Archive for the ‘personal environmentalism’ Category

Thoughts about Japan by Adrian Tait

March 14, 2011


I haven’t been able to organize my thinking around what is taking place in Japan.  I received, however, a thoughtful post from  a colleague, Adrian Tait (UKCP Registered Psychotherapist, Member: The Guild of Psychotherapists, Visiting Fellow: Centre for Psycho-Social Studies, University of the West of England) written to a newly forming alliance of clinicians looking at the relationship between climate change and human behavior.  He raises evocative questions and thoughts. See it here: (more…)

Who owns a country? The question of space, place and territory.

March 1, 2011


by Robert Daniels at

Far away, people in countries across the Mideast have been rebelliously signaling to their leadership that they want better governance and more freedoms.  Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo spoke about a world where differences in religion become opportunities to better know each other and to create a shared world where all children grow up with the same dreams. He described his own life as the remarkable production of different religions and countries all within the embrace of a democratic nation.

Like Bruce Mason in Wallace Stegner’s Recapitulation, every sweep of one’s personal life history is also a geographic tour. Place is meaningful. We remember where we first walked atop a high structure, like a tree or stone wall, heard John Lennon’s voice, or realized that we really liked someone (wasn’t it on the campus lawn underneath a canopy of trees?), or where we met our spouses.  Here in New York it is easy to take for granted how important developmental places also span a variety of divergent cultural spaces. Gay, straight or somewhere in between; dark, light or medium colored; scarved, hooded, capped or pony-tailed; there is no New York without its differences and there is no person here who isn’t larger for having made sense of that diversity while still finding a place to stand as one’s self.

In thinking about the question of political leadership and the Mideast uprisings, I only know that the attachment to space, place and geography is largely personal. Territory is as psychological as it is a bordered landscape.   Sometimes nation states and the authorities that run them tend to mistake what is personal and geographic for that which is symbolic and societal. There has been a loud cry from the Mideast upholding the integrity of a people’s right to their own meanings of land and country.

Everyday when I wander about the streets on New York, I am aware of the many problems we face in our country. I am, however, very appreciative of the fact that no one group or leader owns this place.  It really does belong to a kind of cultural multiplicity.  Through a variety of small economic exchanges, personal relationships, or simply sharing a sidewalk or a subway ride together, we create the beginnings of a world where differences present an opportunity to know each other better and to therefore augment humanity’s growth. Nonetheless, it is a much harder life.

Going Back To Work, Differently

February 8, 2011


As unemployment decreases ever so slightly, those people lucky enough to return to work after a period of professional stagnation are raising new questions.  How can it be different this time?  As bad as the recession was, and it really, really was very bad, it also enabled workers, especially professionals, to reflect upon how they were working and the impact of their work on their families, community and even the environment.  As a 29 year-old lawyer said to me, “I’m so glad to have a job again.  Yet the recession has been good for me in a way. It was humbling.  I’d like not to go back to what it was like before. I’d like it to be different somehow.”   For those lucky enough to return to work, find tips for how to make it different after the jump. (more…)

What’s Happening in Your Environment?

January 29, 2011


photo by Rolf Hicker at

Last June I ran an international webseminar on psychology and the environment. During the first week, people sent in their observations of what was taking place in their localities. While many individual observations seemed small, their number and intensity impacted me. It seemed like people everywhere were noticing something. I am trying to broaden what transpired in that seminar by asking a wider audience of people to share what they know.

What is your environmental story? Is your physical environment important to you?  Have you noticed transformations in the physical landscapes where you grew up or now live? Have you observed any signs of climate change or environmental pollution?  I’m interested in people’s stories about their relationship to nature, to their ecosystem (even urban ones), and to the earth: what you see, think and feel, as well as what you remember. And if you don’t have a story but know people who do, please share this link. Feel free to back channel susanbodnarphd at

Glenn Albrecht on Australian Floods

January 14, 2011



In Brazil floods and mudslides resulting from heavy rains have claimed the lives of over 500 people, according to the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times.  It is the country’s worst natural disaster. In Brisbane, Australia news sources here, here, and  here report on the disastrous consequences of flood waters that peaked yesterday. Thens of thousands of people have lost their homes and businesses.  After the jump please find a guest post from colleague Glenn Albrecht, Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University in Western Australia, and author of the term “solastalgia” – psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change.   (more…)

Family Life and Sustainability

June 29, 2010

Social change takes place through individual and familial transformations. See this article in The Jewish Week for a personal reflection on what sustainability can look like at home.

