The degradation of our environment is accelerating beyond the point of our being able to repair it. The problems are many and complex—from the destruction of our forests, to the dying off of our fish. Our impure air and water is causing worldwide increases in chronic diseases including severe challenge to our immune systems. Most threatening of all, climate change may raise temperatures and cause extreme weather conditions for thousands of years. Scientists and experts such as Al Gore can show us charts of what is happening, but the facts and figures don’t reach into the depth of our heart and motivate us to change. Joanna Macy, author and deep ecologist says, “We need to love the world in order to save it.” Using our intellect in this area is not enough; we need to feel an emotional connection to the planet. Advertisers know that the best way to stir us is through images and stories, often culled from myths that deeply affect our psyche...
Awesome new street art unintentionally shames our leaders into paying attention to climate change.
“Politicians discussing global warming” — that’s what social media users have dubbed this tiny puddle sculpture by Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal.
The image has gone viral in the past few days and it’s obvious why. With sea levels projected to rise up to three feet by the end of the century, it's a stark reminder of our collective failure to act on climate change.
Or maybe not.
As it turns out, Cordal's sculpture is actually called “electoral campaign” and it's part of a larger street art installation called “Follow the leaders.” The tiny cement figures, arranged in bleak scenes of urban disintegration, represent the faceless businessmen who run our capitalist global order.
“These pieces reflect our own decline,” says Cordal. “We live immersed in the collapse of a system that needs change.”... (Click title for more)
Despite the fact that more people now acknowledge that climate change represents a significant threat to human well-being, this has yet to translate into any meaningful action. Psychologists may have an answer as to why this is
Today the scientific community is in almost total agreement that the earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, and that this represents a huge threat to the planet and to us. According to a Pew survey conducted in March, however, public opinion lags behind the scientific conclusion, with only 69% of those surveyed accepting the view that the earth is warming — and only 1 in 4 Americans see global warming as a major threat. Still, 69% is a solid majority, which begs the question, Why aren’t we doing anything about it?
This political inertia in the face of unprecedented threat is the most fundamental challenge to tackling climate change. Climate scientists and campaigners have long debated how to better communicate the message to nonexperts so that climate science can be translated into action. According to Christopher Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London, the usual tactic of climate experts to provide the public withinformation isn’t enough because “it does not address key underlying causes.”...(click title for more)
Examining the psychological task of change, Mary-Jayne Rust looks at the ways in which we respond to the environmental crisis. How do old stories underlie our present reality?
While few people would now deny the reality of climate change and environmental crisis, many are still turning a blind eye to the situation we face. We are having great difficulty in making even the simplest of changes to our lives. The global scale of our crisis is overwhelming and it is easy to feel apathetic in response. This is made easier when our consumer lifestyles keep us well within our comfort zones.
When we do allow ourselves to feel, we might find a whole range of strong emotions, such as anxiety and fear about the future, despair at our lack of political will, grief for so many losses, guilt that we continue to be part of the cause, and more. While therapy has helped many of us to become more emotionally literate interpersonally, we are still a very stiff-upper-lip culture in relation to the bigger picture; when we block out our feelings, we lose touch with the urgency of crisis.
Without hope, the horror of climate change paralyzes rather than politicizes.
There is a brutal conundrum at the heart of the fight against catastrophic climate change: when people grasp just how dire things are, they’re as likely to hunker down as to rise up. Maybe more likely.
A haunting New York Times Magazine story demonstrates this. It’s about Paul Kingsnorth, a onetime environmental activist who has essentially given up, devoting himself instead to a multifaceted project of grief and survival called Dark Mountain. “Everything had gotten worse,” Kingsnorth told writer Daniel Smith. “You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here saying: ‘Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we’ll save the world!’ I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! So what do I do?”
What Kingsnorth did was draft an apocalyptic manifesto, titled Uncivilisation. “It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality,” he wrote. “There is a fall coming... (Click title for more)
While most Americans think climate change is an important issue, they don’t see it as an immediate threat, so getting people to “go green” requires policymakers, scientists and marketers to look at psychological barriers to change and what leads people to action, according to a task force of the American Psychological Association.
