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  Environment, psychology and health news
A monthly update of environment, psychology and health news

March 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

More interesting news on the environment and psychology from a variety of sources.    


Susie Burke and Harriet Radermacher
Public Interest, Environment and Disaster Response

twitter:  @BurkePsy. 

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Upcoming events

Psychology for a Safe Climate Conference - Turn On or Turn Off? What helps and hinders engagement


Sat 21st March

Keynote: Susan Murphy - Vulnerability and Resilience: ‘not-knowing is most intimate’. Dr Susan Murphy is an authorised Zen Roshi. She is a writer, radio producer and film director. Her latest book is Minding the Earth, Mending the World (2012, 2014),

Sun March 22 - Four different workshops for climate well-being

Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote 3070

More Conference information here
Bookings essential:

Planting the seed - Reconnecting our children to nature

Wednesday, 25 March, 7pm–9pm

Community Environment Forum Series - Come along to our community environment forum to learn more from expert speakers and share your ideas.

Council Chambers at the Civic Centre, 9 Kellaway Avenue, Moonee Ponds ( enter via Pascoe Vale Road).

Guest Speakers include:

  • Dr Susie Burke, Australian Psychological Society Techniques for talking to our children about the environment at different ages and stages
  • Bronwyn Joslyn and Dee Bell, Learning Happens Reconnecting our children with nature

This is a FREE event. Refreshments and finger food provided.

RSVP at or call 9243 8888.


No Cause Is An Island

By Tom Crompton 16 Dec 2014

A recent study published by Tom Crompton and colleagues found that an intrinsic text about conservation (one invoking people’s love for the natural world) was most effective in motivating people to express an intention to help a conservation charity.

And they found that an intrinsic text about disability (highlighting the need to support disabled people in living life to the full) was most effective in motivating people to express an intention to help a disability charity.

And importantly, either intrinsic text was equally effective in leading people to express an intention to help either cause. The intrinsic conservation text was just as effective as the intrinsic disability text in leading people to express an intention to help a disasbility organisation (SCOPE); and the intrinsic disability text was just as effective as the intrinsic conservation text in leading people to express an intention to help an environment group (WWF). No cause is an island.

It seems that WWF and Scope, and presumably 1001 other charities, have the opportunity to communicate about their cause in a way that not only strengthens people’s concern about this cause, but which also serves to strengthen public concern about social and environmental justice in and of itself.

Read more here.

Engaging centre-right citizens around climate change


In 2013, COIN wrote a report identifying four narratives for engaging centre-right audiences more effectively: localism; energy security; the green economy/‘new’ environmentalism and the Good Life. It sets out why these ways of framing the issue are more likely to resonate with the values of political conservatives, and the sorts of words and phrases that could be used in beginning a conversation with this audience.

They have now just published a report on Starting a New Conversation on Climate Change with the European Centre-Right.  They propose a practical toolkit for communicating climate change with the centre-right European electorate. The recommendations are based on extensive evaluation of the language used by leading figures on the centre-right, and a understanding of their core values.

Why countries with the nicest people are the greenest


By Josh Lew, Mother Nature Network, Dec 2014

The Environmental Performance Index is a method of scoring the overall greenness of countries. The index looks at nation-level policies and practices that directly or indirectly affect the environment including water quality, natural habitat conservation, air pollution, emissions per capita and the sustainability of natural resources.

A professor at the University of Toronto, Hirsch, has researched the link between EPI and personality traits.  Using data on two specific personality traits - agreeableness (compassion and empathy) and openness (flexibility and acceptance) he was able to accurately predict a country's EPI score. These results led Hirsch to contend that a nation's personality can help predict its environmental friendliness.

A paper detailing Hirsch's findings was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Read more here.

The year the climate dam of denial breaks

By Paul Gilding on 23 February 2015 , RENEW ECONOMY

This is the year the climate “dam of denial” will break and the momentum for action will become an unstoppable flood. It will be messy, confusing and endlessly debated but with historical hindsight, 2015 will be the year. The year the world turned; primarily because the market woke up to the economic threat posed by climate change and the economic opportunity in the inevitable decline of fossil fuels.

