Recent Publications

Hochachka, G. (2021). Finding shared meaning in the Anthropocene: engaging diverse perspectives on climate change. Sustainability Science.

In this paper, I explore an approach through which we might find shared meaning at the interface of individual and collective views about climate change. I first present a conceptual framework that describes five psychological reasons why climate change challenges individual and collective meaning-making, and also provides a way to understand how meaning is organized within that. I then use this framework to inform the use of photo voice as a transformative (action-research) method, examining its ability to overcome some of the meaning-making challenges specific to climate change. I discuss how participants from a coffee cooperative in Guatemala reflected first on their own climate meanings and then engaged in a meaning-making process with other actors in the coffee value chain. Findings suggest a psychosocial approach to climate engagement—one that engages both subjectively and intersubjectively on the complexities unique to climate change—is helpful in acknowledging an ontological pluralism of ‘climate changes’ amongst individuals, while also supporting a nexus-agreement collectively.

Hochachka, G. (2021). Integrating the four faces of climate change adaptation: Towards transformative change in Guatemalan coffee communities. World Development, 140, 105361

Despite the complexity of climate change, the dominant definition and practice of adaptation remains reactive, incremental, and focused primarily on biophysical and techno-managerial changes. Researchers suggest this is necessary but insufficient, noting the importance of integrating subjectivity in a more comprehensive approach to adaptation and in moving toward deliberate transformation in a climate change context. Here, I consider how to expand the scope and depth of ‘adaptation’ as it is currently defined and practiced, presenting an Integral conceptual framework that integrates the ‘interior’ forms of adaptation and thus can account for the diverse ways that local people are responding to entangled changes at the local level. Draws on case study research in Guatemala.


Climate change adaptation has four expressions: practical, critical-structural, personal, and co-generative.

When limits were met using practical adaptation, farmers sought critical-structural adaptive strategies.

‘Interior’ adaptations (personal and co-generative) were able to be effectively integrated with other forms of adaptation.

Enacting a more comprehensive adaptation may provide greater possibilities for transformative change.

Hochachka, G. 2019. On matryoshkas and meaning-making: Understanding the plasticity of climate change. Global Environmental Change, 57, 101917

Climate change is a complex issue and means different things to different people. Numerous scholars in history, philosophy, and psychology have explored these multiple meanings, referred to as the plasticity of climate change. Building on psychological research that seeks to explain why meanings differ, I present an analytical framework that draws on adult developmental psychology to explore how meaning is constructed, and how it may become increasingly more complex across a lifespan in a nested manner, much like Russian dolls (or matryoshkas).


Developmental psychology provides new insights into multiple meanings of climate change.

Modified STAGES assessment was usefully combined with photo voice to examine climate change meanings.

Traditional, conformist meanings were concrete, atomistic and related to the present and recent past.

Modern, expert and achiever meanings were more abstract, involved cause-and-effect logic, with time extending to the future and past.

Postmodern, pluralist meanings demonstrated contextual, network-thinking, and were the most forward and backward looking in time.

Hochachka, G. (2020). Unearthing insights for climate change response in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Sustainability, 3, e33, 1–10.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be considered an experiment forced upon the world community and, as such, responses to the pandemic can provide lessons about socio-ecological systems as well as processes of transformative change. What enabled responses to COVID-19 to be as effective as they were, right at a time when climate action is notably lagging behind what intergovernmental panels have called for? This paper examines key differences in the COVID-19 response compared to that of climate change, examining the ‘deeper’ human dimensions of these global issues. Unearthing insights into the responses to both issues provides important lessons for climate change engagement.


Lessons for climate engagement include:

(1) the usefulness of concrete, simple, and personally-relatable messaging;

(2) more diverse and democratized climate understandings and stories;

(3) greater recognition about how psychological distance affects meaning-making and sense of agency; and

(4) appreciation of attentional crowding and the need for sense-making strategies about complex issues.

O’Brien, Hochachka, and Gram-Hanssen. 2019. “Creating a Culture for Transformation” in Climate and Culture: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on a Warming World.

In this book chapter “Creating a Culture for Transformation” which appears in the newly published book Climate and Culture: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on a Warming World, cCHANGE’s Karen O’Brien, Gail Hochachka and Irmelin Gram-Hanssen, discuss an individual behaviour change experiment conducted in an educational setting, and how it was used to trigger awareness of the collective challenge of sustainability.

They discuss how deliberately experimenting with change has the potential to support the emergence of cultural tipping points, particularly if carried out in a supportive setting that takes into consideration lessons from cognitive and developmental sciences.

Situating individuals as change-makers can be an important starting point for generating climate change solutions. In particular, activating individual and collective agency is a powerful lever for social change, and a potentially potent way to generate cultural tipping points needed to realize transformations to sustainability.

Read more about the book here.

Climate and Culture: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on a Warming World Edited by Giuseppe Feola , Hilary Geoghegan, and Alex Arnall. Cambridge University Press, 2019

Developing Sustainability, Developing the Self – An Integral Approach to International and Community Development

This book explores former and current approaches to international development, integrating previous practices to move into new arenas of action and inquiry. It suggests that development involves personal, collective and systemic transformation, and that to engage effectively in this requires a broader and deeper understanding of development. Broader in terms of including qualitative and interior needs of humans, and deeper to more adequately understand individual and collective transformation itself. The book is written for anyone familiar with international development, community development, and/or social change in general. Included is an introduction and overview of Integral Theory for those who are not familiar with it. The last half of the booklet provides an example of an Integral approach in practice in El Salvador.

Hochachka, G. 2009. Developing Sustainability, Developing the Self. An Integral Approach to International and Community Development. Victoria, Canada: Trafford.