Sarah Thomas investigates how psychology and adapting our mindset can help us tackle climate change. She introduces well renowned phycological research and offers you some tips on your own mind-set.
In 2006 world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck published her iconic book MINDSET.
Her work found that people tended to fall sharply into two categories regarding their intelligence capabilities. They either considered their intelligence as a fixed and finite quantity, or they saw it as something that had the ability to grow and change shape through learning.
The group that accepted their intelligence as fixed, whether high or low, would not spend any effort trying to increase their abilities. What else could you do if you thought change was impossible?
The group that took on a mindset growth outlook saw exponential growth in their learning capabilities.
Those that say the problems facing the planet and the population are too big to challenge are part of the fixed mindset group, unable to see themselves as agents for change, but those of us with a growth mindset know that big solutions start with small steps.
It is, as Sir David Attenborough said, within our power to change things.
“The problem is immense, but we already have the knowledge and skills to halt and reverse it. We need to reexamine our relationship with nature, working with it instead of against it, to restore our planet to its former glory. “Sir David Attenborough
You’re probably not on the fence about fixing climate change if you’re reading this blog. However, the suggestions below take on a holistic view of the issue; linking our consumption patterns with our health and the earth, and of course a growth mindset.
Maybe you’re a believer but you’re against forces in your household, in your community or among friends who believe that healing nature is a lost cause. Sometimes it’s worth speaking up but other times it’s more effective to lead by example than with a megaphone.
Climate Change Psychology
Change Your Mindset
We must forgive ourselves and our neighbours for the reckless consumption patterns of yesterday because great resources have gone into convincing us that our happiness is in the hands of someone, or something else, something we should be glad to pay for.
In 2019 retailers spent £6.8 billion on advertising over Christmas. That’s a lot of money going into convincing you to buy more, to recreate the table in the M&S Christmas Advert and that no item should be left off the Amazon wish list.
But it’s based on a set of conditions that have been especially crafted to sell us crap. So let’s look at a few of my favourite myths about consumption.
Convenience is Everything
It’s not. When something is convenient, it means you haven’t had to use up much energy in achieving it. This sets a dangerous precedent when you start to believe that all things that are easy-come are good.
Convenience is full of salt and sugar and makes us fatter.
Convenience has a price tag; whether it’s first to board on an airline or buying your potato already cooked and mashed and ready to heat in its own plastic container.
Convenience is lying at the bottom of the ocean being ingested by turtles and fish and ultimately by you.
Price and Value
The value we get out of something doesn’t solely lie with the price we paid. It can include the experience or memory we have with someone. The way it brought you closer to someone, the way it made you feel differently afterwards.
When we reduce the value of something to the price, what does that say about public goods; air, a view, a hike? If we haven’t paid a fee for something, does that mean it has no value? No, of course not. But, perhaps that explains why our oceans are polluted, and our air quality is decreasing?
What is worse for waste and landfill though is the inverse assumptions we make about things that don’t have a huge price tag. Bananas for example, they don’t grow in this country and take resources to produce and ship over. We may think that because a banana is less than 30p it’s okay to throw away. But it’s value lost, is worth much more.
Consumption and Happiness
Have you seen the documentaries on the minimalists? They don’t look unhappy to me. Ownership and having lots of things is an unnecessary responsibility.
Having the latest smartphone will bring you happiness for an hour, maybe a few. But, the more we allow big companies to dictate what makes us happier the more indebted and the less satisfied we will be with our lives.
Take note of the things that bring lasting happiness. I bet they don’t arrive in a box from Amazon.
When we start seeing a role for ourselves beyond being a consumer, or a passenger of a life that is dictated by the marketing prowess of big business, life opens up in other directions. Below are some of the psychological benefits that come from adapting your mindset to take a holistic view of the world. Climate change psychology really is important to appreciate and understand.
One of the critical components of having a growth mindset is believing in your ability to grow and make changes to your life and the world around you. Taking an active role in helping restore the planet will give you a sense of empowerment.
The act of controlling your consumption is an act of empowerment. The action of resisting giving your child a plastic straw is an act of empowerment.
Controlling what you consume and not being swayed by advertising or keeping up with your neighbours is a massive act of empowerment and it is less expensive.
There was a middle-class uproar some years ago when a report in one of the newspapers, let’s face it, probably The Guardian saying that some children didn’t realise that beef came from a cow.
Maybe the kid just didn’t want to think about it. All meat eaters can probably relate to that. But the issue of being detached from the production process of the food and items that we consume remains.
Putting more time into understanding the production processes behind our processed food, our mobile phones, our bicycles and cars and anything we use that we haven’t created ourselves may just make our throwaway instincts thing again
As a serial subject-burglar, I can tell you that the sustainability, circular-economy group is one of the easiest to join forces with. It’s because they already have the community ethos running the operations and the rejection of a ‘winner-take-all’ mentality that can haunt other organisations.
Attempts at engaging with other subject experts, say, economists, have been met with silence. People are busy, no hard feelings, but in the sustainability realm, everyone is welcome.
Furthermore, sharing rather than owning, re-using rather than replenishing and offering rather than throwing away runs through the heartland of sustainability and it drives interaction among communities.
I realise that if you’re already reading this, you are curious about healing the earth and encouraging nature’s bountiful resources off of their state of retreat but maybe you’re like me and you’ve just started on your journey to understand climate change psychology.
Also maybe you’re surrounded by people who think that driving change is too big a job. Or maybe, like me, you could be doing more, maybe just a step more, maybe an additional mile.
Let’s keep on working on changing mindsets and driving action and showing the doubters that it can be done.