Talking about Climate Change Engagement

Climate Psychology & Creative Responses

It’s important to understand why we don’t all engage more on climate change and biodiversity loss. On 13 March 2019 the GSA’s Sustainability Coordinator John Thorne gave a talk at Edinburgh University, kindly hosted by Edinburgh University Sustainability Development Association and Edinburgh University Psychological Society. A link to the presentation, and a summary of the talk below.

“The message tonight is one of truth and hope, telling you how bad things are, but in a break with conventional environmental films and talks this one isn’t about climate change as an environmental crisis but a societal one, and not a purely doom and gloom talk but one of hope and positive possible actions, a vision of a clean energy economy and how to get there.

Climate change is not a new thing, and it is also a complex mix of social justice issues such as gender inequality, poverty, and race. We’re not trying to save an imperfect fossil fuel system but make a new more equitable clean energy society.

Fossil fuels are part of a complex web of arms, chemicals, nuclear and industrial agri-business which all needs reform. It is based within a continuing 500 year colonial exploitation of the planet and its people.

We hold a deeply profound fear that we won’t see out children survive, that society is at an end, we are psychologically ill-prepared to deal with immediate threats, and we’re all guilty: responses are Greenwashing and we feel angry, in mourning, and we are fooled with urges to recycle and save the whale which are essentially negative effects. The result is we do less.

Art can help us respond – Isaac Cordal’s “Politicians Discussing Climate Change”, images of harm and hope, possible futures – the dystopian future fossils of the “heartless machine”. We are filled with old ways, high anxiety levels caused by societal lies and hypernormalisation of complex issues, we are given simple lies to cover complex chaos.

Challenge corporate responses. How DARE a supermarket make one more penny profit from selling ONE more fossil fuel plastic dinner with rain forest palm oil in it. How does a chemist look when you see fossil fuel encasing rain forest? Change your habits, your buying, shame the brands, remove their social licence to profit from the end of humanity.

We need systems change not climate change. We need emotional connection to our actions. We need compassion and love for ourselves and each other. We need to address sexism, the violence that is poverty, it is hard work. Hedonism is easy.

We cannot do it alone, the age of the Polymath is gone, and all disciplines must work together on this wicked problem.

Have hope, position yourself, recognise what is empty corporate responses (recycling) and what is positive action (XR, school strikes, professional interventions) and provide a proportional response. Do what you can, where you can, now. Self-care, meditate, get out into nature. Enjoy life. Even if you have faith, act like this is the only life.”