Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the Realm of Terrifying

CBC has a brief (7 min.) podcast up about the rise in anxiety in the population being reported by psychologists over the past couple of years due to climate change. One of the climate scientists, when asked how he feels about it, suggested the title of this post.

This is something I discuss with my students regularly, and I was pleased I've come to the same conclusions as the experts in this field. It all goes back to Freud's defence mechanisms as a way of coping with cognitive dissonance (see more in Anna Freud's book). In a nutshell, when we're living in a way that doesn't fit with our knowledge or beliefs, it's very uncomfortable. We cope by falling into defence mechanisms like denial, rationalizing, escaping, and repression that help us ignore the uncomfortable feelings. And that's okay. It's often necessary go down that road for a time when our psyche isn't quite ready to deal with something in our reality. BUT, it should be a temporary means to cope until we're ready to deal.

People might feel incredible anxiety when their defence mechanism starts to deteriorate. So the fact that people are becoming more anxious about climate change actually has a positive twist in that it means more of us are getting to a point where we can look it straight in the face.

But what I tell my students specifically is, don't cut down GHG production just for the sake of the living creatures on the planet, but for your own mental health. What helps us cope with a difficult situation is doing something proactive about it.  It's a less helpless situation if you feel like you're actually part of the solution.

That being said, it's to the point now that ditching air travel, the car, A/C, clothes drier, chest freezer, consumerist lifestyle, and meat-based diet likely won't save us without changing the structure of the system, so it's really a different form of denial. But it seems to be a more sustainable form than refusing to believe there's any real problem in the first place. And it does help keep anxiety at bay.

A bit.

And then I listened to Hedges talking to Nader for the first half of his hour-long show. His advice is "don't wait for elected officials to help you," and "there is a moral imperative to rise against these forces outside the certainty of success."

We might not make it, but we have to keep on trying as if we can.


The Mound of Sound said...

There's an item in today's Sydney Morning Herald I thought you would find interesting


Marie Snyder said...

Excellent article, Mound. Duly facebooked and tweeted.