CPA Newsletter February 2015

A remarkable article was published on 25th January by Dahr Jamail in Truthout, title: “Mourning our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process”.

It is based on an interview with science communicator Joe Duggan, who runs a blog “Is This How you Feel”. Eleven climate scientists from three continents are quoted; they speak freely of emotions and states ranging through depression, perplexity, frustration, exasperation and despair, hope, concern and extreme anger. You can access the full article here.

It looks like good and necessary therapy for the scientists involved. Jamail brings in perspectives that are likely to strike chords with all of us who are involved in climate psychology. Murderous anger is felt by one of the Australian scientists towards the blatant and cynical denialism of that country’s government, working hand in glove with its fossil fuel industry. Moving to the wider and more conflicted sphere of public response, he evokes Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who noted that denial is one of the five stages of grief. And, in a striking overlap with Paul Hoggett (below) he quotes Joanna Macy: “….when we allow our hearts to be shattered – broken completely open – by these stark cold realities, we allow our perspectives to be opened up to vistas we’ve never known.”

Duggan’s question to scientists “Is This How You Feel?” is referred to as something they have never been asked before. Well it has, by Paul Hoggett and Ro Randall in their 2014 U.K research, but we await the results of that. Ro also previously explored the subject of grieving in her article “Loss and Climate Change: the cost of parallel narratives”. Ecopsychology: September 2009. 1 (3) 118-129. She made the point that Kubler-Ross’s model is that of someone mourning their own loss of life and that models that are about bereavement (Murray Parkes, Worden) apply better in the context of climate change because we need to think about hope, recovery and adapting to a changed reality. This does not of course invalidate the link between denial and grief.

Paul Hoggett has written a short article for Resurgence about Radical Hope and Cultural Tragedy, CPA’s April event in Bristol. Paul suggests that what psychotherapists bring to climate psychology is the knowledge 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.” Paul’s article can be viewed here.

Finally, a glance back to John Sauven’s Guardian article last December “2015: The Beginning of the End for Climate Sceptics,” which can be read here. He concludes: “With trillions of dollars at stake, don’t expect a clean fight.” A more psychologically informed perspective might have added: “And don’t underestimate the capacity of disavowal to maintain an untenable position.”

Adrian Tait
(On behalf of the Exec. Committee)

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