By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Human reactions almost always have psychological underpinnings. An example of this is related to those individuals who cling to the belief that climate change is not real. Or if they believe it is real, they may believe it is not serious.

There are solid psychological defense mechanisms behind these kinds of reactions. One of them is related to our ability to deal better with things that we can see. We deal better with things that we can experience. We deal better with things that we can feel.

Abstract images are harder to deal with. Something that affects areas where we do not see actual changes is out of sight and out of mind. Something far into the future cannot be seen. We cannot sense the increased emission in the atmosphere.

All of these things lead to an inability to wrap our minds around such abstract thoughts. The better approach for our mind is to deny their reality. 

Another defense mechanism is related to the presentation of the information. There is often a doomsday approach to the long term results of climate change. The result is that we have a tendency to think that there is nothing that we can do to change this ultimate result. It is better to deny that there is any issue at all.

Another defense mechanism is similar to those individuals who are cigarette smokers. They know that any adverse effects are well into the future. Therefore, taking action now is not going to have any short term effect. Similarly, taking action on climate change will have effects far into the future. Therefore, taking action on them now is not urgent.

A few months ago I wrote about wanting to be part of a group. If a group of people are on a street corner all looking up, passersby will look up as well. If individuals with similar beliefs to yours deny the existence of climate change, you should do the same. It makes you feel more like part of the group.

We tend to be creatures of habit. If we grow up with a belief, it is difficult to change that belief. Climate change is a new concept. Individuals raised without knowledge of this will have difficulty embracing a change in their thought patterns. That is why younger generations care more about the issue.

Some individuals have taken steps to address their behavior. They might be able to take more steps. However, they look at those around them. They have done more than those individuals. There is no need to do anything else.

I also recently wrote about the psychology behind conspiracy theory practitioners. Those characteristics (tendency to be uncooperative, narcissism and distrust of others) make certain individuals think that climate change is all about conspiracy theory.

As with many things there are solid psychiatric reasons for people to think the way they do about climate change. It does not make climate change go away. It just helps them deal with it better.

COVID update- Nationally the number of new cases has gone from 778,000 last week to 657,000 this week. The national numbers continue to go down. This week’s total is the lowest it has been since May 9 before the Omicron surge.

Sussex County numbers have gone from 493 new cases to 575 new cases. This is the sixth week in a row that we have been between 433 and 575 new cases. With the national number of cases declining, this suggests that Sussex County is one of the current hot spots.

In line with that new COVID admissions remain above 20 at 20.3 per 100,000. That statistic is in the high risk zone. Therefore the county remains high risk for that reason. Masks remain recommended for indoor activities.