Big storms, fires, risings seas and just plain punishing heat, – climate change is rolling up on us. It is too much, while dodging a pandemic, business closing and job loss. But there is help: UK psychologist Rosemary Randall is with Cambridge Climate Therapists. On February 17, 2021 Ro Randall gave the best climate mental health workshop ever. It was hosted by Meg from Britain’s Centre for Alternative Technology. Here is Ro Randall’s latest “Coping with the Climate Crisis”, with online attendees around the world.
SEE THIS RO RANDALL PRESENTATION ON YOUTUBE HERE.
This event is ably hosted by Meg at CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology. It is an environmental education charity with focus on positive solutions. They offer 9 postgraduate courses and research. Explor Zero Carbon Britain with online courses, plus a Visitor Centre hosting schools and universities (after the pandemic). Here is how to connect and follow the work of CATTwitter @centre_alt_tech Facebook: Centre for Alternative Technology.
FEELING CLIMATE ANXIETY
Ro says some of the symptoms of climate anxiety can be difficulty sleeping, guild, shame, and deep questions like “should we have children”. When people hear about climate change, they may feel shock, disbelief, fear, or anger. Many of us feel a sense of loss of the future we assumed would be there. Just knowing the climate science, when others are ignoring it, can lead to feelings of isolation from family or friends.
There is no quick fix, Randall says. It takes time, space, and support to make sense of these feelings.
THE ARC OF ACTIVISM
Ro tells us about her work with Paul Hogarth at the University of Western England. They found four steps of activism:
1. it starts with an epiphany, a new understanding about climate change
2. that can lead to total immersion, the person looks up everything they can find, follows people on social media with posts about climate, etc
3. concerted action, the information drives the individual to response. They put everything into it
4. burnout, the needs of everyday life return, and after some exhaustion, the person settles to do what they can more realistically. Ro calls that “sustainable activism”.
But not everyone goes on this kind of journey. There is no road map. In this talk, Ro offers an alternative: looking for signs of life. She says “always in the bleakest place there is some point of growth”.
THE GRIEF OF KNOWING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
She then discusses the grief of knowing climate change will bring hardships, even disasters. Grief may not be a journey at all, but “a mess” she says. During her talk, Ro mentions William Warden, who sees grief not as “stages” but as a series of 4 tasks. Step One is to accept the reality of the crisis. J. William Worden wrote the book “Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy” where he outlined “the four tasks of mourning”.
Ro also offers an analogy from her colleague Simon Lacy. After finding out “normal” weather is departing, we become like “an uprooted plant”. This makes us ask “What kind of plant are you?” and what are your real needs in a changing world?
Climate anxiety is normal to this situation and doesn’t usually require specialized psychological help, Ro tells us. She offers the metaphor of digestion – it takes time. Remember, we have no customs and practices for dealing with climate anxiety. If you do need professional help, the Climate Psychology Alliance offers free counseling sessions (in the UK). Hopefully psychologists and other mental health professionals will recognize climate stress and find better ways to help than drugs.
She also recommends the work of the late American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. He founded The Center for Nonviolent Communication which is still giving courses and seminars.
MY PREVIOUS RADIO ECOSHOCK INTERVIEWS WITH RO RANDALL
February 4, 2015
Back in 2013, we heard from Rosemary or Ro Randall. She’s the UK psychotherapist that co-founded Carbon Conversations – the circles of people who meet to talk about climate change. The show is “Coping: Climate Anxiety. Preparing: Dehydrating Food” as posted on April 17, 2013.
You can listen to/download this 2013 Rosemary Randall interview on coping with climate change (29 min).
HERE IS A GREAT YOUTUBE PRESENTATION BY RO RANDALL (2019)
Rosemary Randall “Climate, Psychology, Conversation” posted Mar 13, 2019 as part of the Cambridge Climate Lecture Series.
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Next week, we discover a new factor that can bring tipping points much closer in time than previously predicted. I talk with Johannes Lohmann in Denmark about his worrying new research. Then we check in with Dr. Robert J. Nicholls, with his latest work on sea level rise. Humans are changing the coast lines, but it’s not just the glaciers or expanding hot water.Be sure to tune in next week.