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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - June 2017 - Kansas City
How Is Climate Change Affecting You?
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
There is no controversy in the scientific community about global warming and the subsequent climate change. According to the NASA website, “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
As a mental health professional I am concerned about how this environmental change is affecting each of us emotionally and socially. I also wonder how each of us will respond to this information. It turns out I am not the only one asking this question.
Doctors Janet Yang and Lee Ann Kahlor, professors at UT, Austin, conducted a study about why many Americans, though believing global warming is happening (sixty-two percent) don’t seem to know why climate change is occurring (forty-nine percent).
Yang and Kahlor found that those who had negative feelings toward climate change like fear, depression and anxiety actively sought more information about it. They also saw climate change as having serious risks, and considered their current knowledge about it insufficient.
Those driven by positive affect toward climate change with emotional states marked by hopefulness, excitement and happiness, actively avoided exposure to additional information on the issue. They also thought climate change presented little risk to nature and humans and believed they had sufficient information.
They also found that the social environment has the potential to strongly influence whether we seek or avoid climate change information. This, the researchers say, is because we are often around people who agree with us about important issues, reinforce our perception of risk and support or discourage further action.
The Yale Center for Climate Change Communication in a survey on science and risk communication found that Communitarians and Egalitarians believed and supported action on climate change. Hierarchists and Individualists tended to deny and oppose action. Those who were worried, interested or hopeful, were more inclined to take action and those who reacted with fear might take no action.
So, you might be asking yourself, “How am I responding emotionally to this environmental shift?” You may also be wondering what you can do to take action.
I suggest two channels of action. One is for your personal sense of security and happiness and the other is about your contribution to the environmental issues. Both will help your brain produce feel-good hormones.
Alex Korb, Ph.D., in his book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression One Small Change at a Time, suggests four things we can do to change the brain chemistry of fear, worry, depression and anxiety into feelings of well-being, security and hope:
Gratitude: Ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?”
Name it: describing the emotions helps to reduce it
Power of touch: hugs, a pat on the back, even a handshake, or a massage
Make a decision: choosing a path of action.
Along with many others, I have found that supporting groups that help people and the environment with the effects of climate change makes my worry and depression change to hopefulness.
Some of the organizations that give great information and take political action are: The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Organic Consumers Association.
Some local groups that reach out to those in need are Heart to Heart International, Harvesters and the American Red Cross. There are other organizations dedicated to helping refugees displaced by war and natural disasters.
Where are you in this process? Think about what you can do to face the facts, calm yourself and take action for others and the environment!
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to