View this email in your browser

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

August 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. 

Subscribing to the Newsletter

If you are new to this newsletter and would like to subscribe to receive monthly news, click here.


Invitation to join the APS Climate Change Psychological Support Network


Susie Burke and Bev Ernst

Invitation to join the APS Climate Change Psychological Support Nework

The APS has recently established the Climate Change Psychological Support Network.

The need for a volunteer network of psychologists arose out of a recent request we received from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) for some psychological support for their volunteers and workers.

It is increasingly being recognised that people who work in the field of climate change and other environmental threats are vulnerable to depression, anxiety and burnout.  Cox (2011), posits that psychologists are urgently needed to help those who are becoming debilitated by their knowledge of the consequences of human impact on the planet at this time. It is these people who are often working in the field of climate change, and arguably most needed in combatting the degradation of the biosphere.

The Network will be a volunteer register of psychologists concerned about climate change and interested in using their psychological skills and knowledge in a variety of ways. Initially, the aim of the network is to facilitate support for people working in environmental NGOs and climate action groups, or members of the general public who are dealing with significant distress from working on climate change, and would benefit from talking with a volunteer psychologist. 

If you are interested in joining, simply complete the survey about your experience and skills in different areas.


Upcoming events

Naomi Klein at the Writer's Festival

Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August

Naomi Klein speaking at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival on her book "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the climate". Tickets on sale from July 24th.

This interview gives you an idea of what she’ll be talking about.

Some great resources

Great publication about communicating climate change


'The Uncertainty Handbook' by Dr Adam Corner, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Dr Mary Philips and Olga Roberts

Have you ever struggled with the communication of climate change uncertainties? Are you frustrated by climate sceptics using uncertainty – inherent in any area of complex science – as a justification for delaying policy responses? 

Download the handbook to learn more about 12 practical and easy-to apply principles for smarter communication about climate change uncertainties.

The Debunking Handbook: freely available for download


A reminder that is is so easy to distribute important research across different communities.

Access the handbooks in 11 different languages here.


Psychological research and global climate change

Susan Clayton, Patrick Devine-Wright, Paul C. Stern, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Amanda Carrico, Linda Steg, Janet Swim and Mirilia Bonnes

Human behaviour is integral not only to causing global climate change but also to responding and adapting to it. Here, we argue that psychological research should inform efforts to address climate change, to avoid misunderstandings about human behaviour and motivations that can lead to ineffective or misguided policies. We review three key research areas: describing human perceptions of climate change; understanding and changing individual and household behaviour that drives climate change; and examining the human impacts of climate change and adaptation responses. Although much has been learned in these areas, we suggest important directions for further research.

Nature Climate Change, Volume 5, July 2015.

Lancet Commission on Heath and Climate 2015


Lancet Commission on Climate and Health produced a webinar and slide series to share more information about the impacts on health of climate change.  It is aimed at influencing the COP in Paris in December.

The main points covered included:

The road to climate hell

new scientist

Robert Gifford, NewScientist, 11 July 2015

Even people who have good intentions don’t do enough about climate change. There are many reasons why we fail to act: 33, according to this psychologist.  Read this terrific article by Canadian environmental psychologist Dr Bob Gifford to learn more about the psychological barriers to action. 

Health professionals asking Wellcome trust to divest

The next Guardian campaign involves a group of senior health professionals – along with other psychologists, doctors, nurses and academics – asking the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels. Among them are the editors of the leading medical journals, the BMJ and the Lancet.

"Health organisations such as the Wellcome Trust have considerable moral and scientific authority, and a decision to divest has the potential to influence policy-makers, other investors and the public, in the UK and internationally."

Do you belong to the health community? If so, the signatories to the letter are inviting you to join them and sign the letter too. Whether you're a psychologist, community health worker, academic, student, retired GP, dentist or midwife, you can add your name to their letter here.

10 Things We Learnt From Reddit About Understanding Climate Change

Stephan Lewandowsky and Klaus Oberauer, 30 July 2015


1. Climate change is a BIG problem

2. Trust the scientific consensus

3. Talk about solutions and values

4. Cognitive limitations do exist 

5. But these limitations can be overcome

6. Politics is a barrier

7. Understand personal bias

8. Technology can help debunk misinformation

9. Nudge and inoculate

10. Dictatorships are not the answer

Read the article.

Restoring Recurrent Fury

Stephan Lewandowsky, 8 July 2015

These latest findings add to a growing body of research on the nature of internet discourse and the role of the blogosphere in climate denial. Click links for an introductory post and FAQs

Common Cause Newsletter

If you haven't already, we strongly recommend having a look at the June edition of the Common Cause Newsletter.

Some of the great articles this week include:

  • Communications Toolkit

A new Common Cause resource for communicators, campaigners and fundraisers in charities who want to bring an understanding of values to their work.  It presents the results of the latest research, derives a set of principles for Common Cause Communication, and applies these to a wide range of different examples of actual charity communications. The full Toolkit comprises a book and a series of separate resources for use in group discussions and workshops. 

