Climate workshop delves into the psychology of climate change

Raena Parsons

A workshop called Connecting to Climate hosted by the National Park Service Aug. 4-5 will go a step further than a typical climate change seminar, according to coordinator Raena Parsons.

“The focus of the workshop isn’t on climate change science, but more of the behavioral side of how people create beliefs of climate change and the psychology of it,” Parsons said.

According to a report by the American Psychological Association Task Force, structural and psychological barriers affect how individuals take action on climate change. Some people react by feeling guilty and unable to  make a difference, while others may engage in small token actions that don’t result in a sustainable solution.

The workshop is aimed at educators who can urge people into action, instead of shutting out the negative feelings that discussions of climate change can bring.

“We’re really looking at how do you communicate with people about climate change to get positive action and behavior changes,” Parsons said. The workshop is for educators in the community, who will pass on what they learn to their students and peers.

Before the workshop begins, participants will be given reading material focusing on the scientific basis of climate change. Parsons said the workshop will follow a Four Tier Program Arch, the first day looking at science and cultural content and how climate change will affect the islands through wildfires, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

The second part is a shared interpretive experience out in kayaks in the water using a method of discussion called World Cafe.

“I’ve never done it on the water before, so it’ll be interesting to see how we do that,” Parsons said. “We’ll be talking about the psychology of climate change, formation of climate beliefs, how to debunk myths without backfire and so on.”

The morning of the second day will be facilitated dialogue, and the last half will focus on community climate change solutions to implement in the community.

Sharon Massey, a middle school science teacher, is taking the workshop to incorporate into her school curriculum at Spring Street International School.

“We look at environmental problems and problem solving, we get to know our island intimately so we have a relationship to place and an ethic of land stewardship, we become naturalists so we understand the workings of the natural world,” Massey said. She currently takes her students out into the field on the island, working with the local organizations to address issues of water quality, habitat restoration and enhancement, and more.

“I work with people, and knowing both the psychology of people’s denial, resistance, apathy to what is a pressing issue for us at this time on this planet can help me educate and understand,” Massey said. “The psychology of climate change can also mean breaking down and looking at components of the issue for a deeper understanding.”

The workshop will take place in Wescott Bay for the classroom discussions when the group is not on the water. The workshop is free for participants, funded by a $6,000 grant from Science Learning Network, and a $2,000 grant from National Park Service Fire Communication and Education Grant. There is still space for the two day workshop, contact Raena Parsons at Raena_Parsons@nps.gov.