09 August 2009

119 Days - What IS the Public Feeling?

Another day of email conundrummy (I just made that word up).

First a message that the American Psychological Association (APA) is offering climate-change-related workshops, hosted by Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Earth Circles, at its annual conference:

Climate Activism for Psychologists: From Psychological Paralysis to Community-Based Action


Confronting Eco-Anxieties & Promoting A Healthy Eco-Identity in Clinical & Academic Work

My response to the listserve was this:

It would be interesting to hear from psychologists on this listserve about the prevalence / pervasiveness of "psychological paralysis" and "eco-anxiety" stemming from climate change.

I live in a small community where people just keep working - or travelling, golfing, fishing, sailing, watching TV and living their lives as always - so haven't seen evidence of these maladies.

Out there in the big, wide world, are there lots of people feeling overwhelmed by climate change?

Cuz I gotta tell ya, I'm not seeing anyone amongst my family, friends or community members (both geographical and interest-based communities) suffer psychologically because of climate change.

Except my loved one and me. We rage, we despair, we swear, we sob. My eyes well up with tears at the thought of what we're doing to the children in Africa. My husband weeps when he hears yet another tale about the fate of our beloved orca whales.

But we are very, very alone in this. We have one friend who feels it deeply. We know a handful of other activists who are doing good work but don't seem to feel it deeply (or at least, don't share that with us). Where is the paralysis and eco-anxiety?

Sure enough, the very next message announced an article by Andy Coghlan entitled "Consumerism is 'eating the future'" in the New Scientist of 7 August 2009.

In it, Coglan quotes Marc Pratarelli of Colorado State University at Pueblo in the USA:

"We have our heads in the sand, and are in a state of denial," he says. "People think: 'It won't happen to me, or be in my lifetime, or be that bad, so what's the point of change'."

Pratarelli is ... pessimistic. The only hope, he says, is a disaster of immense scale that jolts us out of our denial. "My sense is that only when the brown stuff really hits the fan will we finally start to do something."

So which is it? Psychological paralysis? Or sleepwalking through the climate emergency?

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?