Posts Tagged ‘pschological aspects of climate change’

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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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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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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Gulf Oil Spill #2

May 4, 2010

Read this.  Krugman echoes comments by Glenn Albrecht.  The surprising issue is that given the severity of this disaster, so few people seem as upset as I might expect, at least here in NYC. I venture to say, however, that unless you live along the Gulf coast or work in it waters, the implications of this oil spill event are being conveniently tucked away in the dark corners of people’s minds. At a dinner over the weekend, friends commented, “This is terrible,” looking anguished and frightened in a manner that tightened their eyes.  No one that I spoke to was motivated to do anything. There are, however, psychological concepts that can explain such apathy. They can also suggest strategies to enable a more authentic national dialogue about our energy choices.  The Gulf Coast doesn’t only need Obama. It needs the citizenry.

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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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