ACP-UK recognises the urgency of the climate and ecological crises and the need for action. As scientist-practitioners we actively seek reliable evidence to inform our positions and we recognise that environmental scientists have repeatedly warned us that the science is clear: the crises are real, human-made and pose a clear existential risk to the survival of our species and countless others on the planet., 
It is normal to feel powerless and hopeless given the facts of the climate emergency and stark reality of the crises. Our profession values the importance of acknowledging emotions; but still many of us will struggle to engage with the magnitude of what is happening to our world because doing so necessarily requires us to contemplate all that we have lost and stand to lose in the years to come. Climate change is our shared trauma.
As a profession we are well trained to reflect on our reality and to support others to engage with the resulting distress in containing ways. The profession has also come a long way towards recognising the importance of social action on issues such as racism and inequality, . We believe that collective action is good for personal wellbeing, and also has far greater impetus for political change than individual actions. And so we must connect with the despair and work through our denial, supporting others to do so too, including those with power, because we must act. The window of opportunity has not yet closed, but it soon will; and we need action for there to be hope.
“We will see acute trauma on a global scale, in response to extreme weather events, forced migration and conflict. This would be in addition to the chronic trauma associated with long-term risks, such as the threat of danger to life. For children growing up in a landscape of ever-increasing danger and parental stress, we risk developmental trauma becoming a ‘normal’ part of childhood experience.”
Last year, ACP-UK endorsed an open letter that was signed by over 1000 psychologists. The letter considered some of the psychological impacts of the environmental emergencies, such as the effects of traumatic events, forced migration, conflict, and the likely increase in prevalence of developmental trauma that would follow from the predicted collapse of society. In solidarity with other professional groups,, the letter supported peaceful protest as ‘the reasonable choice for responsible individuals’ and called for governments and media to tell the truth about the environmental emergencies and to take action to achieve carbon neutrality within the timeframe specified by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In September, MPs from across the political spectrum condemned actions by the environmental action group Extinction Rebellion for blockading delivery of a Murdoch owned newspaper. The Home Secretary subsequently referred to Extinction Rebellion activists as ‘criminals’, responsible for a ‘shameful attack on our way of life, our economy and the livelihoods of the hard-working majority’. Although ACP-UK recognises that the views of its members on the action of blockading newspapers will be diverse, the current statement is offered to support the underlying intentions of non-violent environmental activists throughout the globe; this includes clinical psychologists who have already been arrested following peaceful actions to highlight the urgency with which the climate and ecological crises need to be responded to.
ACP-UK has thus produced this position statement with four main points:
- Peaceful protest is a cornerstone to participation and progress in democratic society. To condemn non-violent climate action would be to be complicit in environmental harm.
- ACP-UK believes that clinical psychologists should consider participation in peaceful protest to highlight the urgency of the crises as part of their professional obligations.
- ACP-UK pledges to engage in dialogue with the HCPC and unions to call for timely and sensitive responses to those convicted for non-violent actions of moral protest, where these are undertaken away from the workplace.
- ACP-UK publicly rejects the notion asserted by the Home Secretary that non-violent environmental protesters represent a ‘threat to democracy.’ As clinical psychologists, we recognise the power language has to dangerously vilify individuals and groups, whilst drawing attention away from the failings of global governments to act.
“All health professionals have a duty and obligation to engage in all kinds of non-violent social protest to address the climate emergency”
– Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet
It is not just our identities as clinical psychologists that should compel us to act to address the climate emergency, but also our very existence as moral human beings: The climate and ecological crises are deeply intertwined with issues of racism, inequity, and social justice, with those suffering most being those least responsible for the harm to the planet.,,
“Once we take even the smallest step, we start to recover our sense of effectiveness and power, and our spirits lift: Once we start to act, hope is everywhere”
– Greta Thunberg
“Something that gives me a lot of hope is seeing so many different people fighting for this common issue and realizing that I am not alone”
– Jurwaria Jama
Dr Gareth Morgan, ACP-UK Member
Dr Tori Snell, Joint Director for England
Dr James Randall, Joint Early Careers Director