Article out: How Cognitive Frames about Nature May Affect Felt Sense of Nature Connectedness

A paper based on my PhD research has just been published online by Ecopsychology Journal How Cognitive Frames about Nature May Affect Felt Sense of Nature Connectedness


Nature connectedness tends to be understood as a relatively stable trait, studied using survey-based methods. But this approach is not well suited to investigating the nuances and unconscious processes of subjective experience. This paper addresses these limitations by using an alternative approach. I analyze the lived experience of nature connectedness using a post-positivist transdisciplinary methodology. Research participants report restorative benefits from connecting with nature, but tensions and inconsistencies in their felt sense of connectedness can also be discerned. Using frame and metaphor analysis, I explore how particular ways of conceptualizing nature, which can be inferred by use of language, may be contributing to these tensions and inconsistencies. The analysis and interpretation I offer is informed by concepts and theories from ecopsychology, environmental philosophy, cognitive linguistics, and ecolinguistics. In this paper, language is understood to be a psychosocial phenomenon. In the research participants’ accounts I find language that promotes the nonhuman natural world as an object, that abstracts and homogenizes living beings and their habitats, that encourages seeing nature as external and separate, and that primes us to be fast and busy. How these conceptualizations could affect sense of connectedness is discussed. The insights generated in this paper contribute to our understanding of nature connectedness as a subjective experience and the ways in which particular conceptualizations may affect the quality of this experience. The paper also shows the methodological potential of frames and metaphor analysis and the contribution that ecolinguistics can make to ecopsychology research.

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Article out: Psychosocial factors influencing the experience of sustainability professionals

A paper based on my PhD research has just been published by Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal: Psychosocial factors influencing the experience of sustainability professionals. A limited number of free copies are available to download (this goes to blank page when limit is reached).

The purpose of this study is to gain insight into psychosocial factors influencing sustainability professionals in their work to lead by influencing and improving pro-environmental decision-making in their organisations and to increase understanding of psychosocial factors that affect their effectiveness in achieving desired results.

Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis as a framework, the study enquires into the lived experience of six research subjects. The participants are sustainability professionals and leaders from the UK and Canada. The primary data source is semi-structured interviews, analysed with micro-discourse analysis.

Key psychosocial factors involved in participants’ experience are identified, specifically psychological threat-coping strategies, psychological needs, motivation and vitality, finding complex interactions between them. Tensions and trade-offs between competency, relatedness and autonomy needs and coping strategies such as suppression of negative emotion and “deep green” identity are modelled in diagrams to show the dynamics. How these tensions are negotiated has implications for psychological well-being and effectiveness.

The concepts and models presented in this paper may be of practical use to sustainability professionals, environmentalists and organisation leaders, for example, in identifying interventions to develop inner resources, support authentic and effective action and disrupt maladaptive responses to ecological crisis.

The study contributes insight to understanding of underlying processes shaping environmental cognition and behaviour, particularly in relation to psychological threat-coping strategies and interacting factors. With a transdisciplinary approach, the methodology enables nuanced interpretation of complex phenomena to be generated.

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The Stories We Live By: a free online course in Ecolinguistics

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The Stories We Live By: a free online course in Ecolinguistics from the University of Gloucester and the International Ecolinguistics Association. The social and ecological issues that humanity currently faces are so severe that they call into question the fundamental stories … Continue reading

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Article out: transformation, adaptation and universalism

Global Discourse journal have published my article online. It’s a response to an article by Brian Heatley from Green House, Paris: optimism, pessimism and realism. A limited number of free copies are available to download here.

Global efforts to mitigate climate change are inadequate, making planning for adaptation to increases in temperature critically important. Adaptation comes in many forms, none of which are neutral. All responses have ethical and equity dimensions. With transformational adaptation, changes in values are likely. Looking ahead to 2100, Heatley anticipates that universalism values will come under threat from the impacts of 3-4°C warming. But breakdown of solidarity and disruption of international systems of trade and security is already within sight: self-protection values and isolationist tendencies are gaining in salience.

Self-protection values and unrealistic optimism are discussed in this paper as defences against the profound psychological threat posed by climate change. The dominant cultural worldview of progressivism is rendered untenable: we are not in control of nature. The project of progress as it is currently conceptualised must be forgotten not just for a hundred years as Heatley pleads, but altogether, and an alternative idea of human flourishing promoted instead. But who are the custodians of values that help us live in more harmonious relationship with the natural world? Who can champion adaptation as universalism? This paper asks whether spiritual leaders will be able to step up and perform this role.

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Psychosocial & climate psychology research in IPCC reports

Here is an article I recently wrote for the Climate Psychology Alliance website, calling the climate psychology community to action. “Although psychologists have been investigating climate change and related subjects for decades… the value of psychological contributions is not yet … Continue reading

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Bill McKibben is wrong: humans and nature are not ‘at war’

Using war as a metaphor to frame a response to something has a long history: we have the war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terror. Now Bill McKibben wishes us to have a war on climate change. Actually … Continue reading

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Flaws of eco-efficiency approach

[I originally posted this to another blog in 2011. Interesting how peak oil isn’t much discussed as an issue any more] When less is not more The low carbon economy promotes eco-efficiency: using fewer resources, releasing less pollution, having a less negative impact. … Continue reading

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