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In the previous State of the Blog post, I discussed my goals for the Climate Psychologist; my hope that my writing can contribute to building, empowering, organizing, and uniting the Human Climate Movement in order to wake humanity up from denial and fight back. In this post, I will share my ideas for future writing and Movement activities.
I am sharing these ideas because I think scholarly engagement and collaboration on strategy planning is essential to HCM success. I have written that strategy discussions for the HCM should be open sourced, and that organizations and bloggers should “play their cards face up,” sharing and discussing with their membership and readers their comprehensive strategy for solving climate change, or having a frank discussion about their lack of a strategy and their plans to develop one.
Publishing my ideas is part of me taking my own advice. I am not going to guard my own ideas, reflexively advocating for them against competing ideas. I am not going to attempt to milk these ideas for maximal publicity or professional rewards. Rather, I offer them to the movement. Anyone who wants to use their intellect to fight climate change should be able to access my ideas. This way, people interested in collaborating can get in touch with me and people who have good recommendations for relevant sources can share them with me. Further, people should feel free to use these ideas themselves, to elaborate on them, hybridize them, or write about them. Share your work with me, so when I approach this topic, I can utilize your insights, and combine them with my own. We simply don’t have the time to waste on individual aggrandizement or stubbornness. We have to work together.
Posting my ideas like this also gives me a chance to get reader feedback before writing the whole article! Any ideas, comments, tips (on source material, topics, as well as places to publish), preferences, and so on are greatly appreciated!
Margaret’s Ideas for Articles:
*Ordered from most developed to least developed
1) Understanding, and Critiquing the Left’s Preoccupation with “Leaderlessness”
I will critique the HCM and especially 350’s “grass roots” and “leaderless” approach to organization. Leadership and centralized coordination is crucial for success. Occupy Wall Street is a prime example of a movement that sacrificed efficacy for the ideal of leaderlessness. I will argue that the right, with no similar psychological and cultural aversion to leadership, builds more efficient institutions (Corporations, militaries, think-tanks, etc).
I will argue that (good) leadership is a gift and essential for movement success. Good leaders inspire and unite a group, empowering people, helping them reach their full potential and achieve things that they had imagined were beyond their capabilities. MLK is an example of this. (Alford, “Leadership as Interpretation and Holding,”). I will argue that leading is a highly risky and challenging task, and we should appreciate what leaders are sacrificing (Heifetz, “Leadership on the line).
I will also argue that “federated structures:” that have centralized planning and enough independence for individual groups to accommodate local concerns and allow for creativity is the ideal structure for the HCM. This structure allows many levels of leadership. (Ganz) Instead of thinking “no leader” we should think “many leaders.”
I will provide a historic analysis of why the left became so phobic of leaders:
The in the 1960s, 3 excellent leftist leaders—JFK, RFK, and MLK, were assassinated within years of each other, traumatizing the Left and causing them to avoid getting too attached to future leaders.
This, combined with:
*In the 1960s, Leftist leaders betrayed a generation of young men by sending them to fight in Vietnam
*The rise of feminism indicted the idea that men should be leaders of their families. This critique morphed into a general distrust of leaders and power.
*The raising of the Iron Curtain showed the peril of iron fisted “Leftist” leadership and government.
2) Climate Change and the Holocaust: Atrocities, Denial, and Moral Obligation
I will argue that the Holocaust is a recent, very vivid example of how a normal human response to atrocities is to deny them and avoid knowing about them. I will examine the concept of the “Ordinary German” who tried not to get involved, and claimed after the war that they “didn’t know” what was happening. I will discuss the moral duty to learn about and to know about climate change and to act on that knowledge.
I will interpret the phrase, “Never Again” to mean more than “No future genocides” but rather to mean “Never again should humanity turn its back on preventable horrors.” Terrible things do happen, and we all have a moral obligation to stand against them.
I will discuss similarities between the US media’s coverage of the Holocaust and their coverage of climate change. (The NYT buried the atrocities of the Holocaust in the middle of the paper, as it drastically understates and underreports the risk of climate change.)
I will utilize heavily Stanley Cohen’s outstanding book, “States of Denial.”
