The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism

The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism
A review of 'The Climate Majority: Apathy and action in an age of nationalism' by Leo Barasi (New Internationalist, 2017, 196pp, £9.99)

Preventing extreme climate change is the main challenge that our civilisation faces. But contrary to what we may believe, climate change deniers are not the biggest threat to serious action. According to Leo Barasi’s The Climate Majority, what we should worry about are the ‘swings’: the majority of people who do not deny climate change but are unconvinced or not yet engaged enough to help stop it. In his book, Barasi aims to identify who the apathetic are, why they feel this way and what can be done to transform apathy into action. 

This wide-ranging book touches upon a range of concepts across political campaign strategy and psychology, such as how our minds are geared to avoid potential losses and our difficulty in perceiving distant threats and experiences. Balancing personal anecdotes and pop-culture references with insightful research and evidence, Barasi carefully explains how this leads to problems in people comprehending the complex, slow-moving issue of climate change, suggesting how we might better engage and inform the ‘swings’ to convert them into more overt supporters. 

From a Green perspective, The Climate Majority’s most controversial argument may be its stance on environmentalism and the ‘open Left’, as Barasi suggests that one of the reasons people remain indifferent towards climate change is its portrayal as a predominantly left-wing issue. He therefore floats the inclusion of equally passionate neoliberals and conservatives in the search for solutions, softening the associations between climate action and other left-wing causes. However, Barasi rightly agrees that direct activism still has a valuable role to play in motivating climate action’s established ‘base’ and challenging dangerous obstacles to progress, such as Trump’s entry to the White House. 

In his thoughtful book, Barasi calls upon climate activists to be more realistic, open and positive in order to win support for the deep sacrifices needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Climate action is not a win or lose scenario; instead, any progress we make in limiting dangerous levels of warming is continuous and positive. The urgent need to reduce emissions is reason enough for us to co-operate. For Barasi, our solidarity is not just a desirable trait but an imperative.