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Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis
Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis

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4 Individual behaviour change and beyond

If Modernity has shaped this ‘bottomless appetite’, how can the selves of contemporary humans change so as to limit those appetites to what the planet can afford? And isn’t clean water, unpolluted air and safe food more important than marketised inessential consumer products?

This line of thinking might look as if it leads to the view that it is individuals who must change their consumer behaviour if climate breakdown is to be averted, as we are often told to do. There is a strand of Climate Psychology thinking that focuses on ways to encourage individuals’ behaviour change. Paradoxically, this is not the message that we are emphasising in this account of Climate Psychology. This might seem counterintuitive, even shocking: how else can we save the planet when the threat is anthropogenic? There is an important distinction to be made in where the emphasis is placed when it comes to how consumer behaviour needs to be altered.

Have you ever been plagued by a feeling that, however hard you try – recycling the varieties of plastic, putting less water in the kettle, and so on – you aren’t making, and can’t make, a drop of difference to carbon emissions? You might come across statistics that reinforce this feeling. For example in July 2017, a headline read ‘New report shows just 100 companies are source of over 70% of emissions’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (CDP, 2017).

Activity 5 Feelings about climate change

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

When you ask yourself what can you do to support action against climate change, what feelings accompany your thinking? Write down everything that comes to mind, without pausing to consider or censor.

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In subsequent weeks, you might find that the feelings in your list are mirrored in some of the topics that Climate Psychology is covering to help understand the variety of emotions that the climate and ecological crisis faces people with.