As Britain comes to terms with the surprise general election result, many of us whose attention is focused on climate change will reflect on its virtual absence as an election issue.
The superficial explanation is that the three main English parties agreed before the start of the campaign to stand by the Climate Change Act, continue to phase out coal etc. But the truer reason politically and psychologically is that they all perceive the public as having concerns that feel more pressing. Even the leader of the Greens was berated by Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University for pulling her punches on the scale of the climate threat.
Depressed? Angry? Frustrated? Bemused? Perhaps the avoidant, ruthless and cynical election campaign prompted all these reactions at times, but in some constituencies at least, climate change did receive attention. In Taunton Deane, a packed hall witnessed climate hustings where all the candidates were interrogated on how they would find the courage to tell the truth and take responsibility for engagement with the public on the issue. One candidate commented that people need hope, alongside truth; another (who went on to win the seat) said that climate change is such an important issue it should indeed transcend party politics.
CPA’s 18th April event in Bristol, Radical Hope and Cultural Tragedy, was very well attended – diverse and full in its offering and generally well received. For many present, this was a first introduction to climate psychology. In the closing session, appreciation and relief were voiced, that such a forum exists. The ingredients in CPA’s culture, including the respect for and handling of difference are of course important, but such experiences of connection go beyond the content that makes them possible. We may not have arrived at definite answers to Paul Hoggett’s rhetorical question from the chair as to what radical hope is, but many of us went away with more of a sense of what it looks like and feels like. At the heart of it is the “community” which shares the challenge of living and working in the face of such massive threat and equally massive denial in our dominant culture.
What begins to emerge is that radical hope is a state of mind that is both reality-based and sustaining, something along these lines was recently outlined in an article in the Ecologist written by Paul Hoggett, details here. Moreover, perhaps this state of mind requires neither optimism nor certainty in order to be sustained. The complex interplay of knowledge and attitude is illustrated by this article in Scientific American. Of particular interest is the comment of climate scientist Michael McCracken: “It’s too depressing to think we can’t find a path”. Contrast this with Guy McPherson’s more apocalyptic message on his recent European tour and in his book (co-authored with Carolyn Baker) Extinction Dialogs, which draws heavily on the hospice analogy for their approach to our position on planet earth, and asks how we can live lives of excellence in this situation.
What better time than the aftermath of the General Election for CPA’s member’s day, featuring George Marshall’s talk “Why is Climate Change so Toxic to (English Speaking) Conservatives? Rosemary Randall will respond. Details here. An event not to be missed if you can possibly make it – we hope to see you there.
Finally a mention of an interesting critique by Clive Hamilton of the Ecomodernist Manifesto of California’s Breakthrough Institute here. This is a powerful and influential organisation which, whilst taking the danger of climate change seriously, nevertheless argues that we have the technological means and market know-how to innovate our way out of the crisis we face, making a ‘good Anthropocene’ possible. Illness prevented a review, in this month’s newsletter, of Hamilton’s important analysis of unfounded hope. We intend to redress the omission next month.
(On behalf of the Exec. Committee)