Thursday, 7 February 2013

Climate Psychology Alliance

Introducing a vitally important new movement, organisation, resources, and website helping to provide a common platform for those working on the psychological dimension of climate change or those wishing to draw upon the knowledge gained by such research. Its members have already published three recent books, including Rust and Totton (eds, 2012, Karnac) Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis; Weintrobe (ed. 2012, Routledge) Engaging With Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives; and Dodds (2011, Routledge) Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory, Deleuze|Guattari and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis (listed in the books section of this blog). It is possible to join the Climate Psychology Alliance and also freely access the online material which seeks to bring together in one place a range of psychological approaches to the most urgent crisis of our times. Active involvement and contributions are more than welcome for readers of this blog.

The Climate Psychology Alliance has been set up to facilitate a deeper understanding of our human responses to climate change. To this end, we are bringing together a wide range of resources here and promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration.
The Climate Psychology Alliance is a new initiative bringing together those seeking to deepen our understanding of human responses to climate change. We believe that nothing less than a cultural transformation is needed in the direction of ecologically sustainable living to address the challenge we face. This is not alarmism, but a fact that should alarm. Why nothing less? It’s like the Sufi saying that the fish will be the last animal to discover water. Our lives, at least in the West, are so mediated by our culture and its collective complexes, that we seldom engage with direct experience of nature.

Human-generated climate change and biodiversity loss are manifestations of the increasing threat our species poses to the global ecosystem, and therefore to ourselves. A concerted effort should be made to influence priorities and behaviour in all parts of our society in response to this vast and complex problem. There is growing recognition of the importance of co-operation; particularly in the face of fear, ignorance and hostility, many disciplines need to contribute their perspectives to this endeavour.

Important psychological research has been done to elucidate cognitive and behavioural responses.  We also believe there is an urgent need for approaches which emphasise the role of identities, emotions, values, conscious and unconscious meanings and defence mechanisms. These perspectives are fundamental to many of the psychotherapies, to ecopsychology and, within the universities, to some psychological and sociological research. Our view is that much is to be gained from elaborating these perspectives and integrating them into existing knowledge through processes of dialogue and collaboration.
The origins of the Climate Psychology Alliance lie in the conference “Facing Climate Change” on 7th March 2009, hosted by Bristol’s University of the West of England’s Centre for Psycho-Social Studies (CPSS). Conceived and chaired by Adrian Tait, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, its approach was pluralistic.  Its speakers were George Marshall, founder of Climate Outreach and Information Network, Professor Paul Hoggett, Director of CPSS, and the Ecopsychologist Mary-Jayne Rust.  The diversity of speakers was further enriched by the range of workshop leaders, and by Judith Anderson, then Chair of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility.
CPSS mounted or contributed to four further events aimed at bringing psychoanalytic, psycho-social and other psychological perspectives to bear on the issue of human engagement with the twin challenges of climate change and ecological crisis.  Some interesting questions began to emerge: Is there common ground, in this context, to be developed between the diverse range of psychological disciplines?  If so, can this be used effectively as a resource for improved communication in the voluntary sector, government and the public sphere?  How might collaboration to this end be most fruitfully pursued?  Given that the climate/ecology problem is very probably the greatest challenge to our own survival yet created and faced by humanity, are we motivated to transcend our cultural differences in the interest of pooling our energies, insights and potential influence?
The Climate Psychology Alliance was launched as an experiment to put these questions to the test. We hope to demonstrate that our shared field, with its knowledge of mechanisms such as denial, has the capacity to make a useful contribution to the task of mobilising a relevant collective response.  A “relevant collective response” might fall under the heading of mitigation, adaptation, or both.  Central to the vision behind CPA is that we are seeking to place human science alongside natural science in the cause of ecologically informed living.
In practical terms, the Alliance is just going ‘live’ with its own website ( and through this and other means seeks to contribute to the following tasks:

  1. Through dialogue to:
    a. extend and deepen understanding of complex human responses to the natural environment and to climate change. These responses include not just defensive responses such as denial, apathy, anxiety or greed but creative ones such as love for Earth, empathy for other beings, and courage in relation to change;
b. develop methodologies for both research and practice that take account of these human responses in relation to the need for systemic change at individual, social, cultural and political levels
  1. To develop collaborative relationships with interested people to incorporate a deeper psychological understanding into their work on climate change, for example campaigners, activists, educationalists, climate scientists, communicators, government and business.

  1. To organise events (workshops, conferences, etc) which deepen the connections to be made between the psychological and socio/political dimensions of climate change.

Our intention is for the Climate Psychology Alliance to be an organization controlled by and for its members with elected and accountable officers. What does membership mean? It can be passive, all of us probably belong to some charities or political organizations that we are sympathetic to but nevertheless have no intention of being involved in. We would like membership of CPA to denote a more active commitment than this and truly hope that our members would feel that this is their organization and thus, if they wished, feel encouraged to contribute to the website, initiate activities and events and help shape the organization.

There is much to be done and many potential opportunities, together we could make things happen. For more information, resources, to join the alliance, or the contribute to our discussions, please visit our website at and come to our conference in March 16.

There are already several interesting articles from a psychoanalytic perspective

Paul Hoggett: Psychoanalysis and Climate Change 
Renee Lertzman: The Myth of Apathy
Rosemary Randall: Will 2013 shift people’s indifference to climate change?
Judith Anderson: Absorbing the Implications of Climate Change for Health by Anderson.

In addition see further articles from Jungian, Psycho-Social, Ecopsychology, Humanistic-Integrative, Cognitive-Behavioural, and Interdisciplinary approaches. 

See also sections on education, research, policy, media, arts, discussion forums, events, climate change, and useful links.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Hoggett Psychoanalysis and climate change link goes to a "buy Viagra" site.
    Dont know how else to tell you this, sorry.
    Irony of perverse social structures?

    I am researching the perversity of world economics as best I can - want to hear what anyone has to say that is easy (?) to share with those who are not psychoanalytically [Bion] literate. I thought Paul Hoggett could help with this but now can't find his paper.