06 August 2009

122 Days Left Until Copenhagen - Transforming Our Worldview Is Not Part of APA Report on Climate Change

Just read about the report from the APA Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change, presented this week (August 2009) at the American Psychological Association meeting being held in Toronto.

From the press release:

Scientific evidence shows the main influences of climate change are behavioral —population growth and energy consumption. "What is unique about current global climate change is the role of human behavior," said task force chair Janet Swim, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University. "We must look at the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act."

Despite warnings from scientists and environmental experts that limiting the effects of climate change means humans need to make some severe changes now, people don't feel a sense of urgency. The task force said 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.

First, it strikes me that this report is proof that Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Money and all their climate change denying minions have employed the services of some pretty hot psychologists, who did all this research years before the APA subcommittee did theirs. The denialist movement has done an excellent job of planting and propagating uncertainty, mistrust, denial, complacency toward risk, a lack of belief in the power of one, and an increasing sense of entitlement to burn as many fossil fuels as we damn well want to burn (which is habit-forming).

However, this report does not touch on the most important barrier to change: we do not see ourselves as connected to the Earth and the rest of Nature. Indeed, we do not see ourselves as part of Nature at all. 

If we're going to safeguard the future, we must transform our worldview, reconnecting ourselves to that which gives us life — the Earth's biosphere.

Visit GreenHeart's Barriers to Sustainability and Environmental Learning and Action for more information on this major barrier.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?