Scientific evidence shows the main influences of climate change are behavioral – population growth and energy consumption. “What is unique about current global climate change is the role of human behavior,” said task force chair Janet Swim, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University. “We must look at the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act.”
APA’s Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change examined decades of psychological research and practice that have been specifically applied and tested in the arena of climate change, such as environmental and conservation psychology and research on natural and technological disasters.... (Click title for more)
Photographer James Balog used to be sceptical about climate change. This was until 2005, when he was sent to the Arctic for an assignment.
Disturbing statistics released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in the US in August (2012) showed how sea ice cover in the Arctic had reached its lowest amountsince satellite observation began in 1979. The data concluded that just 1.58m square miles was now covered by ice – 27,000 square miles less than the previous record, set in September 2007. This figure decreased even further as summer melting continued in the region throughout September.
Chasing Ice doesn’t only map out the decline of some of the world’s biggest glaciers; it also marks wholesale changes in Balog’s views. It’s hard to believe that the man on screen, who appears so passionate about documenting these pristine landscapes, was once sceptical about mankind’s impact on climate change.
Number of people affected by extreme weather has doubled in 30 years and is expected to reach 375 million a year by 2015
"While climate change increases people's exposure to disasters, it is their vulnerability to them that determines whether they survive, and if they do, whether their livelihoods are destroyed," says the report.
"In rich countries, an average of 23 people die in any given disaster, [but] in least-developed countries, the average is 1,052. Poor people live in poorly constructed homes, often on land more exposed to hazards such as floods, droughts, or landslides, and in areas without effective health services or infrastructure," it says.
In addition to the rise in extreme climatic events, people's vulnerability to natural disasters is increasing. "Rapid urbanisation in developing countries means that slums are expanding on to precarious land. The global food crisis is estimated to have increased the number of hungry people in the world to just under one billion. Now the global economic crisis is driving up unemployment and poverty, while undermining social safety nets...(Click title for more
The return of tornado season with a vengeance has people asking again about a possible link to climate change. At the same time, tantalizing new preliminary research finds “some evidence to suggest that tornadoes are, in fact, getting stronger.” I talk to the lead scientist behind that research... (Click title for more)
Currently 100 billion plastic bags pass through the hands of U.S. consumers every year — almost one bag per person each day. Laid end-to-end, they could circle the equator 1,330 times. But this number will soon fall as more communities, including large cities like New York and Chicago, look for ways to reduce the plastic litter that blights landscapes and clogs up sewers and streams.
While now ubiquitous, the plastic bag has a relatively short history. Invented in Sweden in 1962, the single-use plastic shopping bag was first popularized by Mobil Oil in the 1970s in an attempt to increase its market for polyethylene, a fossil-fuel-derived compound.
Many American customers disliked the plastic bag when it was introduced in 1976, disgusted by the checkout clerks having to lick their fingers when pulling the bags from the rack and infuriated when a bag full of groceries would break or spill over. But retailers continued to push for plastic because it was cheaper and took up less space than paper... (Click title for more)
"Crazy" . . . In the presence of environmental horrors, the word leaps to mind. Depleting the ozone is "crazy," killing off the rhinos is "crazy," destroying rain forests is "crazy." Our gut feeling is immediate, the judgment made with vehemence. "Crazy" is a word freighted with strong emotion.
Inflicting irreversible damage on the biosphere might seem to be the most obvious kind of craziness. But when we turn to the psychiatric literature of the modern Western world, we find no such category as ecological madness.
The American Psychiatric Association lists more than 300 mental diseases in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Among the largest of DSM categories is sex... (click title for more)
By 2017, the global volume of discarded refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings, a new report predicts.
The world produced nearly 54 million tons (49 million metric tons) of used electrical and electronic products last year. That's an average of about 43 lbs. (20 kg), or the weight of eight bricks, for each of the 7 billion people on Earth.
