Posts Tagged ‘ecopsychology’

Unresponsiveness to climate change: one reason

January 20, 2014

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The more news about the impending consequences of climate change, the more I wonder why individuals react so slowly to the reality of climate change.  Many behavioral scientists now attempt to address this issue.  In the UK an organization called Climate Psychology Alliance serves as a hub for analysts and other practitioners of therapy who try to understand the human relationship to climate change. Last summer, they published my “letter from the U.S.”   I’ve been wondering whether or not too much time spent on technology and indoors can lead to a flattening of consciousness. Maybe we need to re-dimensionalize human consciousness?

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Limits Sustain People and the Environment

July 15, 2011

Part Five of the series on convergence of environmental and mental health (see part 1 here,  part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here ).

image from http://www.20somethingfinance.com

President Obama is correctly observing that budgetary health depends on incisive and strategic limit setting.The same is true for ecological and psychological health. Most people tend to over correct for problems assuming that only massive overhaul constitutes change. Yet we have evidence to the contrary. NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg has created a sustainable urban ecology and economy by taking small yet systemically coherent steps, see here. Likewise, we can produce psychological and environmental balance by exercising limits without cutting off what is best about the expansive possibilities of our minds and our resources.

Is the United States a culture of excess? Some think so, including Jay Slosar.  My take? People have lost the practice of personal and environmental frugality because technological innovation has been exciting and stimulating, and mostly for the good. How amazing to be able to save lives, prevent disease, feed the hungary! How great to be able to enjoy fresh food in the winter, travel to see loved ones, and to know the world! In pursuit of the possibilities of our modern conveniences, we have all lost track of personal and environmental boundaries.  In the end, our landscapes and our minds do have end points. It may be important to tether the open horizon of expansionism and possibility to inherent psychological and environmental, not to mention budgetary, boundaries.  Working within sustainable boundaries doesn’t mean returning to the caves or preparing for life on another plant.  It means integrating a few old-fashioned rules back into the American lifestyle.

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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…)

Eat Food, With Others

June 24, 2011

(The second in a series about the convergence of psychological and environmental health)

photo from AP

One strategy that any person or family can adopt to promote psychological and environmental health is to pay a good deal of attention to what is happening at the kitchen table. Almost five years ago Michael Pollan advised “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” While Pollan emphasized that rule as good for our bodies, and our planet, he didn’t explicitly link it to psychological health. Yet, eating food, not too much, mostly plants is good for our planet, our bodies and our psychological health especially if we recognize the role of relationships in the maintenance and organization of food resources.

In taking a broader view of food that is “at once more cultural and ecological” he suggests thinking “about food as less of a thing and more of a relationship.” Pollan clearly states that, “our personal health is inextricably bound up with the health of the entire food web.”

While he emphasizes health in the bodily sense of the word, it is important to remember that health also means our psychological well being. In addition to the fact that physical well-being enhances mental health, food  can importantly impact mood states.  And it isn’t only the chemical breakdown of foods that can affect our personalities.  The way in which food is distributed also shapes and forms personality. Home cooked soup may contain chemical compounds, forge connections to important people (the forager for ingredients, the cook, and those who share the meal), and symbolically enact care and attachment.

Pollan notes, “Of course when it comes to food, culture is really just a fancy word for Mom, the figure who typically passes on the food ways of the group — food ways that, although they were never “designed” to optimize health (we have many reasons to eat the way we do), would not have endured if they did not keep eaters alive and well.”

His point is that there needs to be a producer of food who understands both the individual needs of eaters, the range of available foods, and the relational complexity in which food is situated.  Yes, it has often been mom, but it can also be dad, or anyone else in a family or a group of eaters. That person is not only taking into account the person’s body. That person also uses food to alter the so-called “chemical” mood of the family or group by providing foods that heal, celebrate, get someone through a hard bout of work, or nurture someone through a loss.

What follows is my psychological elaboration of Pollan’s nine food rules.

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What Are We Doing?

June 22, 2011

(The first in a series about the convergence of psychological and environmental health)

News from the natural world continues to haunt and this report from ISPO (international program on the state of the ocean) warns of a mass extinction in our lifetime. And Al Gore is assailing the Obama administration for its failure to take stronger leadership on climate change. If you add the almost daily onslaught of devastating environmental news to the list of plastics, fuel and energy that the average family in a developed country can’t help but use, it is tempting to call out in anguish, “What are we doing?”  In the face of such compelling doom, most people disconnect, dissociate and deny. It is hard to change behavior in the midst of despair. Yet, while the government continues to jockey and pander in the race to win an upcoming election, a good deal of positive work is being done by psychologists, business leaders and educational institutions in the area of climate growth: changing behavior to more expansively support our ecosystems. So, “What are we doing?” is actually a good question. And the answer is plenty.  No matter who you are or what you do, there is a growing movement of others to whom you can attach yourself and start figuring out your own personal, familial and professional green strategy.

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A Response to Richard Louv

June 1, 2011

photo by Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Richard Louv’s new book, “The Nature Principle’ has just been published.  Following on “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”, a book that links many childhood disorders to a disconnection to the natural environment, Louv’s latest book (see this article in Outside) calls for an increased connection to the natural world to compensate for our increasingly technological lifestyles. He writes that the future belongs to those individuals and businesses that can balance the virtual with the real. As a psychologist who works with many adults and children, I would like to attest to the veracity of  Louv’s journalistic discoveries with examples from people’s lives. (more…)

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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Psychology and Environment: Summary

June 29, 2010

photo from http//brammerfamily.com

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.

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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.

Personhood:

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.

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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.

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