Feelings about climate change are complicated

Last year the judge verdict (in the Urgenda lawsuit) was the Dutch State is currently doing too little to achieve the objectives of the Energy Agreement. And thereby is insufficiently protecting its citizens from the consequences of climate change. Nevertheless, this subject still has little priority in The Hague.

Somewhere far back in the weekend paper I read that the Dutch cabinet does not find it necessary ‘for the time being’ to close coal-fired power stations. Decision therefore postponed, till the end of 2017. Then conduct new investigations, then assess if closure comes ‘into view’.

Are the goals so difficult to achieve? Well no. By 2020, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 25% compared to 1990 and 14% of the energy used in the Netherlands must be sustainable. Still appears to be difficult though. Matter postponed. The citizens don’t seem to care a lot either.

Terrifying monologue versus open dialogue

A ‘stunned’ Greenpeace responds in the same newspaper article: “The climate doesn’t wait for lingering politicians and new reports. Currently, it’s more than 20 degrees warmer than normal on the North Pole. Future generations will blame us for keeping coal-fired power stations unnecessarily open.”

I am struck by fear. Terribly difficult issue! Resistance! The Act Now approach of organizations like Greenpeace make us feel scared. When a mind thinks about new information, and this is scary, it doesn’t resonate. Environmentalists believe education should motivate us to embark on creating a better environment. However, those few people who are educated on the topic of climate change, experience feelings of loss, despair and powerlessness. This is distressing and hard for humans. These are feelings that we want to avoid. We turn away.

So how does one start a good conversation about climate change? According to climate psychologist Renee Lertzman, creating more time and space around the topic is a good start. This creates ‘headspace’ to think about what living with the knowledge of climate change actually means to you as human being. Hearing how someone else feels, makes you listen. When people feel it’s accepted, and when it’s safe, then a change can come about. How do you want to feel about your existence on this planet? What the environmentalist’s objective should be, conducting a motivational discussion on climate change, starts to become possible. It’s not about pushing, but more about inviting.

A little compassion please!

The sense of urgency (Act Now!) needs to be removed from the subject of climate change. The change will be slow. Realizing the objectives of the Energy Agreement is a first small step. But a very important one. When people find that they can bring about a change and have some influence, however little, they are more likely to invest. Tackling climate change will become something tangible. In small steps. Sure, the greenhouse gas emitting systems are colossal and flared throughout our planet. But raising fear only results in aversion.

Greenpeace could have also asked the journalist: “What does it mean to you to live with the knowledge of climate change?” He or she would said something like: “I’m very worried!” “That’s very understandable. For you and for me, climate change provides daily dilemmas. This is why most people turn away from the matter. Even our politicians, who should act in our best interest. These goals are perfectly feasible and mark a beautiful beginning of a new human existence. An existence in which we no longer have to be ashamed and feel guilty, but instead can be be proud of how we choose to feel about our daily lives. Visit our website and read how people in the Netherlands express their views on climate change. Don’t forget to remind our government of their duty to make this possible for us. Enjoy the rest of your day!”