people seem unconcerned at the greatest threat to their well-being of all, it is for a simple reason: money, health and schools are now, but global warming takes place in the future. Scientists are surer every week that this future is catastrophic and coming sooner than we thought. But though the activists have taken this on board, the citizens have not.

There's the political problem of climate change: by the time most ordinary people see their own vital interests are indeed threatened, it may be too late.

That's why Al Gore is doing humankind a signal service in sounding the alarm. That's why Live Earth matters.

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