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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
Addressing Climate Grief Makes You a Badass, Not a Snowflake
Jennifer Atkinson, Writers on the Range, High Country News, May 2018
Responding to negative public reactions to her seminar at the University of
Washington on "Environmental Grief and Climate Anxiety," Atkinson's column
argues that students who are trying to face and deal with the emotional impact
of climate change, rather than avoid it through various modes of escape and
denial, are the really tough ones. "My class is more like boot camp,
preparing students for the long, hard fight ahead," she says.
In India, Summer Heat May Soon Be Literally Unbearable
Somini Sengupta, New York Times, July 2018
This is a concrete, vivid, and well-researched piece on the effects of high
heat in India. It's not just about the people who die: "Extreme heat is
devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions more."
How to Overcome "Apocalypse Fatigue" Around Climate Change
Jill Suttie, Greater Good, February 2018
A useful interview with Norwegian psychologist (and economist) Per Espen
Stoknes, one of the leaders in thinking about this subject.
Hope and Mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding Ecological Grief
Neville Ellis and Ashlee Cunsolo, The Conversation, April 2018
A lucid discussion of this topic based on research with Inuit in the Canadian
arctic and wheat farmers in western Australia, people whose lives are
intimately connected with the changing natural world. We haven't often thought
about "grief" as a response to environmental loss, but it is clearly a
relevant term‒and thus it raises emotional and psychological questions
that need more consideration.
John Upton, Climate Central, November 2017
The air pollution that comes from climate-change-charged wildfires is becoming
a significant health nightmare. This is a lively introduction to why and how;
if you have breathing issues, or know people who do, it may also make you
We Were Warned
Anthony Doerr, New York Times Sunday Review, November 2017
This opinion piece is quite interesting on the ways many of us have known
about climate change but still failed to act accordingly. As novelist Doerr
says, after he first became alarmed at age 19: "So did I act immediately and
decisively? Um, I did not." For how many of us is this true? And what might we
do about it?
The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change
The Lancet, October 2017
This report from an international group of medical professionals tracks 40
indicators to conclude that climate change is already hurting human health and
livelihoods. Its website is easy to negotiate, and the full report is free to
Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance
American Psychological Association, Climate for Health, and ecoAmerica, March 2017
A lucid, comprehensive, and efficient survey of harms likely to ensue to human
mental, physical, and community health from global warming, citing a wealth of
primary sources. Includes recommendations to leaders for increasing resilience
and for communicating these risks. Two good summaries are available from
Inside Climate News
Hazard Zone: The Impact of Climate Change on Occupational Health
A very good, concise overview of this subject with an infographic, clear text,
and sources. You may be surprised by the number of occupations affected.
Fact Sheet: What Climate Change Means for Your Health and Family
White House Press Office, April 2016
A good summary of key findings of the full (3-Year, 100-expert) report,
The Impacts of
Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.
Current and future impacts range from increased allergies and asthma through
heat stroke and disaster injuries to mental distress and insect-borne diseases and, as always, some people are and will be more vulnerable than others.
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.
Fact Sheets: Climate Change, Health, and Populations of Concern
Climate change will affect our health in different ways depending on our age
and circumstances, and these fact sheets cover some categories, including
indigenous, pregnant, poor, disabled, elderly, and ill people. Excellent
resources. Under the Trump administration, these pages have been taken down,
but here are PDF versions downloaded in early 2017 about climate change,
older adults, and
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.
Where the Wildfires Are: If There's Smoke, There Are Costly Health Problems
Amy Westervelt, The Guardian, September 2014
This good story about the (often surprisingly distant) health effects of
wildfire smoke includes links to many primary sources.
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. Another especially good piece by her is
Making Friends with Fatalism (2012).
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; and (this entry's link) in Resilience.
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
A Climate of Suffering: The Real Costs of Living with Inaction on Climate Change,
The Climate Institute, Australia, 2011, and
The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States,
Lise Van Susteren and Kevin Coyle, 2012
These reports survey the mental health problems we're likely to see as
climate-change-linked severe weather events increase; the first (which
includes a brief video) focuses on Australia, the second on the US. Both use
information and lessons from recent traumas, including weather events like
Hurricane Katrina and Australia's drought and wildfires and other events with
comparable psychological effects, such as the 9/11 attacks and war trauma;
both have good source notes. Both call for the mental healthcare community to
get better prepared; for government to bolster its support structures; and for
all of us to act now to prevent as much emotional suffering as we can.
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.
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."
Climate Change and Human Health
For this important topic, an excellent overview for the United States is the
health chapter of the 2014 National Climate Assessment.
Some federal agencies also have very good websites: see the
National Institutes of Health and
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
Psychology and Global Climate Change:
Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges
American Psychological Association Task Force on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change
The chief aim of this report is "to engage members of the psychology community
(teachers, researchers, practitioners, and students) in the issue of climate
change." It addresses these questions: (1) "How do people understand the risks
imposed by climate change?" (2) "What are the human behavioral contributions
to climate change and the psychological and contextual drivers of these
contributions?" (3) What are the psychosocial impacts of climate change?" (4)
"How do people adapt to and cope with perceived threat and unfolding impacts
of climate change?" (5) "Which psychological barriers limit climate change
action?" and (6) "How can psychologists assist in limiting climate change?"
Somewhat academic in style, but readable and full of useful ideas.
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.