CPA Newsletter April 2015

This 1st April CPA newsletter must include a thought on the place of the Fool. Honoured in royal tradition as a challenger of dull rationality, the fool enjoyed some immunity from the penalties of irreverence.

Depth psychology pays respect to such subversion. But even with due respect to
paradox and the unconscious wellsprings of creativity, there is no escaping the darker connotations of madness, stupidity and danger as in the Cordal sculpture above.

Have you seen that three U.S. states are now informally banning the use of the words Climate Change, sea level rise, global warming? The politics and the fossil fuel funding behind these bans are interesting, but even more interesting is the fact that all three states are places especially susceptible to climate change – coastal states where sea levels are already rising. Three links to articles on this here, here and here.

This madness is explored in The Collapse of Western Civilisation: a view from the future (Columbia University Press 2014), the latest book from science historians Naomi Oreskes (Harvard) and Erik M. Conway (CalTech), who also wrote the Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press 2010). The latter has been made into a documentary film (You can see the Guardian article here) that certain US climate deniers attempted to ban saying, “It’s all bunk.”

In their new book, they write as if from the perspective of a future historian:

"Though ridiculed when first introduced, the Sea Level Rise Denial Bill would become the model for the U.S. National Stability Protection Act of 2025, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of more than three hundred scientists for “endangering the safety and well-being of the general public with unduly alarming threats.” By exaggerating the threat, it was argued, scientists were preventing the economic development essential for coping with climate change. When the scientists appealed, their convictions were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Clear and Present Danger doctrine, which permitted the government to limit speech deemed to represent an imminent threat"

How can we view this paradigmatic hiding from the truth? Sally Weintrobe, in Engaging with Climate Change, explains how defenses are triggered in response to threats that are so distant and overwhelming that we are not equipped to deal with them.

But what sort of container could make facing these difficulties possible? Rosemary Randall and Andy Brown have set a precedent with their new book In Time for Tomorrow? (Surefoot Effect 2015). This builds on their Carbon Conversations work, in which groups were supported to take the risk to really look at their carbon use. The book includes the tricky issue of projecting guilt that we cannot bear and the awkwardness of speaking what is taboo in social settings. The crucial factor here is how containment can facilitate these awkward conversations.

Ro was representing the psychological dimension of climate change in a RSA ‘Question Time’ styled debate with a wide range of speakers. It is worth catching her brilliant summary here:

We struggle with the polarisation between such creative interventions and the tragic legacy of perverse blindness. And there is still hope, even if we have been waiting for it for what feels like far too long. Climate scientists are starting to speak out about their felt experience (see longer article previously mentioned in the CPA February newsletter here):

“I feel frustrated. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. We know what’s going on, we know why it’s happening, we know how serious things are going to get – and still, after so many years, we are still doing practically nothing to stop it. I feel concerned that, unmitigated, our inaction will cause terrible suffering to those least able to cope with change, and that within my lifetime many of the places that make this planet so special – the snows on Kilimanjaro, the Great Barrier Reef, even the ice covered Arctic will be degraded beyond recognition – our legacy to the next generation.”
- Dr. Alex Sen Gupta with the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales

At the personal level, do you consider your flying behaviour as a factor to be reckoned with? Some think that the amount of flying we do is suicidal even without the recent tragedy. Paul Hogget discusses this here. Do please add your comment.

Facing climate change, species extinction, global conflicts and poverty, allowing ourselves to be disturbed by them, moved by them and yet remaining sane, is no easy thing. As therapists involved in the Climate Psychology Alliance, we know that many of our clients also face a private world which is in ruins and so we know something about inner strength, the nature of courage and the capacity to look into a future bereft of familiar landmarks.

This resilience is what we call, following Jonathan Lear, ‘radical hope’. And in April we will hold an event in Bristol, Radical Hope and Cultural Tragedy, dedicated to an exploration of this kind of hope, involving the writer Jay Griffiths (Ferocious Tenderness), activist Chris Johnstone (Active Hope), playwright Steve Waters (In a Vulnerable Pace), Embercombe founder ‘Mac’ Macartney and many others. For details go to:

Adrian Tait
(On behalf of the Exec. Committee)


About Us

We are a diverse community of therapeutic practitioners, thinkers, researchers, artists and others. We believe that attending to the psychology and emotions of the climate and ecological crisis is at the heart of our work.


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