**It would be great to collaborate with a Holocaust scholar on this. If anyone is interested/ knows someone who has a good background in Holocaust studies or cultural denial.
3) Climate Change as a Feminist Issue
Beyond the fact that climate change hurts women because it hurts everyone, I will argue that one of the most important, most cherished victories of feminism has been to give women drastically increased agency over their own bodies. This has been accomplished through criminalizing domestic violence and rape, and decriminalizing abortion.
I will argue that climate change threatens to steal away all of these gains. That the collapse of civilization and the rule of law would return the rule of physical strength; drastically increasing incidences of rape and domestic violence, and drastically decreasing women’s access to all medical services, including abortion. This will greatly reduce women’s ability to be independent; in a such a violent world, women will be in much greater need of protection from men.
I will point to regions of climate-change induced conflict, and demonstrate how this is already happening in those regions.
I will call on feminists to look towards the future, and the dangers for women that lie there if we do not take decisive action on climate change.
**It would be great to collaborate with a feminist writer or scholar on this article.
4) Climate Change and the Exodus Story
In the Spring, (as Passover nears), I will write about the similarities between climate change and the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt. I will make a Haggadah, so that people who want to give their Passover Seders a climate change theme will be able to do so.
*In the Exodus story, the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they provided the labor necessary to build great pyramids. Fossil fuels have acted as a labor-substitute, allowing us to build cities and the global economy.
*Moses told Pharoh to let his people go but Pharoh was hard of heart. He was unwilling to let his labor force go. Our society has been similarly stubborn, refusing to let go of the comfort and luxury that fossil fuel provide.
*God brought Egypt 10 Plagues: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally, the death of all first-born Egyptians. Only with the death of his son, and all of the first-borns of Egypt did Pharaoh let the Jews go. Climate change is similarly reigning down terror upon us. Floods, droughts, invasive species, vector-born disease, damaged crop yields, heat waves, climate refugees, and civil war. How bad will it need to get before we wake up and realize that we cannot cling to fossil fuels any longer?
**It would be great to collaborate on this with a Rabbi or an expert in Jewish studies.
5) Psychologists Psychoanalysts and Climate Change
I will argue that, though the cultural authority of psychologists and psychoanalysts has been eroded in recent decades, society does continue to hold us in high regard, and have generally positive, trusting transference to psychologists and therapists.
As seekers of truth and experts in denial and other psychological defense mechanisms, psychologists should have a unique ability to face the truth about climate change and to help other people do so, too.
I will call on psychologists and psychoanalysts to raise their awareness of climate change by creating study groups; to share their knowledge with the public through writing editorials, papers, and calls to action. Possibly also by hosting community meetings and helping people contain their anxiety about climate change. To contribute to HCM strategy through scholarly collaboration.
** Hopefully I will be collaborating with psychoanalytic research and fellow Climate Psychologist Renee Lertzman, but other collaborators could be helpful, also.
6) The Role of Shame and Honor in Climate Change Activism
I will discuss the role of shame and honor in human evolution (using E.O Wilson’s “The social Conquest of Earth”) and in moral revolutions (Using Appiah’s “How Moral revolutions happen”).
I will discuss the barriers of modern society to utilizing shame and honor as effective change agents (Huge scale of society, the separation of the rich and powerful from “normal” people, the increasing narcissistic trends in American life).
I will discuss ways that shame and honor could be deployed more effectively, such as:
-Targeting people who are “honor peers,” meaning that you can only challenge someone’s honor who recognizes your ability to do so. So working within networks, with people who you know and who care about your opinion provides much more leverage than working against strangers (i.e. protests).
-Emphasizing that the HCM works for humanity, and people who stand against it are hurting their human brothers and sisters
-Utilizing some kind of visual symbol (armband/ button/ t-shirt, etc) to indicate that one is with the HCM, so that people in the movement can recognize each other, and give each other honor and respect in daily life.
7) Grieving the Losses of Climate Change: Stability and Faith in Humanity
I will discuss how terribly sad climate change is for all of us, and what humanity has lost.
