What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Espen StoknesExcellent book, borderline 5-star. The book is about how people respond to messages about global warming, not the facts themselves. The authors goal is not on what facts about climate science the climate deniers and contrarians reject (i.e., he believes that even most conservatives fundamentally accept the science, but react to the implications on their value systems and deep-seated beliefs). Rather, his goal is on how to frame messages to avoid stirring some of the negative psychological reactions, and appealing instead to the psychological mechanisms to which they may be receptive.
The author brings his experience and expertise in psychology to the analysis, using ideas from the various disciplines such as cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, social psychology, and depth psychology. Ive read other analyses of why so many people (esp. American conservatives) are climate contrarians/deniers, all of which make some amount of sense. But this book was the best - in large part because it relies upon cognitive sciences to help solidify his thesis.
I think the authors analysis is very perceptive. However, his prescriptions on what to do going forward remain, in my mind, relatively weak. I thought his basic strategic framework makes sense. However, when he got down to applying those principles with some concrete examples, I couldnt help thinking how insignificant they were and what little difference each would make. Maybe if his prescriptions and others were all applied comprehensively, the cumulative effect would make the difference. However, the odds of all of them being implemented are very low. It highlights, for me, what an immense task we face - and that we may not succeed in meeting it. I hope the author is right and Im wrong; the only thing to do is to try, and he offers a reasonable starting point.
What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming
This book radically reframes the approach for people to take to address global warming. To make this book work for you, you have to suspend your historical assumptions and work with the material. Let it churn your heart and soul rather than using your mind. When you engage with the book in this way, it will change how you think, act and are in the world. It is a bottom-up approach.
I hope everyone in the climate movement will read this book, and think deeply about the ways we try to engage people, and the kinds of actions we have ready for them to take up. We need to paint a picture of an inclusive sustainable world we are trying to build; remind people that the work is already underway and that millions of people are doing important work. Averting the worst outcome of the climate crisis will require a huge amount of very thoughtful and brave work.
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I was talking to a group of forty senior industry executives when the air in the hotel conference room began to feel charged. No more than ten minutes into my talk on climate psychology, I sensed a brewing discomfort in my stomach. Then one of their leading members cut me off from his first-row seat. Such comments are not uncommon. This topic was hot, the audience was feeling criticized by the global warming message, and I was being challenged. The glove had been thrown down.
The more facts that pile up about global warming, the greater the resistance to them grows, making it harder to enact measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare communities for the inevitable change ahead. Why does knowing more mean believing—and doing—less? A prescription for change. It is a catch that starts, says psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes, from an inadequate understanding of the way most humans think, act, and live in the world around them. With dozens of examples—from the private sector to government agencies—Stoknes shows how to retell the story of climate change and, at the same time, create positive, meaningful actions that can be supported even by deniers. In What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, Stoknes not only masterfully identifies the five main psychological barriers to climate action, but addresses them with five strategies for how to talk about global warming in a way that creates action and solutions, not further inaction and despair. These strategies work with, rather than against, human nature.