I don’t want to flood this with facts and statistics. I also don’t want to sidestep the inconvenient truth that we need to act rapidly, intelligently and collaboratively to avert disaster because we are at crisis point in terms of global heating.
I realize this may be construed as anxiety inducing language coming from a therapist whose job it is to alleviate distress in others. However, the genie is already out of the bottle. Collective anxiety is all around us. The messages are raw, direct and palpable:
“There is no Planet B” (Berners-Lee 2019)
“There will be no healthy women on a dead planet.” (Tompkins 2019)
“Conserve what our children deserve.”
I love a vast array of music and am given to lyrical metaphor and often employ it in the course of dialogical therapy with my clients. I encourage those who are so inclined to bring a piece of music to our sessions that captures the otherwise ineffable.
So here I am going to add to those "raw, direct and palpable" messages above with one that is musical, uplifting and empowering. I turn to a very special person. Her name is Buffy Sainte-Marie an indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, Oscar-winning composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist and social activist.
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children". (Saint-Marie 2015)
Click here to "Carry It On"
Some of us are in denial, some are galvanized and some are overwhelmed. Our collective response mirrors the individual stress response fight, flight or freeze. However we respond there is no way to disentangle human health from planetary health.
The fact of our existence is inseparable from the life giving earth that we seem intent on destroying. Ecopsychology asks the question why. It also looks beneath that inquiry at the psychological causes.
A summary of the big story of our severed connection with the natural world begins with early civilization and culminates in the military industrial complex, the consumer age, the gig economy and globalization.
Our evolution has followed a trajectory in which we abandoned the ecosystem and set on a course in which we dominated, domesticated, colonized, isolated, subjugated, exterminated, individuated and eradicated everything that challenged our control.
This has engendered hierarchical thinking that reinforces power, condones oppression and inculcates beliefs that sustain a worldview in which humans stand apart from the other-than-human world and everything is valued in terms of how it serves us or how we can project our values onto it.
Anthropocentrism is so embedded in our culture that it has infiltrated how we relate to ourselves and others and the way we govern, finance, educate, trade and even recreate. It has climaxed only because we have exceeded the limits of what the earth can give and dumped more back into it than it can take.
Quite simply globalization, consumerism and neo-liberal capitalism are a triad for unsustainable living that has proved devastating. Our planet is on life support.
We need to think of earth as subject not object because when we objectify we reduce the other. If the other is a person, we rob them of their humanity and if it is the other-than-human, we commodify it.
Ecotherapy is the applied practice of ecopsychology that is an immersive and reconnective therapy to heal the human – nature relationship.
When we learn to give up some of the control, to harmonize with the more-than-human and explore our relationship with nature we can begin to understand our human relationships better. When we allow ourselves to be immersed in the web of life we enable our psyche to connect with the nourishing natural world around us. It can be holding, securing and stabilizing.
Psychotherapy can help us to find lost pieces of ourselves and to integrate the whole. Ecotherapy can help us to retrieve the lost part of our psyche that we left in the ecosystem.
When we fully embody nature in a holistic way we can learn to trust ourselves, our instinct, and our intuition. We can then respond to stimulus hungers that have been previously unrecognized and learn to be at peace with oneself in moments of inactivity.
When we have joined the web of life that is the more-than-human world we will have joined an inseparable community and mended an innate attachment relationship.
That is something worth fighting to preserve.
1. Sainte-Marie, B. 2015. Carry It On. Power In The Blood. True North Records.
Labels: anthropocentrism, anxiety, attachment relationship, Buffy Sainte-Marie, consumerism, ecopsychology, ecosystem, globalization, holistic, neo-liberal capitalism, planetary health, stimulus hungers, unsustainable