Description of policy cluster

The aim of the group is to explore the role of compassion for addressing climate change and other sustainability challenges and disseminate related knowledge and approaches (for policy integration, systemic and culture change, education).

It addresses the current lack of knowledge and applications of compassion in the field of climate change and sustainability to support individual, collective and system change.

The problem

Climate change is an increasing threat to healthy and sustainable development worldwide. However, the incremental policy approaches have not generated action at anywhere near the rate, scale or depth that is needed.

This is largely due to the fact that climate change has historically been framed as a purely external, and technical challenge. There is an urgent need for a more fundamental understanding of climate change and our relation to it that links together individuals, communities, institutions, and systems. 

The way forward

We are increasingly understanding that sustainability crises, such as climate change, have one root cause: they are a reflection of an inner, human crisis of disconnection or separation from self, others, and nature, that is grounded in our modern cultures.

Addressing climate change requires a shift away from those cultures and ways of thinking to more connected and compassionate mindsets. It’s about becoming a more caring society, instead of relentlessly and increasingly exhausting ourselves, others and the planet. 

The questions we address

  • What is the nature, and quality of our relationships?
  • How do we relate to ourselves, others and the world as a whole, and which conditions, skills and qualities influence these relationships?
  • How can we increasingly make choices that are life-giving and transformative rather than exploitative and life-threatening?
  • How can we then design measures, strategies and approaches that support this life-enhancing, transformative process across individual, collective and policy levels?
  • How can compassion be integrated into sustainability and climate approaches, to move beyond its current, partial focus on external and technological solutions?
  • What conditions and approaches can nourish a sense of compassion (for self, others, future generations and the planet) amongst the public and decision-makers?

Further reading

Bauer-Wu, Susan. 2023. A Future We Can Love.

Cook, L., Senge, P., Boell, M., & Funk, M. (2021, March 25).How We Show Up: Compassionate Systems in California K-12 Education [pdf]. North Andover, MA: Center for Systems Awareness.

Wamsler, C., Osberg, G., Osika, W., Hendersson, H., Mundaca, L. (2021) Linking internal and external transformation for sustainability and climate action: Towards a new research and policy agenda, Global Environmental Change, 71:102373. Online. (First systematic literature review in the field of inner-outer transformation)

Wamsler, C., Bristow, J. (2022) At the intersection of mind and climate change: Integrating inner dimensions of climate change into policymaking and practice, Climatic Change, 173(7). Online. To access to the revised figure, click here.

Wamsler, C. (2022) What the mind has to do with the climate crisis: Mindfulness and compassion as pathways to a more sustainable future; Mind&Life Insights Project: Journeys into the heart of contemplative science. Online.

Wamsler, C., Osberg, G. (2022) Transformative climate policy mainstreaming – Engaging the political and the personal, Global Sustainability 5, E13. Online.

Other related references can be accessed here:

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