School of Psychology Dives into the Thinking — and Feeling — Around Global Warming
The state of the planet was a major topic of discussion during the School of Psychology’s recent Winter Session in Santa Barbara, as both Clinical and Media Psychology explored how news of climate change is landing on our collective psyches.
Dr. Garry Hare
Media Psychology faculty member Garry Hare, PhD, was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Independent about why it’s so hard to get people to make changes that could impact the current climate trajectory:
Media and political psychologists like Dr. Garry Hare, a Fielding Graduate University faculty member, are studying how to adapt public communications to keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds, even as their minds are pushing back. He’s currently writing an article, called “Data Doesn’t Cry — and Seldom Causes Others to Do So,” on why climate data seldom leads to climate action. He spoke to the Independent from his home in Goleta.
Why is this issue so hard to wrap our heads around?When we look at ourselves as a society, we’re pretty good at addressing short-term crises. For instance, I got evacuated during the Holiday Fire, and the fire department was on top of that in about 10 minutes. It was truly amazing. And in Montecito, first responders and the community responded in a way that was extraordinarily admirable. But those are short-term things. Long-term problems are different. The brain is hardwired for easier stuff that doesn’t require too much thinking. It’s more reactive, and as human beings we try to avoid as much of the hard stuff as we can, because it’s work.
If you look at the federal climate study that came out recently, it was hundreds and hundreds of pages of charts and tables and graphs and the best thinking of climate scientists, governmental organizations, and academic institutions. They all pointed in the same direction. They all said we have to wean ourselves off of carbon, post-haste, and we should have started 20 years ago. It’s such dense information and so overwhelming that it’s paralyzing.
How do you break through that paralysis? By triggering an emotional reaction. The idea is to simplify data to the point where you take a lot of the workload out of it. We can’t be subtle anymore.
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Meanwhile, Clinical Psychology’s Alonso Center for Psychodynamic Studies invited psychoanalyst Donna M. Orange, PsyD, author of Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics to speak during Winter Session, as well.
Dr. Orange spoke of the psychologist’s responsibility to be leaders “in confronting the global crisis we are living”:
We psychoanalysts, together with our colleagues in other therapeutic areas, actually have a unique contribution to make in this crucial moment. We can help not only to refocus our own attention on the imminent threats to our own way of life, but to the world’s most vulnerable people and to the earth which supports us all. …
We can call out the more selfish of the defenses that keep us avoidant, and name the forms of traumatic shock that keep us to paralyzed to respond appropriately.
Watch the full video of Dr. Orange’s talk.