Click here to read Paul Gilding's excellent analysis of why he thinks 2015 is the year the dam will burst. 

Why do many reasonable people doubt science?

By Joel Achenbach, National Geographic

"In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that’s what science is for. “Science is not a body of facts,” says geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who once headed the U.S. Geological Survey and is now editor of Science, the prestigious journal. “Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not...But that method doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again".

To read more, click here.

Climate change will hit Australia harder than rest of world

Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Tues 27 Jan, 2015

Australia could be on track for a temperature rise of more than 5C by the end of the century, outstripping the rate of warming experienced by the rest of the world, unless drastic action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever produced of the country’s future climate.

The national science agency CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have released the projections based on 40 global climate models, producing what they said was the most robust picture yet of how Australia’s climate would change.

Read more here.

Effective Communication, Better Science


By Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer |  February 24, 2015

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” Albert Einstein said.

As experts, scientists have a deep knowledge of particular subjects. To communicate something effectively, one needs a similarly deep knowledge of the associated skills. Public communication offers scientists ways to learn and practice the basics of effective communication. By teaching scientists how to explain their work simply—and more effectively—public communication increases the impact of science in multiple dimensions.

Read more here.

The troubling psychology behind how we decide who’s a scientific “expert” — and who isn’t

washington post

By Chris Mooney, February 25

In a large community of researchers, where criticism is encouraged, biases offset and check each other — in theory. It may not always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have in an imperfect world. And that’s why the scientific process must be respected and why scientific consensus matters and should be taken very seriously — on climate change, or anything else.

In a sense, scientific consensus is simply what is left standing after all the biases run their course.

In the end, then, the problem isn’t what any individual researcher believes, or any individual’s biases. Rather, it’s a political and media structure in which people are encouraged to argue about science by citing their own facts and their own experts — and where scientific consensus is often disregarded or attacked and not given the weight it deserves.

We’re biased, yes, but it’s up to us how much we let those biases shape the world.

Read more here.

The Seven Dimensions of Climate Change

COIN have been working with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to try and shift climate change from a ‘scientific fact’ to a ‘social fact’. In a series of events and publications titled the ‘Seven Dimensions of Climate Change’ they are trying to explore and examine the many different faces of climate change – from science and technology, to law, individuals’ behaviour, culture, politics and the economy – to provoke new insights and discussions.

They've begun with a discussion paper to get this process started.

Scientist Finds Remarkable Way to Connect People Emotionally with Climate Change


Physicist Robert Davies began a project in 2012 called The Crossroads Project to see if music can help people connect emotionally with climate change. He developed a hybrid event that was a lecture on climate with a musical arrangement from the Fry Street Quartet, a professional string quartet at Utah State University. In addition to the music, there are “evocative images taken by nature photographers and projections of paintings inspired by nature,” says Palca. They have done the performance many times since, including internationally.

The project allows the audience to form “an emotional connection” to the information, which “they don’t get in the science lab,” Davies says. The performance isn’t for climate deniers. “It’s about convincing people who already believe we have these problems to start behaving like it,” says Davies.

Click here to read more.

Image problem: are we using the wrong photographs to illustrate migration and climate change?

14 Jan 2015

Finding photos to illustrate stories about migration and climate change is difficult. It’s easy to choose images that don’t accurately represent the kind of human movement being talked about. Or that paint migrants and refugees as a threat. Here are some pitfalls and suggestions of finding the right images.

Social conscience is key to cutting household energy

Tim Radford, 25 January, 2015

Researchers in Los Angeles find that saving money is not the most powerful message in persuading people to reduce the amount of electricity they use. The environmental argument won, conspicuously.

Read more here.

