Go hunting for psychological elements in the global warming story and you find them by the dozens.
Not just different types of denial ... and its silent twin, repression. And not just the "psychologies," so to speak, of how you react to those who appear to be in denial about global warming. (Ever find yourself feeling a little smug -- "psychologically superioristic" -- toward them?)
Rather, you'll find a whole zoo of psychological dimensions -- some ugly, some beautiful -- in how we react to and deal with the increasingly momentous news from scientists about how dangerous and transformative climate change increasingly is.
If you look, you might notice the psychologies of:
Great leadership in a great crisis. (see FDR et al below)
Our concern for our children's future (Do we really care?)
How we accept each other's psychological differences. (Which of the "Six Americas" -- depicted in the circle graph above -- are you in: alarmed, disengaged, dismissive?)
How our "affect" (deep mood) may change with rising heat or dwindling resources, or hunger.
How exciting the new group efforts and the finding of inventive solutions can be. (See Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland below.)
Of our impish desire to witness the horror we need to prevent before we prevent it ... which, of course, wouldn't work. (See Edgar Allen Poe and "Apocalyptic glee" below.)
There are many others, plus, of course, perhaps the most important psychology of all: sanity.
What would sanity look like in the face of such a crisis?
Here is a list of just some of the many "psychologies" this reporter has spotted during the past five years covering global warming. They have been confirmed and elaborated on in conversations with various psychologists.
How many of them do you see in others -- or in yourself? Can you add any?
* * * * * *
"We have nothing to fear ... but fear itself!"
--FDR's most famous words, delivered in 1933 when assuming leadership in the Great Depression.
FDR was talking to everyone about their psychologies, especially fear.
Translation: Be your own shrink, get control of your feelings, we gotta pull together now.
Great leaders instinctively do such "meta-psychology" when asking for group cohesion in some great effort -- as Shakespeare knew when writing his fictional Henry V's famous "Once more into the breach" exhortation to the English soldiers:
"Imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon..."
There is psychology also in how FDR says what he says in that grainy 1933 film clip (and in how actors deliver Henry V). FDR is bright, upbeat -- modeling the emotional posture needed amid such odds, just as parents instinctively do for children -- and some government leaders now when speaking of the growing climate crisis.
The leader sets both the intellectual and the psychological tone.
Even just to admit that global warming is frightening can be liberating, say psychologists.
It may free you to stop feeling bad about feeling bad about global warming, and allow you to get down to just feeling bad about global warming -- a far more productive attitude.
Do we really care what shape we leave Earth in for our children?