Magazine - Climate Justice

Environmental Mind- A climate consciousness analyses

by Joana Alarcão

When the mind triggers a reaction, alienated we stand still, however, if we try to understand the unconscious behavioural system we may as well be able to adapt.

An examination of climate crisis from a religious and behaviourist standpoint


When the mind triggers a reaction, alienated we stand still, however, if we try to understand the unconscious behavioural system we may as well be able to adapt.


Assessing the impact of climate change goes beyond economical, political or even social beliefs. The real threat to the environment is the individual consciousness, but can also be its solution. The human cognitive system is of importance when accessing to what extent it affects our behaviours and actions. How much has changed? Are the primal instinct systems still equal to our 80 000 ancestors or have we evolved past it? And if so, can we as a species collaborate and mitigate the immense tragedy that involves human existence?

Is our brain evolved to evolve?

Climate change is not a recent issue, we are well aware that humans are the cause of biodiversity lost and climate temperature changes. However when wanting to instigate a social change facts cannot get through. As a society, we evolve faster socially than biologically – the brain triggers cannot cope with it. Although coping may not be the right answer as it may lead us to an even more profound alienation – from ourselves and social conducts.

As a mutable society, evolving, adapting and changing by the minute, how can we mitigate the deterioration of the planet? If we are unevolved to evolve? We are still the same primates that inhabit Earth hundreds of years ago, so an investigation of the mental triggers and responses are worth taking into consideration.

Still and after looking at the current crises, and after considering the events of past behaviours through the environment, I question where is the gap that led us to where we are today. From a simple species evolving at the same side of fellow species to a destroyer of ecosystems? Can human morality and compassion provide guidance for the chaos we have right now? Can having a higher level of knowledge about human cognitive behaviours have an impact on the environment and social consciousness?

Does Morality have something to say?

Morality is a common topic when approaching climate change. We question human involvement in the destruction of the planet and if we should burden the responsibility to answer the current pledge for action. Do not other species have the right to evolve and prospers? Or are we so self-involved as a species that we believe that everything is quantified in profit value- even ourselves?

It can be exhaustively difficult, not to approach this matter from a nihilistic point of view, as the emotional side of climate change can be overwhelming. Activating our dopamine systems when facing our threatened way of life, considering if future generations will have a chance at this vast bio-diverse world. The disconnection between nature and humans is not a new concept as I referred to earlier, it has been going since the Agricola revolution, where humans were no longer slaves of natural conditions to survive. we as a species and as a society are overwhelmed by progress and becoming a liability of the concept itself.

What happens when we lost the religious standpoint?

When thinking about what has made our society able to prosper, grow and evolve to a much greater extent, the use of religion comes to mind. In the modern world, religion has had a negative connotation as science leads the way for progress, however, I believe that religion in the western world, Abrahamic religions, Christianity have something to say about human behaviour. Disregarding its powerful historical meaning makes us aware of only half the story.

Humans differently from any other species are animals that need something to emulate. Studies support that a life without purpose is not something a human can master. Our brain is so evolved that our ability to think makes it impossible to withstand it. The fear of death can be too blinding to support and as mousses, with the sense of cats, we freeze in fear – chaos comes lurking. Religion took some of that away, giving people a purpose and commandments to follow, commandments that still hold this society together.

I am not preaching in favour of religion as I am, like most of us, atheist. But having into consideration the emotional attachments that hold us are paramount to understand the human mind and even more importantly our social behaviours. As I believe that to be able to prosper we have to focus on the individual.



Plumwood, V. (2007). Environmental culture: the ecological crisis of reason.2nd edn. London: Routledge,pp.167-196.

Morton, T. (2008)’John Clare’s Dark Ecology’, Studies in Romanticism, 47(2) pp.179-193.Lee, J. (2014)

`The human dark side: evolutionary psychology and original sin´, Journal of Religion and Health, 53(2), pp.614-630.

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