Psychology and Environment: Summary

June 29, 2010

photo from http//

For the past month I have been participating in an on-line seminar about psychology and the environment. The seminar ended (see previous posts here, here, and here) with many questions.  Do psychologists have any special contributions that can help with our environmental crisis?  How can psychology contribute to the discussions on climate change? See my final thoughts after the jump.


Psychology,Psychoanalysis and the Environment

June 11, 2010

The IARPP environmental and psychology seminar continues into its second week. The panelists have been asked the following questions in five subject area.

Human Geography:

1)Are there unique psychological states of mind that correspond to different geographic localities?

2)What happens to the mind when the environmental localities begin to transform due to environmental corruption, climate change?

Cultural History:

The environment, nature, country, city, urban, wilderness are all terms that have had different psychological meanings in different places and in different historical periods. In what way is an understanding of these shifts and progressions relevant to an understanding of today’s current environmental problems?

Field Data:

Reports and observations of psychological reactions, responses and changes that are taking place in response to ongoing climate change issues or environmental disasters in parts of the world with which you are familiar.


1) As the world becomes more technological and human life is conceived as increasingly independent from their ecosystems how has that changed personhood?

2) How does this vary between cultures/ecosystems?

Defenses and Excesses:

1) Why are people participating in the destruction of the ecosystems they need in order to survive?

2) Why aren’t they more activated by climate change?

3) What are the psychological obstacles to change?

4) How are those psychological defenses embedded in economic and socio-political systems?

Sample responses after the jump.


Psychoanalysis, Psychology and the Environment

May 28, 2010

Begininng Tuesday June 1 – Friday June 25th IARPP will be hosting an online seminar: Psychoanalysis, Psychology and the Environment: A Dialogue.  Given what has transpired in the Gulf Coast, this topic couldn’t be more timely.  The seminar ($10.00 fee) is open to all IARPP members ($135.00 membership fee).  During that time period this blog will report on what transpires during this seminar.

Description: As the recent Gulf oil spill makes clear, denial, dissociation, trauma, anxiety, and depression play a role in the climate change story.  And, as the limits of technology to deal with the oil spill become more apparent (and hence the idea that science will rescue us becomes more tendentious), an international conversation about psychoanalysis and the environment is timely. The goal of this seminar is to generate a dialogue among professionals who think about how the changing environment influences the mind and how the mind is responding to the ever increasing threat. The hope of this seminar is to develop both a network and a body of thinking that can anchor and connect the many people working on this issue. The panelist faculty (Glenn Albrecht, Susan Bodnar, Thomas Doherty, R.D. Hinshelwood, Paul Hoggett, Renee Lertzman, Rosemary Randall, Andrew Samuels, Nick Totton, Sally Weintrobe) will present some of their thoughts about this topic, using an eclectic reading list as a jumping off point. The seminar participants can share their own thinking, ask questions and respond to the readings. As we think and dialogue together we hope to consolidate some form of coherence out of the ideas generated by this dialogue. Among others, we will examine how concepts like solastalgia, embodiment/disembodiment, dissociation, object relations, repression of the unconscious, and concepts borrowed from human geographers can enhance the now international dialogue about mental and emotional processes and the environment.  Panelist bios after the jump.


Gulf Coast Oil Spill #4: Teens

May 25, 2010

If you are wondering just how bad things really are in the Gulf see this ABC news report. Philippe Cousteau (Jacque’s grandson) calls it a “nightmare.”

Transocean is holding a memorial today for those who died in the Deepwater Horizon in Jackson, Miss. .

People have died.  The US government is now calling it the worst oil spill ever.

While most adults seem to be taking this in stride, rationally calculating the ratio of a country’s need for oil to the spill’s impact, many kids feel defiant and betrayed.  This is their planet.  As they watch adult authority figures still unable to stop the flow of oil into the ocean, cynicism molds childhood laughter in a wary grimace, the dull mask of survival.  They believe that the world they know may be coming to an end, and sometimes, as one adolescent explained, “it is simpler to just harden up and ice over.”

Another young man said, “The subdued reaction to this crisis makes everything seem very false. As long as everyone around us denies that these things are happening, we tag along: the as-if generation in an as-if world.”

Three teenagers from New York City’s Upper West Side, however, tried something different.  This is their story and here is their petition.


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