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Activating change: meeting the climate crisis inside-out

In the context of our ActivateChange project, we analyse how trainable cognitive, emotional and relational capacities relate to responsiveness and resilience to the climate crisis. While research into the effect of such capacities on sustainable behaviour and the psychological toll of climate change is still nascent, there is an urgent need to critically systematise this promising work and deploy insights from the wider evidence base to improve policy.
Against this background, the aim of the project is to conduct and compile substantive research and produce guidance upon how mindfulness and compassion can increase responsiveness and resilience in the face of the climate crisis. More specifically, we look into how mindfulness and compassion can:
  • Influence the mindsets and paradigms that underpin attitudes to the environment and related solutions;
  • Increase our ability to cope amid climate impacts (e.g. loss, ecological grief, anxiety, lifestyle change); and
  • Increase our ability to support change for sustainability at social, organisational and political levels (e.g. mitigation of cognitive biases and denial).
The outputs from the project include, among other things, a policy report, policy briefs, research articles, podcasts and diverse online events. The policy report was launched in spring 2022, following the UNFCCC COP 26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2021. The project outputs are based on:  i) a literature review, ii) in-depth interviews  with politicians and other policy-makers, and ii) a large-scale consultation amongst policy-makers, researchers and innovators to survey the field and collect the most promising thinking and interventions.
The project is lead by The Mindfulness Initiative (MI), incooperation with Lund University Centre for Susainability Studies (LUCSUS).  Other cooperation partner and project participants include the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, UK, and the World Wide Fund or Nature (WWF), the world’s leading independent conservation organisation. The project is further supported by MI's Patrons, including Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn (Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA).
Overview of project outcomes and activities so far:
  • Research article by Wamsler, C. & Bristow, J. (2022). At the intersection of mind and climate change: Integrating inner dimensions of climate change into policymaking and practice. Climatic Change, 173(7), Online.
  • Policy report by Bristow, J., Bell, R. & Wamsler, C. (2022) Reconnection – Meeting the climate crisis inside-out, Online
  • Mind&Life essay by Wamsler, C. (2022) What the mind has to do with the climate crisis, Essay written for the Mind&Life 35th anniversary. Online. See also related online Figure​ and Table.
  • One Earth Sangha essay by Wamsler, C. (2022) Climate and Mind: Mindfulness and compassion as pathways to a more sustainable future. One Earth Sangha. Reprint with permission from the Mind&Life Institute. Online.
  • PodCast presenting outcomes of the ActivateChange project. PodCase of the Lancaster Environment Centre’s S4A initiative, exploring the ongoing epochal paradigm shift in science with leading thinkers. Episode 6 on mindfulness and climate action. Host - David Tyfield. 
  • Popular science article by Bristow, J., presenting the outcomes of our ActivateChange project titled How can inner work help with climate action? See here.
  • Popular science article by Wamsler, C. (2022/2023) Sustainability is about relationships, extrakt (2022). Online. The Swedish version can be accessed here.
  • Climate Pioneer #2 with Jamie Bristow on why our minds matter, explaining outcomes of Wamsler & Bristow (2022) article. See here.
  • Book chapter by Wamsler, C. (2023) Vad våra inre liv har med klimatkrisen att göra (What our inner lives have to do with the climate crisis) in Journal of Social Medicine (Socialmedicinsk tidskrift), 100(3). See here.
  • Mind & Life podcast with Bristow J., on Policy, Practice, and Planet, and related outcomes of the ActivateChange project. Listen here.
  • PodCast with Bristow. J on the climate crisis, mindfulness and system change - presenting the outcomes of the ActivateChange project. Listen here
  • Popular research article titled 'Sustainability is about our relationships', published in extrakt. Online.
  • Draft report launch with Jon Kabat-Zinn. See here.
  • Final report launch with Caroline Lucas MP, Member of the British Parliament and former Green Party leader; Tom Rivett-Carnac, political lobbyist for the UNFCCC and an author on climate change policy; and Yoko Alender, Member of the Estonian Parliament and Chair of its Environment Committee. See here.
  • Project outcomes featured in the BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day by Vishvapani (06.05.2022).
  • Project outcomes featured in The Guardian.
  • European Parliament Event. See here.
For further outcomes see under research, publications and presentations.
Related projects: Mind4Change and TransVision. See also institutional project website at LU here.
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