Yuval Noah Harari Believes This Simple Story Can Save the Planet

“My most central idea is simple. It’s the primacy of fictions, that to understand the world you need to take stories seriously. The story in which you believe shapes the society that you create”

One area where the scientific community has communicated clearly is the scale of the climate crisis, and the story that they and so many other people are telling about it is incredibly urgent. Why then do you think we’re still lacking in the global political will to address the problem in a way that’s equal to the coming catastrophes?

It’s important to have human enemies in order to have a catchy story. With climate change, you don’t. Our minds didn’t evolve for this kind of story. When we evolved as hunter-gatherers, it was never the case that we could somehow change the climate in ways which were bad for us, so it’s not the kind of story that we were interested in. We were interested in the story that some people in the tribe are conspiring to kill me. So we have a narrative problem with climate change. But the good news is that it’s not too late or too difficult to overcome.

According to the best reports I’ve read, if we now start investing 2 percent of global annual G.D.P. in developing eco-friendly technologies and eco-friendly infrastructure, that should be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. The beautiful thing about 2 percent is that even though it’s a lot of money, it’s completely feasible. If it was 20 percent then I would tell you forget about it, it’s too late. But 2 percent? The job of the average politician is to shift 2 percent of the budget from here to there. We know how to do it. We need to stay away from the apocalyptic thinking that it’s too late and the world is ending and move toward a more practical thing: 2 percent of the budget. That’s it.

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