Gail Hochachka (Part 1) – The Psychology of Climate Change: Understanding the Causes and Finding Solutions to the Great Challenge of Our Time

Climate Change Researcher Gail Hochachka

Climate change researcher, sustainable development expert, and activist Gail Hochachka works on the front lines of climate change research, asking—and answering—questions like: How does the way we make meaning, at all our different stages of development, relate to the ways we act on climate change? How can we foster more engagement with climate change? Is climate action scalable? And how are we going to show up for the people who are facing the greatest impacts? So far, in searching for solutions, we have largely neglected tapping into the human dimensions of the problem—the ways we understand climate change, the ways we respond, and the ways we can communicate together and make decisions about how to act. Herein lies the potential to come up with more viable solutions than we have so far, and this is the focus of Gail’s current research.

Climate change is such a hugely complex and also emotional issue, it is understandably hard for anyone to wrap their head around it, Gail tells us, but the good news is that research is showing that taking action—in whatever way seems most appropriate and meaningful to each individual—is scalable, and that there are ways, which Gail outlines, of creating meaningful communication between people who have very different understandings, to where people can actually come to a place of agreement on how to move forward. Gail’s deep understanding of integral theory and stages of psychological development, combined with her extensive experience in sustainable development, gives her a uniquely insightful perspective on ways of confronting the climate challenge. Gail relates that, surprisingly, a positive way to look at climate change has come to light, which is that climate change is actually presenting us with an opportunity—an opportunity to become more conscious about the way we live, to the great benefit of people and planet. Recorded January 18, 2023.

“We know that individuals collectively created the problem of climate change…but when it comes to solutions, we don’t honor that we individuals count.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing Gail Hochachka, climate change expert & researcher at the University of British Columbia, who brings a profound integral understanding to the way we look at climate change (01:05)
  • What are the most exciting research findings? Global problems are actually global symptoms, and we need to look at what shaped the actual problems to come up with effective solutions (02:24)
  • When we integrate the human dimensions into the global environmental problems, solutions become more apparent (03:47)
  • How much of climate change can we actually make meaning of? We make a whole mental model based on only a fragment of the problem (04:32)
  • The knowledge deficit model: do we do the right thing and respond skillfully if we have all the knowledge we need? No. (06:15)
  • The value action gap in climate change: when it comes to making changes in our lifestyle, we don’t (08:24)
  • The need to foster worldcentric awareness in order to foster climate action (10:08)
  • Gnostic intermediaries: speaking across different cultures, translating concepts across space & time, translating meaning across developmental stages (13:14) 
  • How to approach engagement on environmental issues and the 5 why’s of what is most important to people (15:16)
  • How to get people together and discuss climate change (18:54)
  • Considering supply chains and the individuals who add value at each stage of the chain allows people to realize both common ground and that these are problems we all share (23:20)
  • Interdependence reflection: reflecting on Indra’s net ends up as a meditation on boundless gratitude (27:10) 
  • We’re all talking from our fragments (29:47)
  • Later stages of development and of meaning making make for more flexibility around your attachment to yourself, greater self-responsibility (30:32)
  • Recommended climate change adaptations and indigenous cosmologies: given sovereignty of their own meaning making, the solutions are better connected to reality—and more likely to be implemented (36:03)
  • Re-owning your sovereignty in relation to the issue is very empowering (38:43)
  • The process of “photovoice:” taking photos in response to the question, what does climate change mean to me? (39:57)
  • How does meaning making change as we mature developmentally? The object of awareness becomes more subtle, the complexity of thought changes, and the future comes more online (41:53)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Finding One’s Own Soul-Centric Climate Action [Live Online Course]

with Gail Hochachka & Lisa Gibson, August 16th & 23rd, 12 pm Mountain Time

Climate change researcher Gail Hochachka

Gail Hochachka, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D. works with the human dimensions of climate change using a transdisciplinary, integral approach. Her work focuses on understanding how people make meaning of climate change and how to engage with diverse groups towards a shared sense of the climate challenge. Her research has been published in various academic journals and has been used to support non-profit, private, and city actors in advancing climate action. Prior to this, Gail did her PhD at the University of Oslo on how climate change adaptation can account for meaning-making stages in diverse social groups and be carried out in a transformative manner, with fieldwork in Guatemala. Gail also has substantial previous NGO experience working in sustainable development in Latin America and Africa, and co-founded Integral Without Borders Institute. She is based in Vancouver, Canada,, and on her Recent Publications webpage, you can find a number of articles she drew from in this podcast:

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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