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Mobilizing people to act on behalf of the environment is difficult because in terms of conservation and preservation, it’s often hard for people to see the benefit of making environmentally conscious decisions when tangible connections are blurry. On top of that, there are some people who really just don’t care or put the burden on the upcoming generation. This is due to what I like to call environmental cognitive dissonance, which even I, as a big conservationist, fall subject to sometimes.  In psychology, cognitive dissonance is when people have two or more conflicting beliefs or ideas. Applying this to environmentalism, this equates to wanting to save the planet but buying a car that has horrible gas mileage, wanting to save the sea turtles but using non-compostable plastic straws, or wanting to eat produce with less pesticides but buying the cheapest conventional produce instead.

A large scale environmental cognitive dissonance is what’s occurring right now in Washington DC — Congressmen and Senators who recognize that major environmental concerns like climate change need to be acted on but may not act because they want to appease the political ideologies of their constituents. But what I’ve come to realize this summer is that more and more politicians are throwing this dissonance out the door and doing what they believe is right.

The past two months, I’ve been working in the climate policy department at a nonpartisan think tank focused on encouraging right-of-center politicians to endorse climate mitigation legislation. Before I started, I was always quick to blame conservatives for dismissing climate change, for supporting non-renewable energy markets or for generally not caring about the environment. Now I realize I was so quick to blame them under this popular narrative, that I didn’t really think to question if my stereotypes and assumptions might be misleading…and they definitely were.

There’s actually a lot of young, new blood moderate Republicans (who often don’t receive a lot of press attention because big name Trump supporters can often overpower the newbies) who believe that climate change is real and want to support climate policy. Some of them approach climate policies from an economic viewpoint: enacting policy now will help with risk management and asset preservation in the future when climate-related impacts increase. This approach is often good for constituents who don’t want to recognize climate change is human caused— in other words, there’s ways to frame the issue without putting the burden on citizens.

It seems to follow that once government action has been done, usually there’s more incentive for people to start embracing environmentally conscious decisions. Although it’s a slow and gradual process to embrace, against many odds I think our government is on the right track forward to a bigger percentage of people understanding climate legislation needs to be a priority.