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Science & Environment

Why Our Brains Weren't Made To Deal With Climate Change

Many glaciers are melting in Alaska. Scientists believe climate change is at work.
Many glaciers are melting in Alaska. Scientists believe climate change is at work.

Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam takes you on vacation with him to Alaska. You'll hike on top of a glacier, drink from a cool stream, and talk with fellow tourists from around the world. But the trip comes with an upsetting observation: Glaciers in Alaska are retreating. The Mendenhall glacier, visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year, has receded more than a mile and a half in the last half century.

"It's sort of just collapsed in on itself," says John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Many see the glacier's retreat as an ominous symbol of climate change. But not all. Shankar talks with tourists who are skeptical that climate change is even occurring. And so the question: Is there something about the human brain that makes it hard for us to grapple with climate change?

After returning from vacation, Shankar calls George Marshall, Director of Projects at Climate Outreach and author of Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, about the behavioral challenges and solutions to addressing climate change.

The Hidden Brain Podcast is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Kara McGuirk-Alison, Maggie Penman and Max Nesterak. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here. You can also f ollow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, @karamcguirk, @maggiepenman and @maxnesterak, and listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.

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