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Knowledge and Insight

Psychology, Human Rights and the Environment & Climate Crisis

14 October 2020 | by Knowledge and Insight

Over the past few months we have all been focussed on the Pandemic and the recent increase in infections poses new challenges.

As Stephen Reicher put it in his talk at the BPS Annual Conference:

"What is happening leads us to reconceptualise one of the basic questions in psychology: the relationship between the collective and the individual and between the individual and the State."

These relationships are particularly relevant to how we respond to the climate and environmental crisis and the impact these unprecedented experiences are having on human rights.

It has also brought the issue of public health to the front of everyone’s attention. How do we mobilise everybody to support the effort to control infections?

People are making sacrifices at all sorts of levels. Many have died. How we respond raises fundamental questions that concern human psychology and the need for us to engage with policymakers and the public has never been more urgent.

In November 2019 the BPS took a lead in working at an international level to bring together as many psychological societies as possible to give a stronger voice on global issues and the Lisbon Declaration on psychology and global health set out the mandate for future collaboration and there are now over 60 represented in monthly discussions.

This is the context in which the BPS Ethics Committee has brought together two new steering groups within the Society following discussions early in the year.

The first one aims to up our game on how we as psychologists contribute to addressing the climate and environmental crisis.

The second to work on how psychologists and psychological evidence can support the protection of human rights.

Both groups will report on their ongoing work to the Ethics Committee.

The environment and climate crisis steering group aims to promote efforts to mitigate the effects of and adapt to contemporary and future climate and environmental disruption.

It will bring members together from across the member networks to promote a unified and coordinated approach in order to maximise the impact of BPS contribution.

Group members include:

  • Tony Wainwright
  • Joseph Sweetman
  • Lorraine Whitmarsh
  • David Uzzell
  • Jan Maskell
  • Martin Milton

Lorraine Whitmarsh is interviewed by Jon Sutton in the Psychologist about her work and gives a really helpful overview of what the agenda of the group might include.

The Human Rights steering group aims to:

  • contribute to preventing Human Rights violations
  • to apply psychology to aid the survivors of Human Rights violations
  • to embed Human Rights approaches in psychological research, teaching and practice.

The group will bring members together from across the member networks to promote these aims and will develop links and partnerships in order to collaborate with other appropriate organisations nationally and internationally.

The recently established Global Network of Psychologists for Human Rights provides some idea of the range of topics the group may address.

Group members include:

  • Nimisha Patel
  • Tony Wainwright
  • Sook Yong
  • Derek Indoe
  • Rachel Tribe
  • Peter Kinderman

These initial groups have a specific task to scope out the respective areas to determine which topics to focus our efforts, given the breadth of both these major areas.

We will then put out a BPS wide call for members to get involved in the groups and encourage those from under-represented backgrounds to submit a statement of interest.

Both groups will have a very significant role in the future, and we intend to work vigorously, meeting quite frequently and with an early date for reporting on progress.

The groups are being supported by the Research and Impact Team – so if you have any queries or want to get in touch.

To do so please contact Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard (Head of Research and Impact)


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