interview, climate psychology, sustainability, design

Climate psychology — In conversation with Nadja Hirsch

Nadja Hirsch is a certified psychologist and has founded the Institute of Climate Psychology. Here, she advises politicians, administration and companies on how people can be supported in their climate-friendly behavior.

Nadja Hirsch

What exactly is the term “climate psychology” and why is it important in relation to the climate crisis?

In fact, there is no official definition of “climate psychology” in German-speaking countries. People often talk about environmental psychology. Environmental psychology studies the relationships between people and the environment. However, I have deliberately chosen the term “climate psychology” because I am interested in the interplay of different dimensions such as politics, society, economy and individuals.

Which psychological aspects play a role when it comes to motivating people to work for climate protection?

From current research, we know that there is no single factor that motivates people to behave in a climate-friendly manner. Rather, it is a combination of personal, social and situational aspects.

The prerequisite for climate-friendly behavior is the acceptance that we are experiencing man-made climate change. In Germany, a majority supports this scientific finding and also sees the need to do something. However, many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to changing specific things in everyday life. Knowledge alone is not enough to implement it. This makes it clear that you can save energy. However, knowledge of which specific devices, measures and behavioral changes make sense is often not available. Acquiring this action knowledge is sometimes very time-consuming because, for example, it is necessary to research what the individual steps are and what is suitable for the individual situation. Graphical representations of “step by step” instructions or checklists can be a valuable help for readers here.

Which factors motivate people to commit themselves to climate protection, and how can these motivations be strengthened?

In principle, people who have a strong connection to nature and a strong environmental awareness are more likely to make their lives sustainable. A positive cost-benefit balance also helps to change one's own behavior towards greater climate friendliness. A graphical illustration of the costs and benefits can help to remember positive effects that only come into effect in the medium or long term, e.g. on health, as benefits.

How can findings from climate psychology be integrated into concrete measures for climate protection in order to achieve greater acceptance and implementation among the population?

There has been a lot of talk about abstinence in the past. Of course, that doesn't motivate anyone. It is therefore important to show what will also change for the better. It is about creating a vision of what a climate-friendly life can look like. Here, pictures in particular can achieve a great effect and take people away.

The article was published in the column “Shaping the Future” in graphic magazine.


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