Recently climate change and the sustainability agenda have exploded into social and political focus, moving from the fringes of political and social discussion to the forefront and for very good reasons. Senior Strategiest Laura Millar gives her perspective.
The wealth of scientific and social evidence that our lives have a direct impact on our planet and climate has become overwhelming. The impacts of these changes – air quality, plastic pollution, food shortages, increased severity of floods, heatwaves, droughts, rainforest fires, coral reef bleaching, climate refugees, and biodiversity loss, to name but a few – are rarely out of the news.
With this increased awareness of our impacts on the environment, we are also witnessing a positive social movement. More people and companies are now working hard to live in a more sustainable manner. Every day in our office, we talk about reducing our own consumption, reusing what we already have, and enjoy a rather extensive recycling system. The Six Christmas campaign this year is focused on ‘Dreaming of a Green Christmas’ and we are all brimming full of ideas that can reduce our impact at this time of year.
But even with my very best intentions which, as a Climate Change Science and Policy MSc student could be seen as more motivated than average, I find it so easy to slip back into my more wasteful lifestyle. This got me thinking, why do we find managing our behaviour to support the environment, at times, such a struggle?
In this blog, I outline the fruits of my researching labour and how, armed with this new understanding of the psychological barriers to climate change, I am recognising my flaws and challenging them.
What is blocking my individual actions on climate change?
Well, it doesn’t help that it is a difficult concept to grasp. Research has shown the concept of climate change sits at the intersection of a number of sticky psychological and moral impasses1.
We are left at the centre of a very grey moral zone and if you are anything like me, feeling trapped between wanting to fight for this cause but feeling utterly helpless to affect any real change. But all is not lost…
How am I challenging my own psychological barriers?
Learning about the psychological barriers to halting climate change and how to challenge them has helped me to reframe the challenge in my mind. By understanding the moral stickiness of the issue, I now actively reflect on my own internal biases and behaviours. As a result, I’m finding it easy to stick to my environmentally friendly lifestyle. Mostly because I am starting to live with environmental boundaries that mean I support the environment in a way that is best for me, and not because I feel like I should, but because I want to.
Now, this is my dream of a green Christmas.