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

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7 A problem too difficult to conceive: climate change as a ‘hyperobject’

Climate Psychology has put the understanding of defences in a central position. However, there is a further understanding of why it is difficult to grasp the reality of climate change. Timothy Morton, a philosopher and Professor of English, discusses climate change through a different lens, that of a ‘hyperobject’. This idea emphasises the impossible-to-grasp nature of climate change. Hyperobjects are massively extended in time and space, which makes them historically beyond the range of human cognition. Morton says that hyperobjects ‘massively outscale us’ (2013, p. 12). Yet, paradoxically, the idea of global warming as a whole cannot be accessed at a cognitive distance, rather it is ‘right here in my social and experiential space’ (Morton, 2013, p. 27). It sticks to everything – the plastic food wrapping, the car journeys, heating the house, a hot day, using the microwave, the smell of bacon, waste disposal. The hyperobject is not what is immediately in front of us because its local direct manifestations are not the hyperobject itself (for example, it is raining heavily – again – but this is not climate change that I feel directly).

Activity 6 Where does climate change pop up in your everyday activities?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Morton gives examples such as heating the house, a person’s relation to plastic food wrapping, and turning on the ignition of a petrol-run car. Everything we do in our everyday lives is touched by climate change.

Make a short list of the everyday activities that prompt you to consider climate change in its whole manifestation (as a ‘hyperobject’).

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