From the Chief Executive, January 2020

Sarb Bajwa writes.

We recently launched our psychological manifesto, a document telling all political parties how psychological evidence can improve government policy (see www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/psychological-manifesto).

It covered important areas including health and social care, education and justice, as well as our 2020 campaign focus of poverty, but we’ve had a number of comments from members asking why the global climate crisis was not mentioned.

This is because we are yet to finalise a set of concrete recommendations to government through pooling your expertise, as we have in other areas. But it doesn’t mean that this issue should not be right at the top of everyone’s agendas.

It will be one of the themes of our 2020 conference in Leeds, but in the meantime I was in Lisbon last month, joining our President David Murphy in representing the British Psychological Society at the first international Summit on Psychology and Global Health. This was an event organised by the American Psychological Association and Ordem dos Psicólogos Portugueses, our sister organisation in Portugal, and saw membership bodies from 40 nations represented.

We agreed that the climate crisis is an appropriate topic of global concern where the application of psychological knowledge, and collaboration between our organisations, can drive real influence over what may well be the defining issue of our time.

I’ve pushed for psychology to do and say much more on the climate crisis. This is an issue rooted in human behaviour, and our science is one which can tell us why the warnings of scientists aren’t being heeded.

The first step was to sign a pledge to encourage leaders to use more psychological science when designing policies, and a declaration acknowledging the global scientific consensus.

David signed on our behalf, and we also volunteered to be part of a smaller group of psychological membership bodies who are going to take this issue forward.

We will be working with our partner organisations to collate all of the material which psychologists have already amassed, whether through their practice or research.

Ultimately we’ll also need to prioritise on areas where psychology can really add value to existing work, as the issue is so vast and complex that we risk spreading our knowledge and expertise too thinly.

Please get in touch if you have any ideas or suggestions on how psychology can contribute to tackling this growing crisis, and I’ll have an update as soon as the next steps following the Lisbon meeting have been agreed.

This isn’t the only big issue where we’ll be making psychology a part of the solution, with an Expert Reference Group being formed to take forward our Senate focus on lifting people out of poverty.

With these campaigns and further progress to be made with our change programme, next year promises to be a big one for us. Until then, I hope that you have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and look forward to meeting more of you in 2020.

Sarb Bajwa is Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society. Contact him at [email protected]

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