Climate Cafés: Why it’s good to talk

Jack Broadley and Guy Gladstone of the Climate Psychology Alliance, who host monthly Climate Cafés in Lewes, explain why talking about climate anxiety is a crucial step in taking climate action.

There have always been topics within polite British Society that people have stayed well clear of.  Famously in the 1950s it was “no sex please we’re British”, although the 1960s put paid to that! In the 80s and 90s it could be argued that wealth and conspicuous consumerism, despite the popularity of phrases like “loadsa money”, and Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good”, were topics seen but not acknowledged. Only very recently has the launch of so-called ‘death cafés’ and the proliferation of podcasts about dying and bereavement helped to counter the very British tendency to keep the subject of death out of sight and out of mind. 

The climate crisis is a slightly different matter. In today’s 24-hour newscycle, we are bombarded with images, pictures and emotive content of every extreme.  This summer we saw frightening images of forest fires in Canada and Australia, lethal floods in Italy, Turkey and North Africa, and good farming land turned to dust in America. Closer to home, temperatures were again hitting 40 degrees or more.  Globally, 2023 will officially be the hottest year on record.  

Yet despite (or perhaps because of) these clear signs of a global crisis, talking to friends and relatives about the climate and ecological emergency can still feel extremely difficult. Deep down, we may sense that something is badly wrong. But it feels like a huge social taboo to raise the subject – beyond commenting on the heat, or the lack of tomatoes, or the unseasonable weather.  

Why do we need to talk about the climate crisis?

Research findings from around the world tell us that people are experiencing elevated levels of worry and anxiety about the climate emergency. This is affecting their mental health, especially the youngest in society, the vulnerable, and those with existing mental health conditions.  These are the people with the least power and agency to act. Yet they will be most impacted by climate, ecological and social factors. At the same time, older generations, many of whom are in powerful leadership positions, are deliberately not talking honestly about the climate and ecological emergency. But the facts are clear: 99% of top global scientists tell us humanity needs to take immediate action to limit lasting damage to our biosphere, earth systems and our only home – the planet.    

Responding to this crisis, the Climate Psychology Alliance was formed in 2016. Its aim is to help people explore their responses to the climate and ecological crisis and to strengthen relationships and resilience for a just future.

To help people face difficult truths, the alliance started an initiative to hold Climate/Eco Cafés – safe spaces across the UK, which would be open to all.  The argument for the provision of such social spaces hinges on the principle that – to quote the American novelist James Baldwin (referring to racism) – “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but until something is faced, nothing can be changed.”

To be able to speak about and address our feelings around this critical subject is essential.  Climate/Eco Cafés have the specific brief to enable that.

So how do Climate/Eco Cafés work?

Eco-anxiety is real, and whatever you feel about climate change, we can agree that talking can help.  At a Climate or Eco Café, the climate crisis is taken as read. So, this is not an event for arguing about the validity of the science or on taking or not taking any action. It is simply an advice-free zone (with no pressure to act, join a group or change your mind on anything). It’s a safe place where your fears, uncertainties and other difficult feelings can be expressed and acknowledged.

You don’t need to book your place at a Climate or Eco Café. They are free, and you can just turn up at the start time and share your thoughts and feelings with a small group of friendly people.  The sessions are led by trained facilitators. 

When and where is the next Café? 

A Lewes Eco/Climate Café has been running monthly since spring 2023. A new season of 2024 cafés is due to start on Tuesday 16 January in the Studio Room at Lewes Depot Cinema. See details below.

These events are facilitated by us, Guy Gladstone and Jack Broadley, both Members of The Climate Psychology Alliance. If you have any question about these events, please ring Guy on 01323 891097. Whatever your thoughts and feelings about the climate crisis, we’d love to see you there!

Upcoming Climate Cafes

All cafés are held in the Studio Room at Depot Cinema & Kitchen on Pinwell Road in Lewes, starting at 6.30pm with no need to book. Everyone warmly welcome to come along.

Tuesday 16 January, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 13 February, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 12 March, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 9 April, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 14 May, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 18 June, 6.30-8.00pm
Tuesday 9 July, 6.30-8.00pm

An additional Climate Cafe is also being held at Lewes Climate Hub as part of its ‘How to be a Well Being’ season at 1.30pm-3pm on Wednesday 14 February. More details here