‘Psychology can explain so much of what we can do on climate action’

Occupational Psychologist Dr Jan Maskell is hosting a British Psychological Society webinar on 13 October on the role of psychology in the climate change crisis. Ella Rhodes asked her about it.

What will your webinar cover?

This webinar will raise awareness of the role of psychology in explaining why there may be reluctance to take action on climate change, how psychology can help us to deal with the impacts of climate change on our health and wellbeing, and how psychology could help us to tackle the climate change crisis.

How did you first become interested in this area?

I have been interested in environmental sustainability for at least 30 years, with a growing awareness of the need for change. I saw the link between the issue and psychology when I attended a Division of Occupational Psychology conference and found the Going Green Working Group – which I have been involved with for several years. We focus on the role of occupational psychology in pro-environmental behaviour change in the workplace and looking at ways that psychologists can take action to support this.

What still needs to change in this area?

In one way, Psychologists are no different from anyone else in that they have a carbon footprint and it could probably be reduced through considering our choices around consumption, travel and diet. We could also be positive role models here – demonstrating that a lifestyle compatible with achieving no more than 1.5 degrees rise in average global temperature can be constructive, comfortable, realistic and achievable. 

Organisations need to take responsibility for their role in mitigating the effects of climate change and as psychologists work in many different types of organisation, they can bring that encouraging message to their employers and clients. 

Could you tell us something that might surprise someone not familiar with this area of work?

How big a role psychology plays in climate inaction and can play in climate action. That’s at all levels – politically, socially, with communities and personally. It can help to explain so much of why we are where are now and what we can do to address the climate emergency.

What is the main message you hope people will take away from the webinar?

In the words of Greta Thunberg 'No-one is too small to make a difference'. We all have a part to play in tackling this issue – whether it is activism, lobbying, workplace changes, or personal actions. I hope attendees will take at least one action as a result of the webinar – even if it is only to find out more about the issues and what could be done. 

- Book now, and find more on climate change in our archive.

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