The U.S. generated the seventh highest amount of e-waste per person — about 66 lbs. (30 kg) per capita. (The country with the highest per capita e-waste was... (Click title for more)
When I speak about catastrophic climate change and the likelihood of near-term human extinction, I am often accused to “giving up” or choosing to “do nothing” about climate change. Even more charged for some is the notion of “living in hospice” which I argue is now the unequivocal predicament of our species. The typical rebuttal goes something like, “Instead of contemplating our navels or rolling over and preparing for death, we have to do something about climate change!” Thus, I feel compelled to genuinely ask: What does it mean to actually “do something”?
First, I want to clarify that when I speak of preparing for near-term extinction by surrendering to the severity of our predicament or adopting a hospice attitude, I do not mean that we put on our favorite pair of pajamas, ingest a large dose of Ambien, draw the shades, lie down and set the electric blanket on “womb,” and then proceed to play dead and become comatose as we approach our demise. In fact... (Click title for more)
Naomi Klein: We're products of an industrial project, a project linked to fossil fuels. But humans have changed before and can change again
This is a story about bad timing.
One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call "mismatch" or "mistiming." This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, with a number of possible long-term impacts on survival.
Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures... (click title for more)
Consumerism has become the cornerstone of the post-industrial age. Yet how much do we know about it and what it is doing to us? Using theories of evolutionary psychology to underpin a bold narrative of our times, this film takes a whirlwind tour through the "weird mental illness of consumerism", showing how our insatiable appetite has driven us into "the jaws of the beast". Both an apocalyptic and redemptive view of the human condition.
Psychologists are offering new insight and solutions to help counter climate change, while helping people cope with the environmental, economic and health impacts already taking a toll on people's lives, according to a special issue of American Psychologist, the American Psychological Association's flagship journal.
Climate change "poses significant risks for -- and in many cases is already affecting -- a broad range of human and natural systems," according to the May-June issue's introductory article, "Psychology's Contributions to Understanding and Addressing Global Climate Change." The authors call upon psychologists to increase research and work closely with industry, government and education to address climate change.
The role psychologists can play may be different from what many people expect. "Psychological contributions to limiting climate change will come not from trying to change people's attitudes, but by helping..(Click title for more)
I have fallen in love outward. —Robinson Jeffers, “The Tower Beyond Tragedy”
“Of course we humans are mightily special....Our opposable thumbs, our ability to balance and ambulate on our hind legs, our capacity for reflection, and our slyness with tools and ever-more-complex technologies entail that we are a pretty unique bunch.
But then again, that hawk soaring overhead is able to fly without any of the contrivances that we depend upon, and the apple tree over there is able to squeeze apples directly out of its limbs, which in itself is pretty damn unique, and a far cry from anything that I can muster with my own body.
Perhaps you could say that the compelling stories we two-leggeds regularly concoct could be called an efflorescence, or even a kind of fruit, like those apples. But still, the way that some whales dive to a depth of six thousand feet, holding their breath for over ninety minutes, seems another kind of astonishment, as is the journey of monarch butterflies. After overwintering in a small cluster of conifers in the Mexican highlands, the monarchs navigate their way north... (Click title for more)
One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means...(Click title for more)
Once people believe that they cannot do anything to change a situation, they tend to react in all sorts of unhelpful ways. They may become dependent on others (i.e., by believing that the government or corporations will fix things, or that technology has all the answers), resigned ("if it happens, it happens"), cynical ("there's no way you can stop people from driving their cars everywhere - convenience is more important to most people than looking after the environment"), or fed up with the topic.
Although environmental threats are real and can be frightening, remaining in a state of heightened distress is not helpful for ourselves or for others. We generally cope better, and are more effective at making changes, when we are calm and rational.
People who are concerned about the environment, and are trying to make a positive difference, need to look after themselves to keep their enthusiasm and motivation up, and to protect themselves from disillusionment or burn out. The following suggestions may help you to ‘stick with it'.
Studies in anthropology led Jung to adopt into psychology a concept prevalent in shamanic societies: that of soul loss. Typically recognized as a state of general malaise, soul loss provides another common thread between both Jungian psychology and shamanism.
