At the heart of the Climate Psychology Alliance are values of honesty, trust, care and respect. These underpin how we find a balance between autonomy and collaboration in the structures of decision-making and the work that we do.
On our page, Who We Are, you can see some of the working groups that have emerged and the responsibilities they have taken on. Our How We Organise page gives a sense of our working structures. However, it is important for us to have a fluidity and responsiveness to change.
Our work involves creating and sustaining therapeutic and relational forms which can help us work with the difficult emotions the ecological and climate crisis raises and build the resilience and courage necessary to act on it. This means consciously working on co-creative processes and community; challenging structures and cultures of uncare (Weintrobe, 2021); and building shared spaces that welcome emotionality and vulnerability. In defining community and considering what kinship means, we are working on bringing our awareness to the more than human; unsettling dominant Western discourses, including within psychology; and committing to a climate psychology that contributes to social justice.
As a cooperative, made up of many people brought together by common purpose, and with many different disciplines, cultures and approaches, respect for difference is essential, as is solidarity and active engagement in the struggle for equality and against discrimination.
Understanding and challenging discrimination
Like most organisations, the CPA has a clear policy on discrimination:
We do not accept discriminatory behaviour on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity or reassignment, marriage or partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, religion or belief, sex, sexuality, or any other form.
This is essential and we have a clear, supportive process for reporting and dealing with this kind of discrimination. This reflects the legal requirements for an organisation based in the UK and focuses primarily on ways that discrimination causes disadvantages for protected groups. Please get in contact here if you have any concerns or questions.
However, we need to go further, to reflect and work on how we relate to each other and communicate, because relationality and frameworks of care are central to what we do in the CPA. An empathetic relational approach means respecting each other’s anger and hurt, and at times calling on each other to consider our assumptions or opening difficult conversations together in what Professor Loretta J. Ross terms a ‘call-in culture’.
This means we need space to consider the less visible, embedded assumptions that affect our relationships, behaviour and communication, and that can cause hurt to others, even if unintentionally. These are the power structures embodied by institutions that underpin societies, with differences across and within countries, cultures, and generations. We need to support each other as we go through our different processes of confronting and challenging our assumptions.
Below are some starting points for reflection.
In the CPA we recognise the intergenerational injustice of the climate and ecological crises, and the marginalisation of young people’s voices in decision-making that will affect their future. With these intergenerational tensions in play, it is particularly important to be sensitive to age related assumptions. These might emerge as a part of guilt or disavowal – not fully accepting the seriousness of the crisis, or in fear and anger looking for somewhere to lay blame. Language is also sometimes used to stereotype people based on age, for example, the generational category ‘boomer’ used in anger, or the word ‘kids’ used to diminish people. Rebuilding and strengthening intergenerational community, support and respect is an essential part of our work.
People working as or with young people may wish to join the CPA Youth working group or other events. We aim to provide a space to centre youth perspectives, and support tailored to the needs of those working with young people and young people themselves.
About 15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability (WHO, 2011) and ableism is woven into language, behaviours, infrastructure and institutions globally. In the CPA, we are drawing on the Social Model of disability to inform how we make adjustments to reduce or remove the additional disadvantages disabled people experience. The Social Model considers someone to be disabled not because of the ways in which they may differ from others; but as a result of physical and attitudinal barriers in society that are disabling. It is the institutional structures that disable someone. This is a useful starting point in challenging ableist assumptions which affect how we work together. For further thought, see this blog by Friends of the Earth on eco ableism and the ways that disabled people are marginalised in environmental activism.
Ethnicity and race
Historically, and still today, ‘race’ is a tool used to separate and dominate people, and the climate crisis is a consequence of this tool being used to justify many centuries of colonialism and racial slavery. The global injustices that characterise the climate crisis are a legacy of colonial exploitation and extraction. The hierarchies of racial knowledge that underpin colonialism and white supremacy still affect our psyches and spaces today, including intergenerational trauma and environmental racism. In the CPA this is essential to our understanding of the climate crisis and therefore informs climate psychology for us.
Members who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour may wish to benefit from BIPoC-only spaces such as the monthly affinity group and other events. The BIPoC CPA group offers a place for rest and respite from the racial triggers that are inevitable in mixed spaces. We support one another in handling the structural racism we face in our environmental work (within CPA and beyond) and we learn from one another’s varied projects and interests, developing a collective narrative of climate psychology through a BIPoC lens.
We wish for CPA groups and events and relationships to become contexts which BIPoC experience as safe and worthwhile participating in. We recognise that white supremacy, structural racism, unconscious biases, and the resulting macro- and micro-aggressions which occur in predominantly white settings mean this is not always the case. For those of us who are white and living in the West, there is often a reluctance to admit we still have unconscious or conscious racist assumptions. Without conscious work to deconstruct this thinking and the racism that can manifest, we cannot move beyond the current destructive system of extraction and entitlement. We welcome feedback and open dialogue about these painful realities, which we aim to gradually reduce through consciousness-raising and cultural change throughout the organisation.
Gender inequality is still present, as are many binary oppositions around masculinity and femininity that are damaging to people of all genders. Women’s voices are marginalised at the the level of policy making and particularly those from the Global South, however women are more likely to be affected by the consequences of the ecological and climate crisis. At the same time we are seeing a rise in what is termed ‘petro-masculinity’, a concept used to draw attention to the way that the symbol of fossil fuel is mobilised as a part of particular kinds of authoritarian and misogynist identities (Daggett, 2018). There is also a question here about how we give care to our use of this kind of concept, in order to challenge rather than reinforce stereotypes about the associations between masculinity, femininity and ecological and environmental identities and behaviours. How can we unpick this damaging alignment of masculinity with extraction and exploitation? How can we unpick the seemingly benign association of earthliness as feminine (“Mother Earth”)? Simultaneously, how can we contribute to building spaces where marginalised voices are heard, with an intersectional approach particularly across age, gender and race?
In many countries, including the UK where the CPA is based, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is illegal and same sex relations are valued and recognised by the majority of people. However, prejudices surrounding sexuality and violence or abusive behaviour are still widespread. Looking globally, same sex relations are still a criminal offense in 69 countries, often with severe punishments including lengthy imprisonment or the death penalty. It is therefore important to respect people’s choices about discretion or visibility, and be sensitive to the harm people may have experienced through the devaluing or criminalising of relationships, love, sex and desire. The CPA supports and values all its LGBT+ members.
Talking about gender and sex
Sex and gender are interwoven in different ways and to different extents for different people, so our focus here is on respect and consideration. There is sometimes anxiety about discussing gender due to people being ‘called out’ for transphobia on social media. This is an area where we have grown up with different understandings across different generations and cultures. However, we seek to open up conversations that will facilitate understanding and solidarity.
The CPA asks you to respect each other's needs and decisions in how we identify ourselves and wish to be referred to. For example, some people now use ‘they’ to indicate nonbinary gender. If this pronoun use is unfamiliar, it can be helpful to practise. It is used in a similar way to times when we don’t know someone’s gender, e.g. “We still have one person missing from the group. Does anyone know Alex? Are they coming?”