Why we don’t talk about climate change, and what this can do to us at work

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Watch Rebecca on why it is so hard to talk about climate change

The emotional experience of the climate crisis hurts. When things hurt, human beings use psychological defences to keep the pain at bay. I was on the Cimpatico Studios Climate Adaptation channel recently, talking with host Doug Parsons about why it’s so hard to talk about climate change, and what goes on psychologically in people and organisations working on the climate crisis. It was the day our sweltering August heatwave broke here in Oxford, so I was really hot and sweaty because I haven’t yet adapted to temperatures of 33 degrees without air-conditioning (and I don’t think I ever will).

But I managed to explain what this topic is all about and why it matters. It’s hard to talk about climate change because climate change hurts. So we defend against having to feel the hurt. But if we don’t feel the feelings, it’s hard to talk meaningfully about the work that is so closely linked to the feelings – because our brains shut down all the feelings, not just the painful ones. And what if there’s a whole organisation full of people defending against the hurt? Here’s the one-minute overview.

What kinds of defences do people use against the pain of climate emotions? Watch Doug talking about how he compartmentalises, and Rebecca’s response about this and other defences against the feelings of working in climate adaptation, environmental protection and conservation. It’s less than three minutes.

As well as painful feelings – grief, anger, fear, guilt and shame – humans also struggle with climate change because it is full of uncertainty. It’s hard to sit with uncertainty so sometimes we look for certainty – of different kinds, depending on our personalities. Here’s a one-minute explanation of how this works.

Click on any of the links in this post to watch the short extracts – or visit Cimpatico and sign up to watch the whole episode.

Cimpatico Studios produces live-stream talk shows about complex global challenges, featuring professionals from around the world who are working on these issues. All of Cimpatico Studios’ episodes are streamed directly to cimpatico.tv, an invite-only professional network designed to help professionals share knowledge and coordinate their efforts to improve outcomes of common interest. 

This year Cimpatico launched its first channel, the Climate Adaptation Channel, hosted by Doug Parsons. This summer Cimpatico is launching more channels that address a spectrum of environmental and social issues across every industry and sector.

Sign up here (it’s free) to learn, network, and collaborate with a global community of media professionals, policymakers, researchers, practitioners, entrepreneurs, and students united by common interests. 

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