The Effect of Framing and Normative Messages in Building Support for Climate Policies

Hurlstone, Lewandowsky, Newell, & Sewell, 2014

Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are required to mitigate climate change. However, there is low willingness amongst the public to prioritise climate policies for reducing emissions. Here we show that the extent to which Australians are prepared to reduce their country's CO2 emissions is greater when the costs to future national income are framed as a “foregone-gain”—incomes rise in the future but not by as much as in the absence of emission cuts—rather than as a “loss”—incomes decrease relative to the baseline expected future levels (Studies 1 & 2). The provision of a normative message identifying Australia as one of the world's largest CO2 emitters did not increase the amount by which individuals were prepared to reduce emissions (Study 1), whereas a normative message revealing the emission policy preferences of other Australians did (Study 2). The results suggest that framing the costs of reducing emissions as a smaller increase in future income and communicating normative information about others' emission policy preferences are effective methods for leveraging public support for emission cuts.

Read more here.


The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers

Australian Academy of Science

This is an extensively revised update of a similar publication in 2010. Its stated purpose is to “provide an understanding based on our present scientific knowledge, of some key questions about climate change”.

It represents a determined attempt by scientists to be relevant to the everyday concerns of people and organisations, and to support – through the delivery of up-to-date scientific knowledge – those who want to take meaningful climate action.

Click here to access this remarkably useful publication.

New book: Climatology vs Pseudoscience

book cover

By Dana Nuccitelli

The book covers a wide range of climate-related topics, starting with a history of some key discoveries in the field of climate science beginning nearly 200 years ago. Along the way it debunks some common climate myths, progressing forward in time to the 1970s, when scientists’ ability to model the global climate began to advance rapidly. It examines the accuracy of a variety of global warming projections, starting with J.S. Sawyer in 1972, through the recent IPCC reports, as well as some predictions by contrarians like Richard Lindzen.

Read more here.

New Climate and Health Alliance report on devastating impacts of coal on health

Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world

A coalition of 28 key Australian health organisations have launched a comprehensive report that highlights the serious threats to human health from the rapid expansion of the Hunter coal industry, calculates the burden of this health damage to the economy and, significantly, calls for a ban on new coal projects in the region and an orderly transition away from coal.

The Climate and Health Alliance’s report, Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world, quantifies the costs to the local and global economy from health damage, and recommends: reform of NSW planning laws to better manage health risks, new health studies and stricter air quality standards.


Melbourne Fostering Sustainable Behaviour Workshops

Environmental Psychologists Doug McKenzie-Mohr will be delivering introductory (April 14-15) and advanced (April 16-17) community-based social marketing training in Melbourne. Community-based social marketing is a unique approach to fostering both environment and health related behavioural changes and is now being utilized globally. 
Registration Site:

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial


Climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? Learn to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial. Denial 101 starts in March 2015, is 7 weeks long and hosted by University of Queensland. For more information click here.

Get active!

Psychologists urged to sign "Call to Action" to build psychosocial resilience for climate change


The International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC) believes it is essential to make it a national and international priority to build widespread levels of psychosocial resilience for climate change.

To do so, the ITRC is seeking the endorsement on the “Call to Action for U.S. and World Leaders to Proactively Address the Adverse Psychological and Social Impacts of Climate Disruption” found below.

After all of the endorsements are gathered the letter will be sent to federal, state and local officials in the climate, mental health, human services, education, faith and other fields as well as elected officials and the media throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Access the letter and signatories here

Sign on to the letter here

Due date to sign the letter is Friday, March 13th.


IFA 13th Global Conference on Ageing: Disasters in an Ageing World - Readiness, Resilience, and Recovery

21 - 23 June 2016, Brisbane, Australia

The IFA in partnership with the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland is proud to announce the 13th Global Conference on Ageing: Disasters in an Ageing world - Readiness, Resilience and Recovery.

The central theme of the 13th IFA Global Conference will be natural and human-induced disasters and health emergencies in an ageing world.

The program will explore approaches to risk reduction (e.g. mass gatherings), readiness, resilience, response and recovery with the goal of understanding how to establish more age-friendly, disaster prepared communities.