Ann-Christine Duhaime, "Minding the Climate: How Neuroscience Can Help Solve Our Environmental Crisis" (Harvard UP, 2022)


Why is it so difficult to adopt a more sustainable way of life, even when convinced of the urgency of the environmental crisis? If adopting new behaviors beneficial for the environment is so challenging at the individual level, no wonder it is even harder at the community or governmental levels. Seeing individual and collective behaviors not changing, or not rapidly enough, eventually leads to the belief that nothing can be done and that human beings are just “hard-wired” that way.

This is where, quite unexpectedly, neuroscience can help us tackle the multidimensional and unprecedented problem that is the environmental crisis. In Minding the Climate: How Neuroscience Can Help Solve Our Environmental Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2022), Dr. Ann-Christine Duhaime argues that by considering the long evolutionary history of the human brain and its reward-system, one can better understand, and therefore grow less frustrated about, why adopting sustainable behaviors can be so challenging. “Our brains are amazing," writes Dr. Duhaime, "– fine-tuned, capable, adaptable, to handle the incredible tasks of human life in its infinite variety and with its infinite day-to-day challenges. […] But there is a mismatch between the pace of evolution of this extraordinary able, pulsating, three-pound bundle of sparks and what we need to meet the challenge of this extraordinary rapid Age of the Anthropocene.”

It is this mismatch that Dr. Duhaime proposes to analyze in this surprising book. Using insights provided by research at the intersection of neuroscience, environmental sciences and a number of other fields, Minding the Climate invites us to think about what a “sustainable brain” might look like and how to achieve it.

Victor Monnin, Ph.D. is an historian of science specialized in the history of Earth sciences. He is also teaching French language and literature to undergraduates.

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Victor Monnin

Victor Monnin, Ph.D. is an early-career historian of science. He teaches History at John Jay College, City University of New York.

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