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3 Mindsets Needed for the Climate Crisis

articles Apr 07, 2023
climate crisis mindset mindfulness

In this perspective article, Michael Apollo shares his encounter with environmentalist Dr. Dorothy Rosenberg, and highlights the three mindsets required to tackle climate change, along with the benefits of mindfulness practices in developing them.


Three years ago, I was concluding my lecture at the University of Toronto when a woman, with an air of quiet concern, approached me.

"Excuse me," she said, "do you know the impact of that throwaway coffee cup you're drinking from?"

Her question caught me off guard, and I felt a twinge of embarrassment as I responded, "Yes, I know. It's coated with chemicals and can't be recycled."

But what she said next surprised me even more. "It's setting an example to all these people that this is okay," she said.

While I was preoccupied with how this might affect me, her focus was on the bigger picture - how this might impact us all.

As it turned out, the woman was Dr. Dorothy Rosenberg, a remarkable environmentalist, filmmaker, and professor who, at eighty years old, continues to inspire with her resilience and dedication.

Reflecting on what sets Dr. Rosenberg apart, I was reminded of a recent groundbreaking report by the Mindfulness Initiative that outlined the three mindsets needed for the climate crisis.

The three mindsets needed for the climate crisis are:

  • “Stay with the trouble”
  • Focus on a “Joined-up World” (we are not separate)
  • Be clear and maintain your “Intention and Action”

One of the most effective ways to develop these mindsets, according to the authors of the report, is through mindfulness and compassion practice. 

Here are the three mindsets needed for the climate crisis and what you can do to embody them: 

Mindset #1: Stay with the trouble

This means leaning into the discomfort of difficult conversations, examining our own biases and behaviors, and doing the inner work required for effective action.

Mindset #2: Focus on a “Joined-up World”

This acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things, including our actions. This mindset requires a compassionate stance towards others, regardless of their views or behaviors, and a deep connection with nature.

Mindset #3: Be clear and maintain your “Intention and Action”

This means being intentional about our own habits and actions, and bringing awareness to the societal and technological influences that often lead to unintended outcomes.


According to recent studies, mindfulness practices can help foster these mindsets, leading to greater environmental responsibility, mental health, and resilience. Dr. Christine Wamsler's research, for example, suggests that mindfulness can foster connection with nature and increase environmental responsibility.

As interest in the inner dimensions of the climate crisis grows, organizations like the European Commission and many EU institutions have taken part in the mindfulness-based climate course called Mindfulness-based Sustainable Transformation. Provided publicly by Mindful Society Global Institute, in collaboration with the Inner Green Deal, the program has already yielded impressive outcomes, including a reduction in eco-anxiety, feelings of helplessness, material consumption, and waste.

If you're interested in learning more about the report, "Reconnection: Meeting the Climate Crisis Inside Out," you can download it for free from the Mindfulness Initiative. In these challenging times, developing the mindsets required for effective action is more important than ever.


 Michael Apollo MHSc RP is the founder of the Mindful Society Global Institute. Prior to founding MSGI in 2014, he was the Program Director of Mindfulness at the University of Toronto. He is an educator, licensed mental health clinician and certified facilitator in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.


The Mindfulness Initiative report "Reconnection: Meeting the Climate Crisis Inside Out" can be downloaded for free at

Dr. Christine Wamsler's research on mindfulness and environmental responsibility can be found in her article "Mindfulness in Sustainability Science, Practice and Teaching," published in Sustainability Science (2021).

The outcomes from the MBST program can be found on the Mindful Society Global Institute's website at 

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