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October 25, 2009


Barb Haig

Thanks for looking at this, Joel. I was both amused and concerned by the two news releases this week.

Have you seen the American Psychological Assn's Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change research? It examines research and practice for several decades and presented its findings in August. http://www.apa.org/releases/climate-change.pdf

According to the report, numerous psychological barriers are to blame, including:

Uncertainty – Research has shown that uncertainty over climate change reduces the frequency of "green" behavior.

Mistrust – Evidence shows that most people don't believe the risk messages of scientists or government officials.

Denial – A substantial minority of people believe climate change is not occurring or that human activity has little or nothing to do with it, according to various polls.

Undervaluing Risks – A study of more than 3,000 people in 18 countries showed that many people believe environmental conditions will worsen in 25 years. While this may be true, this thinking could lead people to believe that changes can be made later.

Lack of Control – People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.

Habit – Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change while others change slowly. Habit is the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior, according to the report.

It also talks about how psychology is already working to limit these barriers.

There's also a great UK report from the Institute for Public Policy Research on better climate change communications. http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=699

By combining these two, perhaps some real change can happen.


Excellent points Barb. I believe that politics are a big influence in people's opinion on climate change. There are many who resent Al Gore making millions and millions of dollars off of makeing the Green pitch and that reduces his credibility.
Also, I think a lot of people want to make changes, but are scared of what it will do to our economy and lifestyles.
However, I think it is a growing movement that is gaining acceptance.
One thing we can all agree on is the notion of reducing waste, fuel and preserving our resources.


Hi Joel,

I heard a presentation this month by a woman named Paula Downey, which focused on the need to change our cultural story - moving from a story premised on 'the machine' to one of living systems. Our current story focuses on the natural environment as inputs to production and the need for growth. A new story would focus on interdependent relationships. It was an incredibly powerful talk that emphasized how we use language to describe the world as we see it - rather than as it is.

She cautioned against using language from an outdated story - growth, production, inputs, etc. - to make our case for environmentalism.

Paula is a media professional from Dublin who has taken a series of sabbaticals to hone her thinking around sustainability. She would definitely be worth tapping for future conversations about communication.


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