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The Psychology of the Climate Crisis

Why should I take this Trinity Elective?

There is no other way to say this: our planet is dying and it is our fault. We are rapidly running out of time to save the planet, yet we are failing to take action. Why? This elective will examine the role of human psychology - human thought and behaviour - in the climate and biodiversity crises. We will examine three big-picture questions: what are the patterns of human thought and behaviour that have led to the current crisis; what are the current impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on human health, behaviour, and well-being; and how we can use our understanding of human thought and behaviour to address the crisis?

What will I learn

By learning about topics such as cognitive biases and motivated reasoning, political and social identities, money and power, human and social systems, morality, and the psychology of protest and civic action, you will better understand:

  • How human thought and behaviour, and our inventions - the structures and systems we have created - have led to the current crises;
  • How the climate crisis and biodiversity loss affect human health, behaviour, and well-being, and the need for climate justice and a just transition;
  • How human thought, emotion, and behaviour can be manipulated for better and for worse;
  • How to apply our knowledge of human psychology to motivate and provoke action.

What will I do?

Students will attend and view lectures, and will attend discussion sessions and workshops delivered and led by a multidisciplinary team. Students will also engage with a variety of readings and other media, and will complete a group and an individual assignment.

How will this be delivered?

This elective will be delivered using a blended format. This will include in-person face-to-face interactive lectures, asynchronous pre-recorded lectures, and flipped-classroom sessions in which students view a pre-recorded lecture in preparation for a face-to-face interactive discussion seminar.

There will also be two workshops aimed at supporting the students in their assessment tasks and in addressing the implications of their learning for themselves and others.

Blackboard will be utilised extensively for communicating with students and for sharing reading materials and links to other resources (e.g., recorded talks, podcasts, etc.).

Discussion boards will be established for communication and discussion of the material with peers.

How will this be assessed?

Working together in groups, students will create social media communications (Twitter threads or Instagram posts) aimed at changing public understanding of and action on climate change (40% of final mark).

Working alone, students will also produce a policy brief (<1500 words; 60% of final mark) that aims to provide an identified decision maker(s) (e.g., political group, business, public body, etc.) with a concise overview of the evidence on a specific climate-related issue and to outline solutions in the form of actionable recommendations for policy change.

Who can take this Trinity Elective?

Any eligible student may take this module apart from students in the Psychology programme.


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