Photo Credit: Agat Bernard
It is not naive to have hope for climate change. On the contrary, this is the only responsible attitude.
Said climate change communication scholar, educator, and writer Elin Kelsey (Elin Kelsey).
Kelsey holds a PhD in environmental policy and is engaged in exchange projects that affect environmental work. She is also a part-time faculty member of the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, the author of children’s books, and the author of the adult book “Hope Is Important: Why Changing Our Way of Thinking Is Important to Solve Environmental Crisis”.
CNBC spoke with 60-year-old Kelsey on the phone to learn how to manage and effectively respond to climate change anxiety.
The following is an excerpt from the conversation between Kelsey and CNBC. They have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Focus on evidence-based solutions
What we have seen all over the world is that people’s attention to climate change has really risen, they want to do something about it, and their deep feelings of helplessness and despair of powerlessness.
In my opinion, this has become a key issue for participation.
I think we have inadvertently exacerbated this sense of helplessness and despair by raising our alert on these very honest, important and pressing global issues, because almost all the news we hear about the environment is about identifying problems rather than Solution orientation.
We felt that nothing happened, and it was too late.
I am also a children’s book writer. So I often find myself talking about these issues with very young children. I began to realize that we put things like ratings on movies or violent scenes in movies, and then said, “This is not for young children.”
However, it does not seem to be wrong to walk into the classroom to tell children that the earth is destroyed, or to show them that the end of the world clock is falling down with the prediction of climate change. We are just not sensitive enough to the emotional state of young children.
The very real problems we face and the fact that we almost only hear the problems contribute to this narrative of pessimism and doom.
One part of what we can really transform and need to transform is that we also need to discuss evidence-based solutions. That’s why I’m excited to see the birth of areas such as solution news (these areas are rigorously researching solutions because of their applicability in specific environments and which parts of them can be transferred, amplified, or customized) as they say See the problem.
This is where we need to go.
We need to make solutions more accessible so that people understand what has actually changed and what they care about so they don’t feel alone. We need to eliminate this inaccurate information, that is, nothing positive actually happened, and no good results happened, because it’s not true.
Hopelessness is ignorance. In fact, we are ignorant as a whole because we are so overwhelmed by this narrative of pessimism and doom that we have not heard anything about the fruitful things that are happening at all. Then we interpret it as the truth.
Elin Kelsey sleeps on the deck in Victoria, British Columbia. “I did this because I was really reinforced by the changes of the seasons,” she said. “Even though I live in a small courtyard in the city, I really see the surrounding nature.”
Credit: Agat Bernard
For example, we know that more than 110 countries have set a net zero carbon emission target by 2050. This accounts for more than 70% of the world economy. This is an important thing to pay attention to.
Now, do we need to move there faster? Absolutely. Do we need to hold them accountable for these commitments? Absolutely. But knowing that this is the case is different from thinking that no country is doing anything.
Optimism does not lead to complacency
We do know from the psychological literature that fear and shame make us shut down and give up.
Many people worry that if you talk about hope, you will actually breed complacency when urgent action is needed.
But the psychological literature tells us that the opposite is true.
When you think that others care about what you care about-you have a sense of pride, because some things are moving in the direction they should, determination, perseverance, empathy and compassion for others and care about your work -You are more likely to stay and do difficult work.
However, when you think that something is hopeless, you have this kind of hope gap, or this kind of climatic bad luck, as Michael Mann said, you will feel helpless, you tend to feel isolated, you tend to be indifferent, This means that you have lost your power, you have lost your agency, and you have given up.
So it is actually the opposite of our intuition.
Yet we know it knows. We know that if we work in such a work environment, someone just yells at us, telling us that we are not doing fast enough, or that we are not doing well enough-how motivating is this? no. And when we are in a working environment, someone honestly says, “Well, this is what we do, this is where we are, this is what we want to achieve,” you are more likely to work hard by doing this To reach the place where we arrived. This is the point I want to express.
I don’t want to say in any way that we have no urgent problems. We absolutely do. But this frustrating narrative of despair is taking us in a direction completely opposite to the direction we need to move forward.
Embrace the narrative of “hope punk”
If you look at these big narratives that people are talking about, such as noble-we are looking for a shiny superhero to save us. Or a dystopian narrative where everything is ruined, where many climate change novels have been filmed.
Now, hope that punk has really risen. Hope that punk appears in movies, in books, and in other fields. It is this kind of thinking that we just live in the right way we know, whether the situation is desperate or not. We work in a way we believe in.
I think many people are trying to make Greta Thornberg a noble character. I don’t think she tried to do this. But they held her up—or Jane Goodall, like this omnipotent man. A lot of environmental communication in the past was about finding a hero. You tell people that hero and hope that they will become heroes.
Well, hopefully punk is another narrative that is really emerging. What it says is that we are all doing our best, we become stronger together, and together we live the right way we know we should, whether it works or not. It is we who work in accordance with this ethical code. I think this is very attractive to those who hold social justice and climate change issues, because social justice is about equality and compassion for others, and recognition of all of our personal self-worth, you know, I think this This kind of hope punk narrative really attracts these values.
Michael Mann said that climate doom is now the new climate denial.
Because when we can deny the climate, the climate is no longer so popular—the number of people accepting climate change has indeed increased. But when there is climate denial, you can say, well, we don’t have to do anything because it didn’t happen.
Climate doom is equally effective in creating inaction. Because if you say it’s too late, then there is actually no need to take any political action. Hope is a political choice. I think this is a very important political choice. It needs to be well informed.
What I want to make is that obtaining sufficient information is a difficult task, because we tend to focus only on problems, which is an unbalanced tendency.
This is what I think the solution news network, it is really growing, and other media efforts, such as climate issues, this is a large news media group focused on climate, these initiatives are really important, because we need to hear a more interesting The story shows what is working.
Kelsey slept outdoors in Victoria, British Columbia. It will rain in winter. “So I was covered enough so I didn’t rain, but I could hear the rain pouring down, and I like it. I just like it,” she said.
Photo credit Agathe Bernard
How to help people caught in climate doom
The first thing I did was that I really wanted to hear their opinions.
Because I think creating safe spaces for people to truly express their feelings is an important part of all of this. When we feel overwhelmed, we will not accept new ideas. Part of the reason I co-founded the Climate Justice Educator Existence Toolkit is to bring all this psychology and other literature around how to create this kind of safe space into a more public realm. So first, I listen.
I really tried to listen deeply to the person’s feelings and what they value, because these feelings show that they really care about these issues. So even if their emotions are anger, it is because they care. So try to listen and create that safe space.
Second, try to hear what issues they are most disappointed in, and then bring some current timestamp content there.
So I told them to really realize in the way of media literacy that most of you only hear these questions. Google the problem you care about most, add “recent solutions” or “positive development” or other keywords, or enter the solution news network, in this way you can easily search for their articles, you You can filter it by area of concern and look for things that are moving in the direction you want.
When you really start to examine it, you will find much more than you think. Therefore, it is actively looking for evidence-based solutions rather than assuming that desperate overwhelming headlines are the only truth.
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