This is to introduce you to the Globe and Psyche initiative (see home page).
The initiative has three objectives -
1: to promote the greater involvement of the “existential professions” (psychological, psychosocial, and psychospritual) in the public discourse around the climate/ecological emergency, in particular with regard the causal role played by identity. (via widespread signing of a web letter - below)
2: to promote collegial conversations amongst “existential professionals” interested in personally and professionally supportive conversations in the context of present and anticipated changes to people, place and planet. (through collegial conversations)
3: to increase the reach of existential professionals willing to support their local communities through inevitable shifts in their sense of community identity.
This letter will be sent to media, government departments, and to professional associations. It will also be published on social media and offered to various websites, professional journals, blog sites and commentators.
Please add your signature via the link at the bottom of the page. Thank you.
Kia ora and greetings,
"Ecosystemic breakdown is the tragically contradictory consequence of seeking [well-being] through incessant growth and consumption. We are killing ourselves trying to feel better."(1).
Recently, architects, physicians, nurses, lawyers, economists, community developers, trades unions, and social workers and other specialists have joined with climatologists, earth scientists and biologists to express individual and professional concern over what is being called an "existential crisis" - corrosive fear for individual and collective security and purpose - arising from ecosystemic breakdown.
Existential issues are our concern as psychological, psychosocial and psychospiritual professionals, and yet both our voices and our professions have been largely absent from the mainstream public discourse. We are writing this letter to help address such omissions.
This moment of urgency requires us to:
consider where clinical issues – including depression, violence, teen suicide – are symptomatic of wider systemic processes
enhance existing psychological theories with perspectives from both systems science and indigenous and non-Western cultures
use multi- and trans-disciplinary research in approaching personal/ecological healing
develop initiatives that enable a new sense of shared ecological meaning, purpose and identity
respond as stewards of the "recuperative powers of nature" through responding to the feedback from the current ecological crisis (2)
Many of us understand eco-anxiety and climate grief as inevitable responses to the crisis. However, the significance of climate trauma as a 'superordinate' phenomenon "triggering past...personal, cultural and intergenerational trauma”(3) is rarely considered. And we are especially concerned that the psychological, psychosocial and psycho-spiritual causes of the emergency have been marginalised.
Addressing these causes makes us question our individual and shared sense of identity and of what is acceptable behaviour, undermining the foundations of our social reality. Avoiding these causes risks unleashing runaway changes to climate, habitats, wildlife and natural systems which challenge community coherence and bring society to a painful halt.
Domination of the natural world has become central to our Western worldview and identity. The climate is not the problem. We have forgotten the core values that have been fundamental to the sustainability and diversity of communities for the majority of our human story, and which can still be seen in indigenous cultures. When we measure our worth in terms of possession and profit, we privilege convenience over consequence, promote desires above needs, and foster that exploitation, cynicism and meaninglessness that so often trouble our clients and congregations. Now we are confronted with how these recent choices impact local and distant relationships, limiting the abundance and capability of the planet. The global ecosystemic breakdown presents us with a crisis of identity - and an opportunity to re-imagine it.
The traditional focus of psychology on individual needs, wants and self-expression is inadequate in a context that is global and interconnected. “Walking alongside” people through their private trials and joys remains crucial in our work, but we can no longer afford to consider distinct individual identity - our experience and expression of ourselves - to be separate from the wider human community and from the Earth itself. Renowned interpersonal neurobiologist, Dr Daniel Siegel, puts it this way: "As long as we define self as a singular noun, the planet is cooked"(4). Recognising all of us as self-reflective agents of the Earth-system is a pressing cultural and evolutionary shift.
Over the next weeks and months, colleagues will be meeting in small, trans-disciplinary, local groups to address issues particular to our location and context. We look forward to sharing our findings.
In the meantime we hope global, national and local leadership, media and public conversations will include the psychological complexity of this emergency - and its opportunities - in all our thinking.
1: Maiteny, P. (2019).
2: Todd, J. (2019). Healing Earth: An Ecologist's Journey of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.
3: Woodbury, Z. (2019). CLIMATE TRAUMA: Towards a New Taxonomy of Traumatology. Ecopsychology.
4: Siegel, D (2011). The Neurological Basis of Behavior, the Mind, the Brain and Human Relationships. Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium, Garrison Institute.