How does Self gratification relate to fighting global warming?

by Ginosar  

I just finished reading a detailed, multi year study: The Neural Basis for Self-Control, by Antonio Rangel, PhD, associate professor of economics at the highly regarded California Institute of Technology - Caltech. It tries to answer the following :

"You're on a diet, but you really want a piece of chocolate cake. What's going on in your brain as you struggle to resist temptation?" [Caltech, Engineering & Science, Fall 2009]

We are talking here about basic research of brain functions, finding specific zones in the brain involved in different aspects of the decision-making process and the differences in the brains of people that have self-control and those who do not.

I studied this report in detail to try to see if we can relate the findings in this research to the global warming problem: to see if we can project from this study of self-control and answer the following question:

What could be the basic difference between people who accept the reality of global warming and the urgent need to fight it, and people who reject the existence of GW or unwilling to fight against it.

I see a considerable similarity, because both areas are involved with a person's ability to grasp the difference between short term desire, and long term implications. Let me explain:

The Caltech study indicates that there are at least two different locations in the brain that are involved in the decision making- eat the cake or deny it because of long term health impacts. One area of the brain is involved with the short term decision, and "sees" only signals of immediate desire: I want that piece of cake.

Another area of the brain is involved in the long term impact, which is the eventual negative health impacts of eating the cake.

In people that have little self-control only the first area of the brain is active - the desire for the cake is very pronounced in the brain. However, in people with self control, their second brain area is also active and overcomes the "desire" of the first brain area of immediate gratification- eat the cake. That second "control" brain area stops us from reaching for the cake.

There are at least two other important aspects of this study:

1. In general people with lower IQ's are more likely to have brain activities in only the first area of the brain- the one responsible for immediate satisfaction. The other, controlling, brain area is not too active.

2. People with strong self gratification (low self-control)  are also inclined to be more emotional and have other aspects of less self control.

I do not believe that this type of brain activity is limited to food.

Here are some possible implications to global warming:

1. Many people who reject GW may have this attitude because of their specific brain activity. They may have more activity in the "first area" of the brain - the low self-control area, the immediate gratification area. And they have limited activity in the second, "control" area. Which means, they want to continue to have their "cake"- the current wasteful energy ways, and are less able to grasp the long term implications of global warming- the "health of the Globe" implications.

I am not ignoring here the legitimate concern of people for their immediate needs: food, shelter, jobs, security. But we must work to achieve both current basic needs and long term human survival. For many years we ignore the later and did nothing of value to date. We ignore the near future at our peril!

2. People who are easily driven to anger by zealot deniers of GW, like Rush Limbaugh, may have the same brain activity of people with low self-control: they have limited long term brain sensitivity.

And here is an even more significant aspect of these less self-control characteristics:

These GW deniers, these easily angered people are considerably more effective politically than the more easy-going, more "mellowed"  "liberals" who believe in GW. These deniers make a lot of public noise, way out of proportion to their numbers because they are angry and that motivate them to action.

On the other hand, most "liberals," by their nature are not motivated to move, to take any political action. In effect, they are not helping the fight against global warming because they feel good for being on the "correct side" of the issue, and therefore are satisfied being "right.".

Again- most "moderate" people are often ineffective politically because they are "nice" people.

That may be one of the main reasons why despite the fact that the majority of the voting public believes that global warming is real, very little is done politically. These "good" people have limited anger, minimal action, and thus they have limited voice.

My staff and I have witness this inaction for many years in thousands of good people when we worked for social change in several states.

The above brain limitations probably does not apply to political leaders on the Right, most Republicans and conservative Democrats, they understand the reality of GW, they are bright and their brain is well developed. But their brains and personalities have developed to distort facts for their own end game, their political goal - destroy the Democratic agenda, destroy the Democratic president. Any common sense of these conservatives is overcome by their zeal to destroy- they are unable to realize that their conduct is deeply damaging their own country, and are hurting also the people they are suppose to represent.


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