  • Our love for nature is in our hearts, not our wallets 

Our relationship with nature isn’t just based on goods and services. “It inspires belief; and this is essential to the lasting success of any movement.” This is a beautiful piece inspired by the Pope’s recent encyclical.

  • The values of hope and happiness

Drawing on Common Cause, David Suzuki and Aryne Sheppard write passionately about the need to incorporate an understanding of values into environmental action: “Each one of us is a value prism, subtly bending the light in a particular direction. As Canadians, let's be conscious of where we direct our light.”

When the end of human civilization is your day job

John Richardson, 7 July 2015, Esquire

Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can't really talk about it.

Read the article here.

Does showing emotion strengthen or weaken our message?


Roger Harrabin, 9 July, The Guardian

The devastating impact CO2 emissions are having on oceans recently brought one professor to tears during a radio interview. But does such passion validate or weaken science in the audience’s eyes?

Read the article here.

The Hidden Mental Health Impacts Of Climate Change


Marlene Cimons, June 23

A thus far little-acknowledged but serious consequence of climate change is the emotional toll carried by survivors in the aftermath of extreme weather events and other natural disasters. These destructive and often deadly events can prompt persistent and often debilitating mental anguish among their victims.

“When you have an environmental insult, the burden of mental health disease is far greater than the physical."

“And the psychological damage is not only over what is happening now, but what is likely to happen in the future.’’

Read the article here.

People power: the missing piece in UN Sustainable Development Goals

Randall Kuhn, July 25

There’s a problem with the UN Sustainable Development Goals - there is virtually no role for people, despite people being our world’s most precious resource. World leaders need to step up to the reality that citizens demand a place at the table.

Read the article.

40 percent of adults on Earth have never heard of climate change


Chelsea Harvey, July 27

A major concern for climate activists is figuring out what drives the public’s beliefs about climate change. This information can help scientists better engage with the public and help activists understand what factors are likely to make people take climate change seriously as a threat.

A comparison of the United States and China, for example, points out that in the US, the top three predictors of a person’s climate change awareness are his or her civic engagement, access to communication and education, while in China the top three indicators are a person’s education, geographic location (people in urban areas are more likely to be aware of the issue) and income level.

These differences suggest, most importantly, that countries will require unique approaches when it comes to educating people on climate change.

Read the article.

GOOD NEWS! Obama finalises historic Clean Power Plan

3 August 2015, The Tree

The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change strategy - the Clean Power Plan - is now finalised. It is the single biggest and most ambitious action the US has ever taken to tackle climate change. Under the initiative, the country will reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Opposition to the Clean Power Plan, however, is coming from expected corners: fossil fuel companies and the politicians and interests groups they fund. Despite these predictable attacks, the Clean Power Plan's anticipated positive impacts on public health, the economy and the chances for future generations to inherit a safe planet are driving the policy’s popularity.

Read the article.

Getting active

Dialogue on campaigning to urgently restore a safe climate

Melbourne climate researchers Philip Sutton and Don McArthur are holding meetings for interested person on campaigning to restore a safe climate. Involving a series of workshops and/or online discussion, the starting points for this dialogue are:

  • the need to work rapidly to restore the climate to conditions that are safe for all people, all species and all generations
  • understanding a global average of 2 degrees warming as the boundary between “dangerous” and “very dangerous”
  • the climate being too hot already (e.g. as evident in the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet and increases in extreme weather events)
  • the evidence that we have already used up the carbon budget for a safe climate and that we have zero carbon budget left
  • needing to do more than just move in the “right direction”: (e.g.) increasing renewables and reducing carbon emissions, but also to moving far enough in these directions in order to restore a safe climate - fast enough. This means our campaigning needs to be framed to get the climate to a specific set of preferred safe conditions.

The face-to-face meetings in Melbourne have already begun, but people are also welcome to join in an email dialogue.

Further queries, contact: or Don McArthur

The mother of all petitions


We know that many of you are asked what more people can be doing on the issue. One simple thing at the moment, is for them to put their weight in the scales measured by world leaders. ACF, along with Climate Reality world-wide are getting people to stand up and be counted ahead of COP21.

Please sign the petition and get everyone you know to as well!


Introductory and advanced community-based social marketing workshops

March and April 2016, Doug McKenzie-Mohr, Environmental Psychologist

These are the only trainings that Doug will be delivering in New Zealand/Australia in 2016.  These workshops will be of particular interest to agencies working to control invasive species, promote energy efficiency, waste reduction, conservation, water efficiency, sustainable food consumption, fire protection, modal transportation changes and other sustainable actions.  

Auckland Introductory & Advanced Workshops (March 29-April 1) - Register here.

Melbourne Masters Workshop (March 17-18) - Register here.

Doug is also available for a limited number of in-house workshops - find out more.  


Australian Psychological Society 50th Annual Conference


28 September - 2 October, Gold Coast

Registrations open mid April – see here for more details.