2021 Spring



How to Talk About Climate Change
and Keep Your Friends

Instructor: Chuck Acker

Thursdays • 8 classes – 3/18-5/6 • 9:00 AM

Class size 5-24 students
7 seats remaining
Location: Zoom

How to Talk About Climate Change and Keep Your Friends will address the ideological divide in this country, particularly regarding climate change, and more generally, political issues. We will utilize the insights of cognitive psychology to understand how we develop and maintain our belief structures or World View (Weltanschaung) and why it is difficult to change what we believe. The class also offers some suggestions on how to respond to climate change skepticism or denial when we encounter it.  We are encouraged to look at ourselves and recognize our own biases.  Some of the ideas presented will seem counter-intuitive and will require considerable work to appreciate their effectiveness. Hopefully, by delving into these psychological and social processes, our course will help us to more empathetically deal with the position of the “other guy.”

It is essential that you use a particular book about cognitive processes which affect our beliefs about climate change. A major part of our discussion in class will be based upon this book by Per Esper Stoknes, Norwegian cognitive psychologist, entitled What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming.”  You will find this book easy reading, highly informative, sometimes amusing and hopefully mind-changing.

Textbook: In lieu of tuition, students are asked to purchase their textbook. Students should order it as soon as possible after registering for the course.

The textbook, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming:Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Espen Stoknes, April 2015, may be obtained directly from:

• Chelsea Green Publishing, 85 North Main St., Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001; 802-295-6300 or
• The ISBN Search link. Contact the UMASC office if you need help.

Syllabus: Students will use the syllabus (below) which describes basic principles of cognitive psychology as it applies to controversial subjects and a rich store of opinions, viewpoints and understandings pertinent to the nation’s ideological divisions. This syllabus is your guide to the course. Please refer to it and make full use of it.

  SYLLABUS: Course Guide by Week

Charles Acker holds a PhD in clinical and physiological psychology from UCLA to help him understand belief systems and mind-body relationships. In the distant past he worked with community leaders, interested older citizens, Senior College Network promoters and key UMA personnel to help bring Senior College to Augusta.