Over the last few months I have been exploring ideas around society’s collective negligence of the current climate crises. In an effort to bring more people into the climate action community, I began looking for reasons why people, against their own self-interest, choose to ignore or remain inactive about climate change.

The research presented three ideas that have shaped the direction of my thesis work. The first is that cognitive biases which evolved to protect the ego, have become barriers against coming to terms with the reality of our climate situation. Secondly, an emerging idea in modern psychology is that Earth systems effect psychological well-being in the same way that family and social systems do. Finally, contrary to popular belief, a majority of Americans consider themselves either alarmed by, concerned about, or cautious of the conclusions of climate scientists about climate change.

Setting aside the 13% who self-identify as “alarmed”, I posit that by activating the 53% of Americans who are open to the science on climate change but are not currently taking action, a critical mass will be reached, the scale of public opinion will be tipped, and a call to climate action will be answered.



Although my user group seems fairly well defined, in order to find real-live-humans to speak with, I’ll have to get a bit more specific. Citing primary research, anecdotes, and personal experience, I’ve narrowed down the user group to 3 (as of now vague) archetypes.

1. 65+, middle class, retired, wants to enjoy what she’s worked hard for, has lots of free time.
2. GenX, middle class, married with children who believe in climate change but are "too busy" but could prioritize it.
3. the rich, powerful, and influential.

To build out my user personas, I plan on reaching out through friends and family to people who meet the qualifications of my user groups and conducting short survey interviews.

Up until now, I’ve conducted interviews exclusively with experts around the area of climate action, so most of what I know about this user group is from cultural and personal experience. That’s why I’ll be focusing my questions to learn as much as I can about these user’s groups attitudes about climate change.



  • Why or why not is a healthy earth system important to you?
  • As you understand it, what is the difference, if any, between climate change and global warming?
  • What do you think are the most likely outcomes of climate change?
  • In what ways, if any, have you been affected by climate change?
  • How do you expect to be affected by climate change in the future?
  • Who do you think is most likely to be affected by climate change?
  • re you concerned about climate change effecting people you care about either directly or indirectly?
  • What adaptations, if any, have you made in your life because of environmental issues?
  • How do you feel about doing more than you’ve done in the past?
  • Do you think your personal actions have an impact on climate change?
  • Do you think our societal actions have an impact on climate change?
  • Do you think our government’s actions have an impact on climate change?
  • Do you think industry practices have an impact on climate change?
  • What kind of action, if any, would you like to see taken to combat climate change? (social, personal, political/regulatory)
  • Do you now or have you ever supported a social or political cause?
  • If yes, for or against what causes?
  • How would you consider taking action against climate change in the future?
Karen Vellensky