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After Denial: How People React to the Hard Reality of Climate Change
An interesting and thought-provoking film about how we might move beyond
denial as we grapple with the anxiety created when we really think about
climate change. Organized according to psychiatrist Elisabeth
Kübler-Ross's stages of denial, the film was the 2nd runner-up in the
2016 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest.
Climate Anxiety in the Trump Era
This conversation with psychologist Renee Lertzman is quite interesting.
Lertzman enters at 15:30 with an overview of the importance of our emotions in
dealing with climate change (and how they interfere with our cognition and
ability to act); at about minute 30, she shifts to how creativity is a
counterforce to anxiety; at 39, to how talking about feelings helps us; at
45, to climate justice; and finally, to better ways we might frame the work of
fighting climate change.
(38 minutes, November 2016)
The Biggest Story in the World: Psychology
Number six in this series of lively and informative audio podcasts linked to
the Guardian's series climate change/leave it in the ground campaign focuses
on the question of why we find it so hard to think, care about, and act on
climate change‒and what we might do to get ourselves and others past
the many emotional and psychological barriers.
(22 minutes, 2015)
The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture
Mary Pipher, Riverhead Books, 2013, 219 pp.
This very helpful and companionable book might be described as two stories in
one, joined by psychologist Pipher's own journey from despair and grief about
climate change to what becomes life-enhancing, empowering, and hope-creating
action. One, she describes how she and other Nebraskans organized to fight the
Keystone XL pipeline (designed to move crude oil from Canada's tar sands to
the Gulf Coast, crossing the Nebraska Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer). Two,
she shares her considerable professional understanding of how to face and then
move beyond despair.
a video of her good 19-minute TEDx talk about these subjects.
||articles & essays
How Do People Cope with Feelings about Climate Change So that they Stay Engaged and Take Action?
Susie Burke, February 2016, post on "Is this how you feel?" blog
Dr. Burke, a senior psychologist at the Australian Psychological Society, has
good things to say here about how we can best cope with uncomfortable feelings
about this subject and keep active. The
site is worth looking at, too. So is the short, easy-to-read, downloadable
booklet she refers to,
Let's Speak about Climate Change.
When the End of Civilization is Your Day Job
John H. Richardson, Esquire, July 2015
A moving and troubling story about the emotional toll on several leading
climate scientists, who see what is coming but are all too often attacked
rather than listened to.
For more responses from scientists, see this August 2016
about the Dear Tomorrow project, which invites them to write a letter to the
future. An interesting
piece in Scientific American, "Facing Down
'Environmental Grief'" (by Jordan Rosenfeld, July 2016), looks at the
emotional effects of climate work on ordinary citizens, activists, and
scientists in terms of grief at environmental loss. And for two excellent
related pieces by journalists about the emotional toll of covering climate
change, see Mashable's
and The Guardian's
Michael Slezak column, both columns from January 2017.
What is Climate Change Doing to Our Mental Health?
Joanne Silberner, Grist, July 2014
Focused on Australia but with global ramifications. A good quick picture of
Breaking the Climate Fear Taboo: Why Feelings Matter for Our Climate Change Communications
Renee Lertzman, Sightline Daily, March 2014
Lertzman has focused her research on climate change communication and
psychology, and this short, efficient blog post offers a set of four
categories with which we think about engagement with the topic. One of them,
the one having to do with feelings, we tend to neglect, to our loss. Here she
offers five guidelines for allowing people to have their feelings without fear of judgment.
How to Be a Climate Hero
Audrey Schulman, Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming, Torrey House Press, 2013
What might change in our actions and our feelings if we thought about global
warming in the context of what psychologists know about the "bystander
effect"? Through a story of her own experiences with that effect, Schulman
poses this the simple but eye-opening and potentially powerful question.
Posted here with the permission of the press, editor, and author.
Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene
Roy Scranton, New York Times blog, November 2013
In this moving and provocative personal essay, Scranton brings to bear what he
learned as an Army private in Iraq‒how to "own" rather than fear his
end‒on our collective predicament (especially global warming) and its
challenge to "our sense of what it means to be human."
Hearing the Call
Joanna Macy, from Stories of the Great Turning, eds. Peter Reason and Melanie Newman, Vala Publications, 2013; also published in Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine, March/April 2013
This short piece offers an introduction to some of Macy's influential work as
a Buddhist ecophilosopher facing a planetary crisis, suggesting five
guidelines that might help us "make friends with uncertainty" and to "pour
[our] whole passion into a project when [we] can't be sure it's going to
Getting Real about It: Navigating the Psychological and Social Demands of a World in Distress
Susanne Moser, Sage Handbook on Environmental Leadership, 2012
Drawing from a very wide range of resources, Moser's thoughtful essay about
what it will likely take to be an environmental leader in a climate-disrupted
world is well worth studying. The demands on such people, she suggests, will
include having to face reality, working with grief, framing loss as part of a
transition, learning to be with others in distress, holding paradoxes, valuing
both accountability and forgiveness, and committing to nonviolence and
restoration. Excellent sources for further reading. See the Sage Handbook
(eds Gallagher, Andrews, Christensen) for the final version of this essay, or
Moser's own website (linked here) for a pre-publication version.
The Id and the Eco
Rosemary Randall, Aeon, December 2012
"Thinking about climate change makes people feel helpless and
anxious‒but that's why we must talk about it openly": so
psychotherapist Randall explains in this terrific article. Rich in insights
about human emotions as they interfere with our ability to deal well with
climate change, and some good ideas about what we might do to face and cope
with these emotions.
Making Friends with Fatalism
Renee Lertzman, Climate Access, April 2012
A succinct account of the trouble caused by such strong emotions as fatalism
with some important, basic suggestions for how we might better "meet our
experiences with compassion," face the truth, and remain active and engaged.
Lertzman has made this topic one of her research and speaking foci, and it is
easy to find her
other articles and blog
posts and videos of her talks.
To a Future Without Hope
Michael P. Nelson, 2010
This short, challenging essay suggests that appealing to hope might be a
distraction, not a motivator, a "sugary cereal . . . not protein." Instead,
philosopher Nelson proposes, we can "replace 'I hope' with 'I resolve to do
the work' or 'I will be this kind of person, I will live this kind of life' or
any sort of utterance that focuses on virtue rather than on
consequence"‒and thus keep from losing our motivation in the face of
setbacks, limitations, or failures. Reprinted courtesy of Trinity University
Press. This essay appeared in the book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a
Planet in Peril, $18.95, published by Trinity University Press. For more
information, please visit
Is There an Ecological Unconscious?
Daniel B. Smith, New York Times, January 27, 2010
This article looks at current theories and investigations of what might
connect "the health of the natural world and the health of the mind,"
including in the context of climate change, and discusses the term
"solastalgia"--coined by Australian Glenn Albrecht to denote "the pain
experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and
that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one
gets when one is still at 'home.'"
To Remake the World
Paul Hawken, Orion Magazine, May/June 2007
This profoundly (and contagiously) optimistic essay describes Hawkens'
gradual realization that there are now hundreds of thousands of grassroots
organizations in the world that work for ecological sustainability and social
justice: "tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to
confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some
semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world." For a visual version
of this insight, see photographer Chris Jordan's 2010 work
"E Plurabus Unum."
Is there a Climate "Spiral of Silence" in America?
Edward Maibach, Anthony Leiserowitz, and others, September 2016
How often do Americans talk (or hear) about climate change, and with (and
from) whom? These questions have startling answers, as this study report
illustrates. For a briefer update based on a November 2016 survey, published
in January 2017, see
Very useful background to the emphasis in many of the resources on this
webpage on the importance of talking.
Facing Difficult Truths: Climate Psychology Alliance
A good resource for those with relatively professional interests in this
topic, created and maintained by professionals.