chapter  14
Toward Sustainable Social Identities: Including Our Collective Future Into the Self-Concept
Pages 18

One of the axes of this matrix is time (cf. Swim et al., 2009). Our unsustainable lifestyles have roots in the past, and the pressing demands for behavioral change are motivated by outcomes in the future. Psychologically, these large time differences need to be traversed, somehow. The scale of this mental time travel is unusually large: today’s behavior toward nature is grounded in cultural orientations whose origin is as ancient as it is integral to the fabric of contemporary society. The Bible sanctions uses of nature thus: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis, 1:28, new international translation). Although such cultural orientations are not the only source of today’s problems, they exemplify a deep-seated assumption that humans are masters of nature. In this mentality, it is entirely justified to let natural resources pay the price for accelerating industrialization, the growth of wealth, and of populations. Today’s problems are therefore the logical consequence of centuries of human activity, and it is unsurprising that psychologically, many people (even in the West) have difficulty personally relating to the problem of climate change as one that we, the present-day inhabitants of the Earth, are causing.