Climate psychologist says neither gloom-and-doom nor extreme solution-obsessed optimism is the best way to discuss climate change productively

Rene Lertzman, climate psychologist
Rene Lertzman, a climate psychologist, says it is crucial to communicate about climate change effectively in order to encourage people to take an active role in its resolution. Communications about climate change aren't working right now. People are scared. According to data from the independent Pew Research Center, 72 percent of people worldwide fear that global climate change could cause them harm. According to academics' survey of 10,000 youth across 10 countries, almost half (45%) of them feel that climate change will negatively affect their lives. 77% of those surveyed believe the future is scary. Lertzman says that this fear must be acknowledged and dealt with individually by employees, local communities, and government. Only then can we productively talk about how to adapt, prepare and fight. These are excerpts from Lertzman's video interview with CNBC. These excerpts have been edited to be concise and clear.

Moving from "me" to "we"

There is some truth to that. It doesn't matter if you are the largest multinational company on the globe, because no one can do it all. One company alone is not enough. This crisis, I believe, is inviting us to look at the world through a completely different lens. It is moving beyond "me" and "we". It's challenging our cognitive capacities to think, experience and see ourselves as part and parcel of a system as well as as being embedded within the system.

All of us are protagonists in the story of climate crisis response and engagement. Rene Lertzman Climate psychologist

This is a significant shift that many of us need to make. It's not something you can do intellectually. It's not something you can just do. This is not how it works. It is a constant reminder to ourselves and one another that we are all part of a larger picture and a bigger story. Every one of us is, I don't really care who you may be, a key character in the story. All of us are protagonists in the story of climate crisis response and engagement. This reframe is something we must keep returning to over and again. It's not about me. It's about me in a larger story.

Feel compassion for others

It is essential to start from a place where there is deep compassion and that feeling that "nothing I can make will matter". It's not wrong to feel that way or that we should be feeling it. It's actually really hard. It is really difficult. It's really hard. It is important to be compassionate in how we approach our experiences, no matter how overwhelming, frustrating, angry, frustrated, numb, or otherwise. Only then can we move on to any meaningful, effective, creative response. How can I channel the energy, concern, and care that is coming from within me? That's where we must start.

Be authentic

It is important to not try to make ourselves more optimistic, upbeat, or hopeful. This is a troubling trend for me. It's not how the world works. It's not possible to force ourselves into certain behaviors or feelings. Solution-seekers are focused on solutions only and have no tolerance for feelings, uncertainty, or ambivalence. It is almost an obsession with finding solutions. It can shut down people. It can also alienate many people who aren't there yet. They are still processing the information and asking questions such as "What does this all mean for me?" What is the problem? You can solve, solve and solve. This is the solution-ier mode. This problem-solution binary doesn't fit the current situation. This state of being is likely to continue for the unforeseeable future. The doom-and-gloom-versus-hope dichotomy or binary is false. It's one we need as communicators and journalists. The media must be actively dismantling it. The path to success is actually a middle way. This middle path is one that promotes authenticity. It is about authenticity and genuine engagement with the crisis. Recognizing and confronting the loss directly can bring out immense hopefulness, tremendous positivity, and deep inspiration.

The doom-and-gloom-versus-hope dichotomy or binary is false. It is false to say that there is a binary or doom-and-gloom-versus hope. The path to success is actually a middle way. This middle path is one that promotes authenticity. Rene Lertzman climate psychologist

We live in an era of extreme wildfire, drought and flooding. We have to be able look at this directly without being negative or focused on the future. Because that's what we have to do. This is the reality of today. First and foremost, humans need to be validated in their experiences. Emotional intelligence is the way to go. This means avoiding a binary approach to climate crisis (doom, gloom or solutions only). It's about getting out of the commotion between positivity and negativity. This artificial construct is what I said in my TED Talk. It's not how our minds work. It is not just negative, but also positive for us. It's much more complicated than that.

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