The Climate is Changing: How Can We?

Event series at the IPU Berlin

Despite the decades of scientific evidence on human-made climate change and scientists´ appeal for immediate action, mitigation efforts remain insufficient. There is a consensus that major societal changes are needed to dampen the impact of climate change on ecological systems and human livelihoods, including collective changes in behaviour and lifestyles. The limits of mainstream psychological approaches in explaining human inaction and promoting pro-environmental behaviour are increasingly recognised, and a need for exploring irrational and unconscious processes preventing adaptive responses, as well as for a shift from focusing solely on individuals´ behaviour to encompassing wider social and cultural factors are deemed necessary.

In this event series, we will explore the possibilities for enriching the dominant discourses on the human response to the climate crisis by including psychodynamic and critical psychological perspectives. Moreover, we will discuss how psychologists can make a step further, advancing from recognising the necessity of collective action to advocating for climate justice and socioecological transformation across various fields of practice.


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Psychology and the climate crisis beyond behaviour change: critical, depth and existential perspectives

Lecturer: Dr. Matthew Adams
Date: 13.07.2023, 8 pm.
Language: English
This event will take place online only.

Psychological theories and methods are increasingly evident in the way government, business and NGOs develop information, communication and intervention strategies relating to climate crisis adaptation and mitigation. Matthew Adams will talk about some of the problems with framing our response to this crisis in the terminology and discourse of mainstream psychology, especially the focus on individual behaviour change, before considering alternative developments. He will argue that critical, depth and existential approaches in psychology encourage us to understand the problem of climate crisis in different ways, grappling with themes including the Anthropocene, uncertainty, loss, irrationality and the limits of individualism.

Matthew Adams is a Principal Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Brighton, UK. He is an interdisciplinary researcher, with a focus on human-nature and human-animal relations, especially in the context of climate crisis and Anthropocene. His most recent monograph is Anthropocene Psychology: Being a Human in a More-Than-Human World (2020). He is currently an AHRC Research, Development & Engagement Fellow (award no. AH/W006219/1, Oct 2022 - May 2024).

Past Events

Bursting the Climate Bubble

Lecturer: Sally Weintrobe
Date: 13.06.2023, 8 pm.
Language: English

Sally Weintrobe is a psychoanalyst and a Fellow of The British Psychoanalytical Society. She is a member of the Climate Psychology Alliance. Currently she Chairs the International Psychoanalytical Association’s Climate Committee. Her book (2021) “Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare” was published in German in May 2023 as “Psychische Ursachen der Klimakrise: Neoliberaler Exzeptionalismus und die Kultur der Achtlosigkeit”.

She will talk about the ways neoliberal culture fostered omnipotent thinking, denial of limits of our expansion and the lack of care for others, the nonhuman world and for the future. What happens when the climate bubble bursts, and we are left with the overwhelming truth? The awakening is followed by a range of difficult emotions. How do we deal with despair, anger, guilt, and the moral injury? Most importantly, how can we nurture a culture of care?

Panel Discussion - Psychology in the Climate Crisis: Call for Action

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Susanne Lanwerd, Prof. Dr. Christine Kirchhoff, Prof. Dr. Christian Hoffmann, M.Sc. Katharina van Bronswijk
Date: 27.06.2023, 8 pm.
Language: German
Alt-Moabit 91b, Room 04
Moderation: Dr. Sebastian Bobeth (environmental psychologist)

In the face of unprecedented threats to human health and well-being caused by climate change, there is growing recognition of the professional and scientific responsibility of psychologists to support mitigation. Last year The Professional Association of German Psychologists (BDP) proclaimed a Climate Decade for its association, placing psychological expertise as a central component in dealing with the climate crisis. Are we ready for such a task?

What are the ways our expertise can be used to increase awareness of the severity of damage we do to our environment and probable consequences of climate change on our civilisation? How can psychoanalysts´ focus on unconscious processes and defences contribute to the understanding of human indifference to the increasing threat? Can we empower citizens to take action? What are the ways to support people in building psychological resilience in the crisis? Should the work on climate-related anxiety and grief be integrated in psychotherapy education?

Most of all, is it time for reconsidering the utility of political neutrality in science and practice?

Through the lenses of environmental psychology, climate psychology, cultural studies and psychoanalysis, we will discuss the potential and responsibility of psychology to encourage collective action and contribute to a societal transformation necessary for mitigating the climate crisis.

About the speakers
Prof. Dr. Susanne Lanwerd teaches cultural studies, aesthetics and religious research at the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin (IPU). After her habilitation on the topic of religious aesthetics, she led European research projects whose findings were presented in exhibitions Amsterdam, Berlin, London. Since spring 2020 she has been working intensively on climate change; in 2021 she published "Corona im Klimawandel. Ein Essay", Würzburg.

Prof. Dr. phil. Christine Kirchhoff, Dipl.-Psych. Professor of Psychoanalysis, Subject and Cultural Theory at the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin (IPU), psychoanalyst in private practice (DPV/IPA). Focus of work: Metapsychology and psychoanalytic conceptual research, psychoanalysis and critical theory, time diagnostics, psychoanalysis and climate change.

Prof. Dr. Christian Hoffmann works as a moderator, consultant and researcher with a focus on mobility and sustainable behavior and is the division manager for environmental psychology at e-fect eG. In addition to his e-fect activities, he was a researcher at the Innovation Center for Mobility and Social Change GmbH (InnoZ), at Humboldt University Berlin, and in the Society and Technology Research Group (STRG) of DaimlerChrysler AG, among others. Since spring 2018, Christian Hoffmann has been a professor of psychology at the Hochschule für Medien, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft (HMKW) Berlin.

Katharina van Bronswijk studied psychology in Heidelberg and Berlin. She has her own practice as a behavioral therapist in Lüneburger Heide and works as a lecturer and author as well as a spokesperson for Psychologists for Future.