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“We’re drunk in charge of the world”

This, from Lord Stern, was one of the memorable utterances at the RSA event: “Climate Change Question Time”.

You can access the recording here. Seven key dimensions to the challenge of climate change had been identified: science, technology, culture, law, economics, politics and psychology. Rosemary Randall spoke on psychology, opening with an emphasis on inner conflict rather than behaviour as the essence of the subject. Her later comments illustrated and amplified that key point.

The cultural dimension was put forward by Solitaire Townsend of Futerra. She offered the rousing refrain “Your courage, your cheerfulness and your resolution will bring us victory.” In the context of Paris 2015, Ro again added depth, linking morale to learning. She recalled the demoralisation which followed Copenhagen and the hard but vital lessons that have had to be learned from that debacle, about both strategy and psychological resilience at all levels of climate work.

This links powerfully with CPA’s 18th April event on Radical Hope in Bristol. The underlying realization is that both hopelessness and false hope are paths to failure and that a key task of climate psychology is to help find a state of mind which does not veer towards either of these extremes. This conjunction between inner and outer, tragedy and hope, courage and despair, the creative and destructive are at the core of this conference’s exploration of the cultural crisis facing us. The almost unimaginable losses being suffered while we slowly adjust our collective minds to the tragic consequences of our human blindness require our including both sides of this conjunction of opposites. Do check out the details here. We would love to see you on 18th April.

Sally Weintrobe has posted a review of Rosemary’s book “In time for Tomorrow?”. It can be accessed here.

Renee Lertzman, one of our USA colleagues, gave an interview on “Post Carbon Radio” about climate psychology. It includes a careful venture into ambivalence about flying, in which the programme presenters offered themselves as guinea pigs. There will be more on this subject from CPA! Here is a link to the interview. Renee is the author of “Environmental Melancholia – psychological dimensions of engagement”.

The past month has seen several interesting articles with a climate psychology element or focus. CPA is more concerned with widespread disavowal (turning a blind eye) than cynical, vested interest denialism, but as a sequel to “Merchants of Doubt”, this Guardian article traces the subsequent careers of those who conspired to obfuscate climate science. Here again there is a link with the theme of hope. Do we not all feel a twinge of despair at the machinations of these powerful people, followed by something more hopeful, that the truth will out, and once out will change things?

An example of perceptions being gloomier than reality, perhaps thereby endangering progress, is offered by a Business Green article, which we can send on request. It reports how public perception of support for wind energy is well below actual support. The similarity to mis-perception (exaggeration) of uncertainty and controversy within climate science is striking.

Finally, Adam Corner here elaborates George Marshall’s critique of enemy narratives. He questions the value of terms like “denial” and “alarmism” in climate discourse, deeming them to reinforce polarization and alienate the majority of people who (he claims) are in neither camp. Paul Hoggett has written extensively on the validity of the term “denial” in this context. George Marshall’s and Rosemary Randall’s discourse at CPA’s Members’ Day in London on 6th June will hopefully be a fruitful meeting of psychological cultures. Another “must” for your diary!

Adrian Tait
(On behalf of the Exec. Committee)