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New publication: Thinking about climate change and polarisation together

How to start a new conversation

Tackling our most pressing problems like climate change requires ground-breaking solutions that can reach broad societal consensus, but that are impossible to achieve in the context of an increasingly polarised discourse in Western societies. People increasingly live in separate, very different realities and ideological bubbles, and public conversation around our most pressing issues has become highly dysfunctional. The shutdown of pluralistic conversation stifles the creativity that is needed for solving the most pressing deep-rooted social and ecological problems.

This guide is for activists who are worried that the more our societies drift apart, the more difficult it will be to achieve the necessary societal support to address the most pressing issues, such as climate change, and to advance a more just and sustainable world.

But what is really driving polarisation? What brought us to the situation we’re in? And how is all this related to the work environmentalists are doing? Is there anything change agents in civil society can do to depolarise and reduce the growing contempt?

This guide is based on our research over the past few years as well as our experience with a range of methods to this day, in particular during a recent series of exploratory online workshops with 25 activists and change agents.

Polarisation is not something that can be addressed by looking for the problem on the other side, for example by blaming far-right populist leaders and right-wing groups for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. All this might be true and important to bring to the table, but more important for environmental and social activists is a holistic analysis that includes one’s own role and responsibilities in the situation.

Ideological bubbles keep us trapped in certain ways of thinking and encourage us to reject anything that challenges them. We must grow beyond these bubbles if we want to meet the considerable challenges we face in our societies. When we question our preconceptions, we tap into new ways of seeing and new insights that can make a significant impact.

The guide includes some of the methods we have explored and some advice on how to design workshops and meetings. They put an emphasis on growing awareness of our own cognitive biases and psychological processes. By understanding these we can step back from our ideological frames and broaden our horizons.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss these ideas. We're also happy to help if you would like to host an event in your organisation on these questions.

You can download the guide here.


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