News & Media Opinion Pieces Climate Change – What you can do

Climate Change – What you can do

Climate Change – What you can do

We recommend you read this article from the Australian Psychological Society. It provides explanation of common reactions to severe environmental problems particularly climate change, it explores the mindset to stay involved with the issue, it offers advice about changing your own behaviour and encouraging others to do the same!

Many of us will be familiar with most of the reactions of our colleagues to our suggestions,they can be indifferent or even hostile, but in furthering our educational role we have to learn to deal with them.

In summary I found the thoughts on desensitisation useful and wonder if we have reached this point with the flood of information on climate change. We are all familiar to this reaction to the endless news items on starvation and poverty in Africa in particular.

 “People can become desensitized to the stories, and mentally switch off when the next one comes. The fact that these problems are not easily fixed, and seem to go on and on without resolution, increases the chances that we will tune out, thus minimizing our stress, and continuing with business as usual”.

“Once people believe that they cannot do anything to change a situation, they tend to react in all sorts of unhelpful ways. They may become dependent on others (i.e., by believing that the government or corporations will fix things, or that technology has all the answers), resigned (‘if it happens, it happens’), cynical (‘there’s no way you can stop people from driving their cars everywhere – convenience is more important to most people than looking after the environment’), or fed up with the topic”

 To “Stay involved” the advice is to remain optimistic. I must admit this is difficult when one has just seen the latest 10 scientific papers indicating accelleration of everything bad, but expression of optimism is important and we all retain some or we would be playing golf instead of designing educational posters. My optimism in the face of all this bad news is to recognise that humanity still has the ability and will to resolve the issue.

Staying involved is a vital issue for those working on the issues that DEA promotes. There can be a lot of hard work in the public and political sphere but what effect did it have? There is often no measurement whereas if you change your light bulbs at least you can see your electicity bill go down. Most difficult is recognising that you are usually in a minority among your clinical colleagues in hospital or in practice. To stay involved the personal satisfactions come from the small acheivements in changing one’s own behaviour– this is a good section, and the advice on driving is applicable to all.

Most pertinent to DEA is the section on “getting others to change” As an organisation we have tried all methods of recruiting members and then influencing those recruited to take more action. As the article indicates, personal contact and discussion is the most effective. As doctors we are generally good at this but we need to allocate time to do it. I mention this because soon we will be asking each DEA member to recruit one other member by using the methods described in the article.The most important part of this process is not so much that we may have an additional member but that YOU have educated a colleague.

“The major influences on our attitudes and behaviour are not the media, but rather our contacts with other people. Finding ways of using this influence for the good of the planet can lead to great changes in environmental attitudes and behaviour in the people around us, as they gather ideas and information from seeing the changes we have made (and of course, we might just learn some tips from them too)”.

David Shearman