Episode 2: Why Climate Emotions Matter
Is reason or emotion more important in driving climate action? Will solutions to mass extinction come from the head or the heart? Or are these binaries themselves part of the problem? While some climate activists argue that we should focus on facts instead of feelings, others know that our intense emotional response to climate chaos is far from irrational. Moreover, feelings like anger, hope, anxiety, and fear profoundly shape our perceptions of the world, and can motivate us to act or shut down and retreat. To better understand how those mental and emotional states relate to environmental crisis and public perceptions of risk, this episode explores why emotions matter in the climate battle.
This segment also looks at the work of Rachel Carson to explore how narrative can rouse the public to action, and draws on insights from evolutionary psychology to examine the ancient relation between mind and environment as expressed in feelings of love and wonder toward the natural world.
"It is not half so important to know as to feel."
- Rachel Carson
Written and narrated by Jennifer Atkinson
Music by Roberto David Rusconi
Produced by Intrasonus UK
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is a professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, where she leads seminars that help students cope with the despair, anger, and anxiety that arise from environmental loss and mass extinction. Her teaching and research have helped activists, scientists, and students build resilience to stay engaged in climate solutions and avoid burnout. She has also spoken to audiences across the U.S. about the global mental health crisis arising from climate disruption, and advocated for addressing emotional impacts in the fight for environmental justice. This episode introduces some of the experiences and insights behind that work, and explores how we can move the public to action by addressing the psychological roots of our unprecedented ecological loss.
References and Further Reading:
Katherine Long. Feeling it: UW Bothell class helps students face emotional impact of a warming planet. Seattle Times, March 13, 2018
Jennifer Atkinson, Addressing climate grief makes you a badass, not a snowflake. High Country News. May 29, 2018.
Rachel Carson. Silent Spring. The New Yorker, 1962.
David Roberts. "Does hope inspire more action on climate change than fear? We don’t know." Vox, Dec 2017.
Feminist Studies. Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 733-752
Eliza Griswold. How ‘Silent Spring’ Ignited the Environmental Movement. New York Times, Sept. 21, 2012
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating.’ May 6, 2019
Michael McCarthy. The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. New York Review Books
Walt Whitman. When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.