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“There is hope”: students feel proactive and passionate following talks about climate change

Posted: 14th December 2023


Last week, we released the first of our new series on Climate Change, that we hope to continue over the coming months. In this article, I will cover just one of the ways in which the college is making an effort to create change.

On Tuesday 14h and Wednesday 15th of November, the AS students attended two informative and emotive assemblies surrounding climate change. On the Tuesday, the assembly was largely informational, reflecting on the current concerns about climate change, as well as providing a large amount of data as evidence to support this. This included statistics from the IPCC about what the future will look like for our generation if change is not made now, as well as presenting to us some of the shocking severe weather events around the world recently. If this was not shocking and fear-inducing enough, Zahra then presented a video of a farmer and two schoolgirls living in Kenya, who shared their experiences and perspectives on the extremities the country is facing due to climate change, in particular, the impacts of droughts and flooding. This was very hard-hitting. It showed us, as people who live in a country that isn’t yet seeing such drastic effects of climate change in our own lives, that it is real, it is personal and it is devastating. The positive impact of this assembly in sparking our passion was clearly demonstrated in the amount of fantastic questions we all had, and put together to ask the panel the next day.

On Wednesday 15th, we attended another assembly, this time a panel of three fantastic representatives from climate change charities who answered some of our questions about climate change. The range of speakers were fantastic, and offered us a well-rounded understanding of climate change from various perspectives. There was a representative from Client Earth, an environmental law charity who fights climate change using the law; they take action to ensure companies and governments are held accountable for environmental degradation and the failure to meet our Net Zero targets. There was a representative from Greenpeace, a charity that take “peaceful direct action” including lobbying and mobilizing members of the public, involving consumer pressure and exposing the causes of environmental destruction. The representative was a chemist, who answered our questions from an invaluable scientific perspective. Finally, there was a representative from the Climate Psychological Alliance, a group of practitioners who consider from a psychological perspective, our responses to the climate change crisis, researching environmental anxiety and climate change denial. I thought the speakers were excellent- truly knowledgeable and their passion for the environment shone through. The discussion was very impressive, it was intelligent, thoughtful and measured.

As a student passionate about psychology, something I found particularly insightful from the representative of the Climate Psychological Alliance, was the potential explanation of functional dissociation for why people deny or ignore climate change. It is so easy to detach ourselves from the environmental changes in the world if it is not actively happening to us, something that can be explained by the concept of functional dissociation. Psychologists teach us that we purposefully detach ourselves from the harsh realities in order to protect ourselves. In our subconsciouses, this absolves ourselves of any personal responsibility, removing the discomfort of feelings like guilt that can arise. Whether this is simply to remove any emotional pain or discomfort, or because one believes that feeling a proactive responsibility for the environment would have personal negative economic impacts, it is important to understand how and why people can detach themselves from the reality of climate change. However, psychologists and history in general has proven to us that the key to creating positive change is discomfort. If emotions of guilt, sadness and fear are not evoked and actively felt, it is impossible to have any motivation to be proactive. If we all feel emotionally (and physically) disconnected from climate change, we won’t do our part in making a change. This is why I believe the first assembly on Tuesday was so important. In particular, the emotions of fear, empathy and guilt evoked from Zahra’s video about the personal experiences of people in Kenya ensured we could no longer feel emotionally disconnected from climate change, increasing the chances of us students becoming proactive in aiding change.

Where the assembly on Tuesday left me with a helpful sense of impending doom, the panel discussion on Wednesday left me with a strong feeling of hope. Whilst the panel did share messages of an urgent need for change, a large part of the information shared was stories of positive change that has already been made, demonstrating that there is hope for a better, brighter future. I found that in particular, Seb from Client Earth’s stories of the organisation’s success in creating change were very uplifting. I thought the combination of the two assemblies was intuitive and constructive, each one aiding the other in portraying the most powerful and proactive message overall.

By Sophie Lunzer, student


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