Why We Don’t Want to Talk about Climate Change—Explained!

Climate Change 2018
Faculty: Christine Muller, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Laurent Mesbah

Khela BaskettFaced with choosing a final project for the Wilmette Institute course Climate Change 2018, Khela Baskett, a Bahá’í living in Redwood City, California, USA, decided to give a talk on the topic at a Sci/Tech/Religion Dialogue meeting that faculty Stephen Friberg holds monthly in Silicon Valley. She explained the process this way:

After reading George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, recommended by faculty Arthur Lyon Dahl (https://iefworld.org/index.php/node/850; the full text of the book can be found for free on Google Books), I decided to give a talk on it for my final project. The book is fantastic, going over all the psychology, sociology, and cultural norms for why we would rather ignore the topic of climate change and why it is so hard to talk about the topic in polite conversation. My PowerPoint gives you an idea of what I discussed, but I spoke spontaneously and read several stories from the book. Hence the lecture slides don’t really stand alone. We had a great discussion. It felt/feels very refreshing to actually talk about this topic with folks!

Here is how Khela advertised her talk on email to the Sci/Tech/Religion Dialogue group:

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
Why, when someone brings up climate change in conversation, do we feel an urge to change the subject? What is it about this threat that is different from other societal threats in terms of how we frame it in our minds and respond as a society? How do humans behave with regard to costs, risks, and rewards when planning for the future? How does this affect our willingness to take action to mitigate climate change?

In this discussion, we will review insights from evolutionary psychology and social science to answer these questions. Finally, we’ll discuss what climate change activists can learn from religious communities with regard to how to motivate like-minded believers in collective action. Much of the material in this discussion is from the book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall.

Khela Baskett’s Bio:
Khela studied chemistry and computer science at UC Berkeley. She has worked as a software engineer in the fields of biotechnology and database science. Her love, however, is behavioral economics, which seeks to understand why people make the economic decisions they do and how to motivate people to make better ones. She is particularly interested in decision-making with regard to addressing climate change. She recently took the Wilmette Institute course on Climate Change, which is amazing, but no one will talk about it with her. Enter George Marshall’s fantastic explanation as to why this is.

Then comes the highest compliment:” May I borrow from your publicity?” Judy Russell—a Bahá’í from Prescott, Arizona, USA, and a fellow learner in the Climate Change course—wrote this:

Khela, this is beautiful! What a great effort and result! I was wondering if I could borrow the first paragraph of your publicity? I am doing a program on climate change, The Ethical Implications of Climate Change, for the Prescott Community Social Justice Committee’s September program (9/30/18), but the publicity is due tomorrow, and I am working on it today and tomorrow Reading your posting was quite serendipitous!  I will also look at the slides and the book. THANK YOU!

Khela’s response was positive, and she shared a number of useful sources:

Absolutely! Borrow away. Feel free to use whatever you want from the slide presentation. Other good resources describing material from the book include:

  1. Short Reviews: 



  1. Chapter Summaries (however, chapters are so rich these summaries an only discuss some of the content)


  1. Talk by George Marshall on his book (55:15)


It was just that easy. Take the Climate Change course. Learn about climate change. Read a book. Stand up, and give a talk. Start a conversation.


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