Taking care of those who take care of us: assessing and building psychosocial resilience among adaptation professionals | Susanne Moser
Dr. Susanne Moser is Director and Principal Researcher of Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, based in Hadley, MA, a Research Faculty in the Environmental Studies Department of Antioch University New England and an Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at UMass-Amherst. In her research and work with local, state and federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, foundations, private-sector entities and other researchers, Susi focuses on adaptation to climate change, especially in coastal areas, resilience, transformation, decision support, and effective climate change communication in support of social change. Dr. Moser is a geographer by training (Ph.D. 1997, Clark University). Previously she served as a Social Science Research Fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, a Research Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, served as staff scientist for climate change for the Union of Concerned Scientists, and has worked for the Heinz Center in Washington, DC. Susanne Moser is co-editor with Max Boykoff (University of Colorado-Boulder) of a prize-winning edited volume on Successful Adaptation (Routledge, 2013), and with Lisa Dilling (University of Colorado-Boulder) of a groundbreaking anthology on climate change communication, called Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change, published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press. She contributed to the Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports of Working Group 2 of the IPCC, served as Review Editor for the IPCC Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” and participated in the Scientific Steering Committee for the Special Report on the “Impacts of 1.5°C and Associated Emissions Pathways.” She also was a member of the federal advisory committee on the Third US National Climate Assessment, co-lead that committee’s Engagement and Communication working group, and served as one of the Convening Lead Authors on the assessment’s coastal chapter. Over the past ten years she contributed repeatedly to California’s state-focused climate assessments. She is a prolific writer, an inspiring speaker and has served on scientific advisory boards for Future Earth, the International Science Council (formerly, International Social Science Council), the International Human Dimensions Program, US National Research Council, and numerous other organizations. Susi is a fellow of the Aldo Leopold Leadership, Kavli Frontiers of Science, Donella Meadows Leadership, Google Science Communication, and Walton Sustainability Solutions Programs.
Dr. Moser will be discussing her paper: Taking Care of Those Who Take Care of Us: Assessing and Building Psychosocial Resilience Among Adaptation Professionals
Practice-relevant work on climate change adaptation to date has largely focused on developing scientific information, tools, guidance and, more recently, finance vehicles to support adaptation planning and implementation. Trainings have focused on technical skill-building and networking. Meanwhile a growing body of work is acknowledging and exploring the psychological impacts of climate change on the general population. This has brought growing attention to experiences such as climate grief, climate
trauma and eco-anxiety. Little work exists to date, however, on how those working directly on climate impacts and adaptation experience their work and what their needs might be.
This presentation will offer initial findings from a survey of US adaptation professionals and others working at the “frontlines” of climate change, assessing the growing demands on, pressures experienced by, and psychosocial support needs of those dealing daily with the impacts of climate change and building greater resilience. Survey participants simultaneously face a) severe climate change impacts themselves, while b) having the professional obligation (and desire) to support their communities as they are affected by climate change impacts and potentially face transformational change (e.g., coastal retreat). Initial survey findings suggest that there is widespread grief, fear, worry, and burn-out, albeit rarely spoken about in public. Survey respondents also point to aggravating stressors related to the challenges involved in enacting adaptation, hostile responses from affected communities and growing demands to address long-standing racism and injustice. This has significant consequences for the ability of adaptation professionals to serve their stakeholders effectively over the long haul.
These initial findings serve as motivation and baseline for a project currently mobilizing, aimed at developing support mechanisms for adaptation professionals, including peer support networks, training materials and resources, and shifts in organizational culture that embraces the psychosocial needs of their employees as equal to the common emphasis on technical skill-building and professional development.