In a recent article on climate change, Scott Carver’s Sustainability Transformation Group Leader and Senior Associate Tina Fox wrote in an online edition of Architecture & Design: “…we cannot afford to live in ignorance and that the unthinkable can and does happen. Secondly, and on a more positive side, it became clear that massive change is possible, and we need to listen to the science.”

And there is that phrase: “… we need to listen to the science.” But does anyone really listen to the science? Whether we talk about climate change or the pandemic or even the multitude of other issues that society is currently struggling with, science seems to be like the instructions for an Ikea wall unit – we only refer to it when we can’t figure out how to put it together.

If we listened to the science, would we in 2021 be dealing with the issue of buildings covered in flammable cladding? If we listened to the science, would we have been able to prevent the growing number of residential tower structural faults? And yes, then there is the question of climate change and many other issues that humans seemingly have ‘forgotten’ how to tackle with the appropriate level of frontal cortex fortitude.

David Hall, a Senior Researcher in Politics at the Auckland University of Technology wrote in The Conversation: “At its heart, climate change denial is a conflict between facts and values. People deny the climate crisis because, to them, it just feels wrong.”

Could this be about ‘feelings’ rather than ‘facts’ or is it more complex than that? “Contemporary social psychologists,” writes Hall, “tend to talk about this in terms of “motivated reasoning”. Because the facts of climate science are in conflict with people’s existing beliefs and values, they reason around the facts.”

So, it’s all about “motivated reasoning” – or to put it bluntly, prejudice and denial. But getting back to the science, perhaps part of the problem also lies in the fact that western society for years moved away from scientific rationale in favour of more ‘practical’ focuses like economics, law and finance, all fine and noble pursuits, but far more prone to put ‘feelings’ on equal footing with ‘facts’. Maybe pain will be a good teacher and will force humans to face the reality – or as I like to call it, the science.

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