Siblings, justice and equality – Joseph Rowntree report finds that fairness and a sense of obligation matter for climate change
May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment
In thinking about people’s motivations to act on climate change, have we ignored the influence of one of the crucial relationships of family life – that of siblings?
Many appeals to the public pander to people’s self-interest and materialism, seeing them as individuals with narrow, individualistic concerns. The short-termism of this approach has been criticised very effectively from a values perspective. Commentators like Tom Crompton and Tim Kasser point out the failure of such approaches to build deeper cultural change. They argue convincingly that it is the values opposed to this individualism – values based on concerns bigger than self – that need to be triggered if we are to address multiple social ills. Justice and equality figure strongly amongst these values but the psychological dynamics that lie behind them are not often discussed.
Siblings are the template
Sibling relationships provide the template for lateral relationships with peers in adult life and can profoundly affect people’s ideas on justice and equality. The childhood refrain ‘It’s not fair,’ echoes in the adult world in arguments about just rewards, entitlement, equality and free-loading. We can hear it in current arguments about ‘hard-working families’, ‘benefit scroungers’ and ‘irresponsible bankers’.
Sibling relationships are characterised on the positive side by solidarity, loyalty, co-operation and willingness to share. The discovery of one’s inventiveness and creativity often arrives (along with mischief and devilment) in first friendships. On the negative side of sibling relationships lie rage at having been displaced, rivalry, envy and the suspicion that someone else may be getting a better deal or swinging the lead. And it is amongst childhood peer networks that we often get our first taste of bullying, of ‘might is right’ and the destructive power of taunts and teasing. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
Research has given us a lot of good ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ on how to communicate about climate change. It tells us that:
- information doesn’t by itself change people’s minds
- confirmation bias means that people seek out facts that confirm their existing views
- people find it hard to understand risks that are not immediate and tangible
- fear appeals have mixed effects
However we rarely talk about the inner state of the person we are communicating with and how this relates to the creative, innovative, whole-hearted and committed responses we need. If we are to help people avoid the flight into false certainty and paranoia that I wrote about last month, what kind of emotional state should be trying to foster? « Read the rest of this entry »
February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Recent leaks about the extent to which America’s Heartland Institute has been funded to disseminate climate change disinformation have shocked many. The sums involved are huge and the opinion shift in the US has been dramatic. In a recent article for The Nation, Naomi Klein reported that the number of Americans who believe that burning fossil fuels causes the climate to change has fallen from 71% in 2007 to 44% in June 2011.
But why are the arguments of organisations like the Heartland Institute so successful? Why do people shift their views so rapidly? Why do people believe information that is so contrary to their interests?
States of confusion
January 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
Christmas is a time when environmentalists feel duty bound to have a quick moan about the way over-consumption is wrecking the planet. (I joined in with a post for the Guardian in December.) The reasons why UK citizens purchase an unconscionable amount of ‘stuff’ are complex and not reducible to simplistic notions of greed or manipulation by advertisers however. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment
The mood as we approach the Durban negotiations is sombre. Coming to terms psychologically with the defeat at Copenhagen will not change the political outcomes but could make a difference to campaigners’ capacities to continue the struggle. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
The idea of the ‘safe space’ is crucial to psychotherapy. What relevance does it have to climate change?
Listening and respect
Many people find it hard to accept the reality of climate change and the need for both urgent action and widespread socio-political change. This is often an emotional rather than an intellectual problem: climate change threatens much that people hold dear. ‘Safe spaces’ where people can come to terms with what may happen, the changes that are needed and their own feelings about it can be crucial in helping them take action both in their personal lives and politically, as citizens. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
Is climate change denial all to do with uncomfortable emotions and psychological defences as I argued last month? Dan Kahan and the cultural cognition project argue that denial has more to do with a particular kind of rationality that is rooted in people’s cultural beliefs. His research produces some interesting results. « Read the rest of this entry »