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Psychologists: Climate Change Makes People Too Morose To Care

REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Thinking about global warming renders people powerless and paralyzed, causing them to ignore solutions to climate change, according to environmental behavioral psychologists.

In the struggle to find answers as to why so many people are apathetic to man-made global warming, environmentalists are now turning to a bevy of psychologists.

“Most people who acknowledge that climate change is occurring feel that the public response has been inadequate,” Dr. Susan Clayton, a conservation psychologist at the College of Wooster, told The Huffington Post Monday.

“Psychologists have been looking at how it is that people process this information about risk and come to their understandings — so that’s useful to know in terms of thinking about how you can create messages that are more effective for people in terms of getting them on board,” Clayton added.

The field of environmental psychology, according to Huffington Post, includes research about the impact nature disconnection has on people’s emotional and psychological state. It also looks to root out why apathy and denialism have reportedly become so entrenched in the discussion surrounding global warming.

According to Renee Lertzman, a San Francisco-based psychological researcher, these new emotive studies are innovative and groundbreaking.

“It’s a very new terrain we’re in,” Lertzman told the Huffington Post.“But we have to get to the point where we really can be open to new and different ways of looking at things.”

People are feeling morose about their lack of connection to nature, and their inability to tackle the enormity of global warming, according to Lertzman and her behavioral psychology cohorts.

The global warming problem is too big, too complicated, and too fraught with acrimony, according to the report, it leads folks to ask: “Why should we do anything at all?” Lertzman describes these emotions as “environmental melancholia.”

“There’s this feeling of loss but it hasn’t been named, partly because we’re not used to talking about it in our culture … It’s a kind of loss that people are experiencing on both a personal and a social level,” Lertzman said. “It’s a loss that comes with either seeing or experiencing changes in our environment, or hearing about those changes.”

To quantify her theory, Lertzman conducted surveys interviewing people not engaged with the environment.

“What I heard was a sense of loss and longing and nostalgia,” Lertzman said of her findings.

“People would spend many hours telling me about how distressed and sad they are about the way things are changing, and also their sense of powerlessness. Then I would hear people move quickly to denying that they care at all.”

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