Monday, 14 May 2012

Stunned Rabbit Syndrome

‘We are like a rabbit caught in the glare of the headlights of a speeding truck. We can easily escape, but we are transfixed by the situation. Instead of leaping off to the side, we wait to see if the wheels run over us.’

I wrote these words as I grappled with the challenges of coming up with policy for a sustainable world. It was a long slow mental journey because business-as-usual is so deeply engrained, not just in policy and regulation, but in the thought processes we employ. The education system teaches a narrow viewpoint of the world and encourages a selfish and short-term logic in managing our affairs.

The analogy of the rabbit, sitting in the middle of the road caught in the glare of the headlights of a speeding truck, is an accurate reflection of this point in human civilization. One option is to sit it out as the juggernaut of climate change and resource depletion charges over us, hoping that the effects will hit another family, another community or another country. There may be a thin corridor between the wheels if we keep our head down low where we can survive as destruction takes place around us, but it is a huge risk and morally indefensible. Not only a risk, but the consequences of failing to act, will affect everyone as climate refugees look for a new home and the prices of resources climb to unaffordable levels. We will all be poorer as a result.

The rabbit feels happier to sit still hoping the danger will pass. People also do not like to be scared by having reality brought home to them. This I call the ‘Stunned Rabbit Syndrome’. I wish I knew how to cure it. People want to read upbeat optimistic assessments that allow them to be happy and content with their situation. Explaining to people how it really is, switches people off; they become deaf to logic.  Take the other approach, explaining that we have the solutions, people listen but only up to the point where you explain that the solution are not automatic. Effort is required; compromise will be necessary and reining back on material consumption a necessary prerequisite for success. People with stunned rabbit syndrome hear the word ‘solution’ and then switch off feeling happy and trusting that someone else will make it happen.

Are we all rabbits? Or, do enough of us have the courage to face reality and force through solutions?
 Find out if you suffer from stunned rabbit syndrome:
Victim of Success: Civilization at Risk is now out as an e-book on Kindle.

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