Climate change is one of the most conversed topics in modern-day politics as the millennial generation starts to test out the strength of its voice and the breadth of its influence. Too often we are given the ‘whole picture’ regarding the global implication of climate change and in my limited sociological understanding, having this issue presented as a generalized topic makes it all too easy to dismiss. Therefore, I want to take a moment to bring the focus back to a view that is more local, and delve into understanding what climate change means for Cayman and what our responsibility is to react to this.
Cognitive Dissonance – What is it?
Cognitive dissonance in the field of psychology is described as a situation in which conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours occurs and leads to a feeling of discomfort. This discomfort then often leads to a change in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviours to reduce the discomfort and restore balance mentally. In the age of climate change and increased environmental discourse, people have found this discomfort in their beliefs as they are accustomed to their consumerist lifestyles and understand that to mitigate and reduce environmental impacts that they will have to sacrifice some of those comforts as a result.
The majority of the populace of the Cayman Islands, when I speak to various generations and demographics, is aware of the advent of climatic changes, however are victims of cognitive dissonance. Too many of us are aware of the existence, but maintain a comfortable distance from the issue and embrace a mentality that someone else is dealing with it – that environmentalists will innovate society and we will progress and life will, and can continue as is; This is a flawed mentality.
We as a community have become acquaintances with climate change, treating it like someone you awkwardly encounter on the street or at the supermarket and immediately look down at your feet when walking past, attempting to avert your gaze anywhere but toward them. News flash friends: if we keep looking down at our feet and continue to skirt the issues – the only change we will see is future generations doing the same thing, but watching the rising sea levels cover those very feet as our very own country drowns in the sea of our lack of action.
Understanding the Impacts
A change of four degrees Celsius in average global temperature has the ability to raise sea levels up to 2 meters by the year 2100 – For those of us in low-lying island nations like our verdant island, this is a very real threat to the future of our presence and continued existence. Countries such as Tuvalu, another small island nation in the Pacific, are already experiencing these issues first hand with flooding, loss of local food sources and climate refugees becoming more and more prevalent. There is already heated debate locally about the future of our marine ecosystem as it refers to the advent of the potential cruise port, however, this issue arguably pales in comparison to the expected loss of marine biodiversity as a result of a continued rise in sea temperature and acidification levels.
The point of this post is not to bring about a feeling of doom and gloom, but to start a healthy dialogue about the importance of climate change and how it relates to the future of Cayman. This post is also not made in contention or in ignorance of the many admirable changes that are being made across the Islands to better us on an environmental standpoint, but rather to stamp out the acceptability of any form of denial going forward in our vulnerable community. We are not exempt from this global crisis and therefore we are not exempt from the responsibility of our actions.
A change in the mentality of each of us as individuals on our consumer habits will result in the change of our collective mindset. We are in an age of changing technological advances, however it is naive to think that these changes will solve the problem alone because that is just reverting to the denial that we have become too comfortable hiding behind. We as a people need to advocate for green changes in our energy sources, more sustainable treatment of our waste, socially and environmentally just sourcing of consumer products and transparent dialogue with the people of power in the Cayman Islands Government. Technological innovation may be part of the solution that mitigates the problem, but without honest and active dialogue there will be no opportunity for these innovations to take foot in our community.
When I speak of the future of Cayman, I am not just speaking of the longer-term environmental impacts, but also of the future of our country on a political stage. No matter where your passion for change lies, it rests on your shoulders to voice your opinions to those running for positions of power so as to influence their political platforms to enact social, economic and environmental change. We need people who empathize with our ideals and push an agenda that benefits our community as a whole, but also act upon those words ensuring they ring true and are not just empty promises hidden behind non-binding claims. Your voice has the ability to show political parties where our concerns as a people lie, and therefore it is your responsibility to let those concerns be known.
“Indeed the only thing rising faster than our emissions is the output of words pledging to lower them” – Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything
If you would like me to go into further depth about some of the environmental changes that I think Cayman has the ability to embrace as a country and as members of the Caymanian community, please email me, leave a comment or watch this space as I release more specified articles on the environmentally minded changes we as Caymanians have the ability and responsibility to take going forward.