“Why is it that vast swathes of humans seem not to believe in or care about the climate crisis? How can I manage my own distress when my arguments are met with indifference or hostility?”
I hear this a lot. And I feel it, too.
The reality is that at any one point in time, people fall within a range from risking everything and investing anything to halt climate change, to those doing the opposite and trying to deny it’s happening. In the middle are those who are confused, conflicted or just trying their best to do the right thing.
I spend most of my time somewhere in the middle, oscillating between ‘why bother when nothing I do or say can make a difference’ and ‘what more can I risk or invest to make a positive difference?’
Where are you right now?
I am a leadership coach and change mentor for those working to make the world a better place. It has never felt so urgent for me to share my understanding of change. I believe that if enough of us apply the fundamentals of how humans react and are persuaded to change, mass movement is possible.
What is most effective? To apply as much pressure as possible to those who appear immune to change, or to gently encourage those on the tipping point? To risk your relationship with that family member who appears to take delight in countering your arguments, or to seek out people who will quietly listen to what you have to say?
A movement needs a critical mass of people. The growing scientific consensus and individuals experiencing climate change are persuading more of us to change. But it needs to happen faster. People ready for change need motivation, support and practical advice to get them there, and to take others with them.
The ‘rollercoaster of change’ helps us to understand what we are going through, that it’s normal, and that neither ‘we’ nor ‘they’ are bad people. It can help us empathise with others, understanding where they are on their journey and what they might need.
Why do we experience change as a rollercoaster?
When you hear news about climate change and its implications, what is your first reaction? For many, it is shock. The more unpalatable the information, the greater the sense of shock.
Then denial. For some, it may be a fleeting ‘surely that can’t be the case?’ For others, it is a comfortable place to stay, for as long as change can be avoided.
Then bargaining. ‘If I do this, then the change won’t happen. I can recycle, avoid plastics, buy organic, an electric vehicle, solar panels…’
Further proof still leads us to accept that not only is change is happening, but it is inevitable. There appears to be little we can do about it. It can be a depressing time.
The next stage is testing or experimenting. If change is inevitable, then what can I do about it?
Finally, you take decisions and adapt to the change so that it becomes the way you live your life.
But the rollercoaster goes in both directions. Just as you start the climb out of one valley, say depression, something happens that sends you right back again to anger or denial of shock.
It is a very personal rollercoaster. Everyone experiences it differently.
Where you are on the rollercoaster? Where are the people you are talking to about climate change and what might they need? Do share your thoughts and experiences, as we need to recognise that these are all normal.
This article is part of the Wicked Leeks community email, subscribe here to receive next month’s issue featuring the next part of this series: ‘It could be beautiful: How can we create a positive vision of change?’