Sharing knowledge about the climate emergency

Linda and Stewart Shuttleworth write.

It has been encouraging to see an increasing focus on the climate emergency in the pages of The Psychologist. We have noticed that the general media sometimes reference psychological factors such as self-protective denial, but with little coherent argument or guidance as to how to address it.

Our contribution has been to give talks to various local campaigning groups on the psychological basis of apathy or inaction regarding climate change. As psychologists, we sometimes forget that concepts very familiar to us may not be obvious to the average non-psychologist. Sharing some of that knowledge and understanding in an accessible way can be powerful.

We were inspired to do this by the September 2018 article in The Psychologist by Brick and van der Linden, ‘Yawning at the apocalypse’. This presented an evidence-based psychological understanding of some of the processes leading to inaction, as well as suggestions for how to address them. A key point was the need to address the context and values of the individual.

We delivered an interactive presentation to two local groups face to face, before the onset of Covid restrictions. Since then we adapted to a Zoom delivery, finding that it is still possible to actively engage the participants using breakout rooms. Feedback from participants has been very positive. Recently, one asked if she could use our material to present to another group, which was very encouraging.

Linda and Stewart Shuttleworth
Retired Clinical Psychologists

Editor’s reply: That’s good to hear, and not the first example of the impact of Cameron and Sander’s article. Recently Danielle Goldwert contacted us on Twitter to say that she reached out to Sander after reading the piece, and spent a summer working in his lab. ‘Since then I’ve completed an honors thesis on climate change messaging strategies, joined the Behavioral Science for Policy lab at Princeton as a research specialist, and I will be pursuing a PhD in environmental psychology for Fall 2022.’

Find more on climate change in our archive.

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