Wil Sillen's post

Wil Sillen

29 w

Interview with Norwegian 'climate psychologist' Per Espen Stoknes: "It's all about how you tell the story" By: Teun Schreuder Mass extinctions, devastating hurricanes and scorching heat waves; daily we are exposed to messages that predict the demise of humanity. That is counterproductive for engagement and innovation, says Norwegian psychologist and former politician Per Espen Stoknes. Especially now that crises follow each other in rapid succession. Per Espen Stoknes is a Norwegian psychologist and politician. He became internationally known for his TEDtalk on the psychology behind climate reporting. He used the term apocalypse fatigue to describe how people are paralyzed by doomsday stories. Stoknes advocates a new way of communicating, in which social interaction and success stories predominate. Five years ago you indicated that we suffer from apocalypse fatigue. What do you think is the current state of our focus on crises? “We know from scientific research that people have a 'limited pool of worry' – a limited capacity to care. The human brain is like a bucket in that regard. In 2018 and 2019, climate probably occupied a large part of this worry bucket. Then came the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions. The war in Ukraine has recently been added to this, we are now in the middle of an energy crisis and we feel the threat of nuclear war. All these worries are fighting for a limited space in our heads. It is impossible to divide our attention equally.” How can we still resist apocalypse fatigue? “Our brain pays more attention to a crisis that affects us directly. Climate change sometimes feels abstract and distant, but the energy crisis affects us personally. It obviously helps for both if we install solar panels, install heat pumps and insulate our houses. These are actions that you can do yourself. That gives ownership that counteracts the feeling of apocalypse fatigue. It has also been proven that these kinds of adjustments inspire your environment. If you install solar panels, it becomes more likely that your neighbor will do the same. A wave of individual actions can create support for structural change." What do you think the recent energy crisis means for the climate? “In my view, there is no doubt that the current crisis will accelerate the energy transition. There is no turning back. Confidence in Russia has been swept away. Countries have a great opportunity to strengthen their energy security with energy from renewable sources. Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Not everyone can afford solar panels and heat pumps. How do you ensure that you do not lose your connection with this group? “It is indeed important that we do not lose sight of this group. The government has an important role to play here. Firstly, the energy crisis calls for a progressive tax system, taxing the extreme turnover of utilities and fossil feedstock producers. Secondly, there must be subsidies and lease constructions for people who want to purchase an electric car, solar panels and heat pumps, but cannot pay for it immediately. Third, I believe in a universal basic income. Everyone should get a fair share of the national income. I also think that the energy crisis is an opportunity for new business models. Instead of paying for a device, you will soon be paying for a service: temperature-as-a-service, for example via lease constructions. This way you avoid large initial individual investments.” Who's next if we really want to take advantage of the current crises? “We need the synergy of companies, governments and the individual if we want to change the system. The government can support companies by removing risk, enabling them to innovate. Companies must show courage with innovations and expand their portfolio to products that are easy for consumers to use. And individuals need to push businesses and governments into action. In addition, the individual plays an important role in spreading success stories. Are you enthusiastic about your new heat pump or what your solar panels do for your energy bill? Then share this, for example on the WeDontHaveTime platform! Enthusiasm is contagious and hopefully encourages even more people to change.” What do you currently think of the rhetoric that politicians use in the climate debate? “In my view, the left end of the spectrum is still in 'disaster mode' and pointing an accusing finger at capitalism. Environmentalists blame consumers and right-wing politicians blame the government. That offers stage space for the people who are angry. While, how special, exciting and sexy it can be if we can create a new healthy and clean society.” How would you, as a politician, tell the climate story? “Politicians can talk more often about the opportunities for safety, health and the economy, instead of 'global warming' and 'climate change'. Because these three topics are, albeit indirectly, all intertwined with the climate. Security also means independence. Independent from Russia and dubious regimes of oil states from the east. Security is therefore investing in renewable energy, so that we are no longer at the mercy of other countries. We should call this aspiration 'Energy Freedom'. Health is strongly related to the way we live. If we change our diet to a more plant-based diet, it will have positive consequences for our health. We also emit less greenhouse gases and give nature more space if we exchange meat for plant-based and local food. This means fewer weather extremes, less invasive species and fewer diseases. Health and energy independence also contribute to a good economy. The energy transition offers room for millions of extra jobs. And because we start producing locally, we save import costs on fossil raw materials and we stimulate domestic industry. Those are the three pillars of every campaign ticked off. It's all about how you tell the story.” Are you optimistic that humanity can turn the tide in time? “I don't think optimism is very helpful, because in that case your mind expects things to work out. The problem is that we are not yet finished with the challenges of climate change. That will take decades. So sooner or later optimism will run out. An alternative attitude that I feel more at home with is skepticism. I also don't know exactly what will happen in the near future, but the skeptic is fundamentally open to everything. Therefore, the coming decades will be a huge opportunity for innovation, surprises and even human, spiritual growth. We are at a turning point that is exciting and fun at the same time. That's where I get my energy from."

  • Sweta Chakraborty

    29 w


    • Johannes Luiga

      29 w

      Thanks Wil for sharing these great thoughts from Per Espen

      • Daryl Cleary

        29 w

        The sooner we stop fuel the more we can save.

        Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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