Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Going Outside as a Mental Health Strategy

June 27, 2011

Part three of the series on convergence of environmental and mental health (see part 1 here and part 2 here).

Mental health experts (and parents) argue that people of all ages need to spend time outside. Richard Louv has gathered some of the latest research in his two books: Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. It is also true that being outside promotes better environmental stewardship.  Yet most people assume that going outside can only mean wilderness.  A woman once explained, “I can’t figure out how to get outside because I live in the city so I just give in and stop trying.” That is a mistake. The possibilities for outdoor experience are endless no matter where a person lives. So are the psychological benefits as well as the opportunities for sustainable practices. My top three choices for going outside can be found after the jump. (more…)

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The Changing Climate Changes Me

May 26, 2011

     Do human beings continue to adapt  to their environments? Are some of those changes psychological? Are humans experiencing subtle alterations in their emotional and cognitive organization in response to climate change? While we ponder these questions with regard to humans, we are noticing suh chnages in other mammals. Antarctic Penguins are being driven from their homes, according to the New York Times.  While those on the peninsula have suffered a catastrophic drop in population, those on Ross Island are making use of other environmental changes in order to adapt. The scientific study and tracking of climate change is based on a belief that all species develop specific adaptations to their environment. Are people, therefore, also already changing in small ways?  My tentative answer, based on case studies and field research conducted during 2009 and 2010, is that the human psyche is shifting in subtle ways to adapt to transforming ecosystems whether they be urban, suburban or rural. The same consumerist processes that are causing careless damage to the earth’s ecosystems have also become a part of people’s personalities.I have a chapter coming out in a forthcoming book edited by Nick Totton and Mary-Jayne Rust.  See a preview of some of my findings after the jump.

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Summer 2010: Paralyzed

August 19, 2010

Picture: Getty Images / Julian Finney

This blog has gone dark since the end of June.  Why?  Every morning the heat rose trapping me in a vapor of thick intoxication. When the sun burned high in the sky the humidity coated my skin in a waxy sweat.  The news was no lighter. The every hour on the hour triviality emerging from the 24 hour news cycle bludgeoned my mind like high fever hallucinations. The summer that has seen the first effects of climate change has also been a summer of paralysis. (more…)

People Don’t Always Act in their Best Interest

March 9, 2010

from uk.canada.travel/ConsumerWeb/ExperienceDetail...

Some people have been debating whether or not scientists should become climate change activists or if they should stick to the data. The concern is that the general population seems less worried about environmental issues.  Given our culture’s typical reliance on external solutions to problems, it doesn’t surprise me that journalists and pundits are looking to Obama, scientists, activists, politicians and economists to motivate change. As someone who helps people transform less than optimal behavioral problems into opportunities for accomplishment, lets begin with this fact:  People don’t always act in their own best interest.  Usually, what most motivates people to behave in a manner that affirms self and others is direct  emotional enlivenment that connects to an inner conviction or memory.  Let me provide an example from my work to illustrate how it might be possible to get people interested in climate change. (more…)

We the People: A Response to Evan Thomas and Al Gore

March 2, 2010

An adolescent with whom I work discussed the complexity of privilege.  “My parents paid just over $12,000.00 for our family to go on a 5-day wilderness backpacking trip, with a service that provides the gear, the food, a plane to transport you there and a guide. I loved it and it changed me, like any amazing experience your parents buy for you. But the fact that it didn’t come from within me made it seem like another thing that someone gave me. Maybe it would have felt less strange if having that relationship to the wilderness wasn’t something only wealthy people could buy, but just a more natural and expected part of how kids are raised.”

His comment reminded me of a question: how will people who have been raised in a time of excess choose to live sustainable lives ?  Evan Thomas said in this week’s Newsweek, “The problem is not the system. It’s us – our ‘got mine’ culture of entitlement.”  I know the people of whom he writes. They are not of any particular subculture but rather inhabit every landscape from poverty to opulence with a unfamiliarity with limits and boundaries of any kind, as well as personal needs that seem small in comparison to what the planet has to offer.

And, Al Gore is asking these people to be the opposite of who they are in order to save the planet. How does the culture of excess shift gears to become a sustainable one?

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Copenhagen

December 11, 2009

The news from Copenhagen is mixed.  Josh Marshall is downright gloomy, and concerned.  The talk is all politics and few seem to recognize that global warming is happening to people now in the small scale universe of the human mind.  Climate change is a psychological problem as much as it is geological and meteorological. My paper in Psychoanalytic Dialogues suggests that the same technical and mechanical innovations that are upsetting the balance of the earth are also disrupting the mind’s equilibrium.  The Earth is Faster Now conveys indigenous narratives about arctic how climate change has transformed a community and its people. While it might be easier to accept the fact that people far away in colder climates experience the psychological dimensions of warming, it is harder to grasp that  climate change has also already affected modern, western, urban, suburban and rural individuals, even in the United States.  Technological change (fast paced stimulation, constant stimulus gratification), carbon emissions, environmental contaminants, and decreased access to land and outdoor spaces have created children and adults who think, feel and understand reality differently than generations past.  The differences in thought structure may render them incapable of both perceiving global warming’s threats and acting to alter their course. These differences in thought structure may also promote behaviors that continue to promote the destruction of our ecosystem. Climate change is not only about politcs. It is about the everyday life of the human psyche.  As long as solutions continue to only consider matters of state and economy, I’m not sure anyone can inspire the changes in human consciousness necessary to confront this problem and take care of our struggling planet.


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