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Never before did man live in as free, safe and accessible a world as we do today. Poverty and crime are decreasing worldwide, while life expectancy and level of education are increasing. In the Netherlands, too, we have more opportunities than ever before. Still, there is a downside to this prosperous world. Not only are we exhausting the earth, we also burden our own capacities. “We have created a society that we, humans, cannot really live up to” says the psychiatrist-philosopher Damiaan Denys. Is the real crisis inside ourselves?
For millions of years, man's perception did not stretch far beyond his immediate surroundings. The human brain is programmed to try and fathom those surroundings. In a world where the sky is the limit, full of stimuli, complex information and alternative truths, we sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees. What is the effect of that overwhelming amount of information on our mental condition and on that of society as a whole? Why are we so afraid, when the world has never been safer? Why do we increasingly feel depressed and lonely, when the world has never been more accessible and connected? And why is it that something as fundamental as keeping the earth liveable is not considered a necessity by everyone?
To the sociologist Kari Norgaard, the climate change is the most comprehensive social study ever. For the way in which people deal with this offers valuable insights into human behaviour and organizational skills in times of extreme change. As solutions to the climate change are drastic and complex and, moreover, are often beyond our direct control, the subject makes us feel uncomfortable, scared, guilty and powerless - feelings that most people would rather avoid.
The British neurologist Anil Seth points out the subjective nature of our reality which, in fact, is a collage of individual experiences, feelings and convictions. According to Seth, in a society where everyone is free to shape their own unique truth and share it with others, it is obvious that we find it increasingly difficult to reach consensus on a common reality. In this overwhelming multitude and freedom of images of reality, our brain yearns for transparency, grip and unequivocalness.
How do we, as individuals, deal with that? According to the Flemish psychiatrist and philosopher Damiaan Denys, we should ask ourselves whether the world is really in a crisis, or whether the crisis is actually inside ourselves. We are looking for control in a world that, by definition, is uncontrollable, and that has frightened us.