The fundamental loss, at least at this point, is stability. We cannot plan for the future the way previous generations could, because we know that the world will be radically different. Worse, we know that the climate will continue to change for a long time—it won’t make a big shift and then ready a new, stable state.
Further, climate change and other ecological destruction has made many people negative about humanity. How can we feel good about ourselves when our species is suicidal and ecocidal?
I will discuss the necessity of grief in order to work effectively. We have to mourn our losses, including the fact that previous environmental efforts have failed (Speth) in order to move forward.
8) I am very interested in the technique of Dynamic Facilitation, and the political model that utilizes it, Wise Democracy. I need to learn much more about this, but there is a lot of promising material here.
9) Applying psychological writing about suicide to humanity and climate change (also EO Wilson’s piece, “Is humanity suicidal?”)
10) Considering Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to think about climate change activism. What needs do people need to have met, internally and externally, before they can acknowledge the horrifying truth of climate change?
11) Considering apocalyptic films, especially Zombie movies, as allegories for climate change. (Starvation and desperation make humans seem like zombies; when people are hungry and hopeless, they get that dead look in their eye, and can become highly destructive.) What can we learn if we think about Zombie’s as unconscious symbols of starving climate refugees?
Ideas for blog-based activities and activism.
These are ideas involve a higher level of reader/ activist participation.
1) Gathering the Best Writing About and Metaphors for Climate Change
Sharing my favorite passages of writing on climate, and asking readers to share their favorite passages. We can create a storehouse of clear, evocative writing. It will be a resource for writers, and all members of the Human Climate Movement who seek to articulate our situation to others.
2) Inviting Academics, Students, Environmental Organizations, and Concerned Citizens to Submit Proposals
I have written about the benefits of open-sourcing strategy for the Human Climate Movement. But I would like to (hopefully with some help) send out a “Call for Papers” on HCM strategy to academic departments, climate groups, and climate writers. Maybe there could be a prize fund for top submissions. Maybe this could be undertaken with an organization who wanted to partner?
3) Creating a Social Media Climate Truth Squad
Inviting readers/ activists to become involved in spreading Climate Truth using social media.
Activities of this squad would include:
*Using twitter and Facebook to call out individual authors and editors of articles in the NYT and other mainstream news outlets (especially left-leaning ones) that publish articles that, omit climate change when it is highly relevant (such as when discussing extreme weather), minimize the threat (by using phrases like, “our grandchildren”), and otherwise feed the Climate Lie.
Journalists fear the wrath of deniers when they write about climate change, but the Human Climate Movement does not aggressively push them towards truth. We would try to change that.
*Speaking Climate Truth to friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. We could have coordinated messages… maybe a “Climate Crisis Wake Up Call of the Day” that people could share.
Speaking personally, I always feel anxious when I say something on FB about climate change to someone who I know from a different context. I worry that they will be angry at me for bringing up the terrible, horrifying news. But, on the whole, I have been pleasantly surprised at how well my comments have been received! People want to talk about climate change, they just don’t know how.
4) Organizing Demonstrations After Severe Weather Events
I have written elsewhere about why civil disobedience and protest tactics do not address the fundamental psychological challenge of accepting climate change—people’s anxiety and terror— and thus should not be assumed to be the best tactics.
One of the reasons why I argue that these tactics will not be as effective as they were for the Civil Rights Movement is that the technology of the day is different. The 1960s was an era of the Television. Marches and sit-ins were televised to great effect. Now we live in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Memes and virality. Evocative images can spread extremely quickly. And extreme weather and its damage is highly evocative.
I envision a small group of demonstrators creating highly evocative, sharable images by going to flooded/ drought stricken areas holding signs/ banners that say, “Climate change keeps attacking us. When will we fight back?” Or, simply something like, “This is climate change.”
Sending the message, visually and repetitively, that climate change is already wreaking havoc on nature and humanity, could be highly effective in overcoming emotional denial.
5) Develop the Human Climate Pledge App
I have described the use of an App that would coordinate and track the taking of the Human Climate Pledge. I have received offers from readers who are willing to develop this. I hope to work with them to make this a reality.