Soul loss is a fragmentary sequence in which parts of the whole wander away, flee, or get split off, lost, or disoriented resulting in a loss of vitality or life force (Ingerman, 1991). In a shamanic worldview, the dislocated parts are carried away to the underworld; in psychology, they are said to recede into the unconscious.
With the critical absence of vital parts of our soul, we are left feeling weak, empty, depressed, deflated, or anxious, and commonly trend toward mental or physical illness. Jung cited the loss of connection between our ego and the Self as the fundamental cause of soul loss... (Click title for more)
Every spring Monarch butterflies fly north from Mexico, and many of them travel through Texas on their 2,000 mile journey to the central and northern United States and Canada.
With luck, their grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will fly south for the winter, where they spend the winter at a few sites in Mexico.
One of the best ways that conservationists have to measure the overall health of the Monarch butterfly population is by the size of the area they occupy in tight clusters during the winter in Mexico. In the 1990s this area averaged about 15 acres. In the 2000s it was about 9 acres.
This winter the Monarchs occupied less than 1.7 acres in Mexico...(click title for more)
95% of the entire fresh produce range sold by Asda is already at risk fromclimate change, according to a groundbreaking study by the supermarket giant. The report, which will be published in June, is the first attempt by a food retailer to put hard figures against the impacts global warming will have on the food it buys from across the world.
Asda, which is owned by Walmart, brought in consultants PwC to map its entire global fresh produce supply chain against the models being used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The only produce that would remain unaffected by a rise in temperatures would be those with easily moved production, like fresh herbs.
Brown said the results show that it is imperative that supermarkets start to think strategically about how to cope with the impacts of rising emissions...(Click title for more)
In 2009, I spent two weeks sailing on the Sea of Cortez with the Dalhousie University behavioral ecologist, Hal Whitehead, and his crew of hard-working grad students: Armando Manolo Álvarez Torres and Fabiola Guerrero de la Rosa from Mexico, and Catalina Gómez from Colombia. We were following sperm whales – Whitehead’s specialty – which meant taking photographs and filling out data logs as the immense animals breached and rested and rolled their broad flukes into the air.
One of the first things you learn is how social these animals are. Perhaps once a day, the water around the boat would churn as the sperm whales rolled and echolocated and pressed into one another. At these times they were especially curious; some of the whales would “spy hop,” rise up vertically out of the water like huge periscopes, so they could survey our boat and its equally curious inhabitants.
Some of the interactions were spellbinding – the sensuality of the movements, the deliberate way each whale would...(click title for more)
"Sometimes the right thing to do in ordinary times is exactly the wrong thing to do in extraordinary times."
A high-powered financial executive, he had just arrived on the 66th floor of his office building and entered his office carrying his coffee, when he saw what looked like confetti falling everywhere — not a typical 66th floor spectacle. Moments later, one of his friends ran out of a meeting room shouting, “They’re back.”
It was, of course, the morning of September 11th and his friend had seen a plane crash into the north tower of the World Trade Center. My interviewee and his colleagues in the south tower got on the elevator. In another 15 minutes or so, that was going to be a fast way to die, but they managed to ride down to the 44th floor lobby safely. A guy with a bullhorn was there, telling people to go back to their offices.
Still holding his cup of coffee, he decided... (click title for more)
Hurricane SandyCan Henk Ovink sell Americans on a new approach to flooding — letting the water in?
I first met Ovink in Amsterdam last April, as he prepared to set off for Washington to begin his new job as Donovan’s senior adviser. Ovink is a compact man with a shaved head and a bird-of-prey gaze who moves as if he were struggling to keep his wiry energy in check. He was raised in the low-lying, rural, eastern part of the Netherlands, where a glimpse out any window makes apparent the country’s relationship to water.
He was clearly eager for the challenge of persuading a giant country that it needs to live with water and not simply resist it. But he was skeptical about anyone’s ability to effect meaningful change in the United States. He had recently taken an exploratory trip to the Far Rockaways, with a team of American engineers that was rebuilding storm walls damaged by Sandy. “These are the same walls that broke before?” Ovink asked. “Yes!” came the reply. “And what if they break again?” “We’ll rebuild them again...(Click title for more)