The Psychology of Climate Change

Climate change researcher, sustainable development expert, and activist Gail Hochachka works on the front lines of climate change research, asking—and answering—questions like: How does the way we make meaning, at all our different stages of development, relate to the ways we act on climate change? How can we foster more engagement with climate change? Is climate action scalable? And how are we going to show up for the people who are facing the greatest impacts? So far, in searching for solutions, we have largely neglected tapping into the human dimensions of the problem—the ways we understand climate change, the ways we respond, and the ways we can communicate together and make decisions about how to act. Herein lies the potential to come up with more viable solutions than we have so far, and this is the focus of Gail’s current research.

Climate change is such a hugely complex and also emotional issue, it is understandably hard for anyone to wrap their head around it, Gail tells us, but the good news is that research is showing that taking action—in whatever way seems most appropriate and meaningful to each individual—is scalable, and that there are ways, which Gail outlines, of creating meaningful communication between people who have very different understandings, to where people can actually come to a place of agreement on how to move forward. Gail’s deep understanding of integral theory and stages of psychological development, combined with her extensive experience in sustainable development, gives her a uniquely insightful perspective on ways of confronting the climate challenge. Gail relates that, surprisingly, a positive way to look at climate change has come to light, which is that climate change is actually presenting us with an opportunity—an opportunity to become more conscious about the way we live, to the great benefit of people and planet.

I really admire Gail’s work in this area.

I recently read a book called “Smokscreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate” by Chad T. Hanson, research ecologist and “leading expert on wildland fire ecology, policy, and politics.” Supported by plenty of scientific study and evidence, the book addresses fire-management myths and practices that may actually be contributing to the loss of forests worldwide, endangering communities, threatening entire ecosystems, as well as contributing to more carbon in the atmosphere. The developmental stages of forest managers, politicians and policy-makers, and logging companies/personnel seem to figure significantly in the current situation, as does the language used to talk about fires and fire management. Worth the read, for anyone interested in such things.