excerpts from summer 2019 emails to a psychoanalyst-globalclimateemergency activist:

8 22 2018

 the basic idea that totalitarian, exclusivist, and authoritarian societies tend to demonize or expel or ‘cleanse’ away some demographics in favor of others, thus depleting the synthetic dynamics of how civilizations actually develop and thrive, seems sensible to me and the hypothetical parallel between that premise and the concern over species extinctions (and the rationales for their occurrence today) seems loaded with meaning and significance. 

  in a relational psychoanalytic light, i think this is an important potential for construing positions toward and possibly approaches to change what is happening in, for instance, the usa, australia (viz. the NYTimes today), and elsewhere regarding climate change. i believe the current tendency across many nations toward exclusivity, privilege-reinforcement, and insularity is an express route to doom for their cultures, politics, and economies, and it mirrors (and i believe is in a reciprocal relationship with) the exploitation of the earth’s resources for human gain with disregard (and careless exclusion and termination) of non-human living beings on our planet, and the result will be the demise of humanity as it tries to survive on artificial food substitutes while droughts and fires, floods and viruses sweep across the overheated surfaces of our world. so it goes, as vonnegut wrote repeatedly in, i think, cat’s cradle

4 25

I had a related thought now while reading other things relating to trauma and world politics. There seems to me to be a similar dead zone, blind spot, or lack of interest in developing awareness, whether it’s dissociative or not in the terms of your definition, in what I can only presume is the vast majority of the USAmerican public, in relation to some other topics that don’t necessarily lead to extinction (but could): with respect to the risk of nuclear bombs going off (2 minutes to midnight, is the current, lowest-ever assessment by the scientists); with respect to our national policy of rising militarism, maximizing arms sales, and making wars abroad while tightening our alliances with autocratic state leaders around the world; and with respect to the nation’s and culture’s dependency on pesticides, antibiotics, and other profitable chemicals that increasingly undermine our health and that of our future generations. I find it perpetually alarming, but at least part of what I believe is responsible for this obliviousness is the steady hyper-focus on materialist, consumerist, careerist concerns and just plain entertainment in USAmerican culture. Stories, typically with high emotional and visceral impact, seem to supersede facts and information, not to mention reflection, while deterioration of our entire population’s security and health proceeds with little notice. Somehow, in this country we have been in continual training along these lines at least since the decade following WW2. From the Korean War on, our wars have occurred at great distance and generally without much understanding of how horribly aggressive, violent and destructive they have been. Madison Avenue’s (and psychology’s) undermining of science in the days of lung cancer’s linkage with smoking seems a good example of this awful phenomenon. The APA remains steadfast in its affirmative alliance with the US military, to score the bucks, despite its vague stance of distancing since the Hoffman Report was released. (Roy Eidelson published a strong article on this within the past week or so on Common Dreams website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dangerous-ideas/201904/war-militarism-and-the-apa. Well written and organized, and demoralizing indeed.) My impression is that such comprehensive training of the USAmerican electorate is partly responsible for the lack of responsibility to the nation’s and the world’s people among those at the top of industry and government, and for the people’s lack of will to demand it. It’s terribly worrisome. 

It seems to rhyme with the brain-dead/reluctant/avoidant/oblivious response to the GCE.

4 26

the point of my lengthy paragraph in that email was to contemplate how this process of dissociating or foreclosing reflection on and remediation of devastatingly big dangers or harms has been going on, at least in the US, for at least a few generations. 

When we consider how thoroughly most USAmericans appear to believe in the righteous virtue and manifest destiny of the settler colonialist development of a European population on this continent, simply unable to connect with the massive processes of genocide and betrayals that underlay our occupation of this land, we see another instance of not-knowing or not-taking-it-seriously that, for the generations of indigenous peoples that otherwise would have lived here in a culture congruent with their history, has indeed meant a terrible, disabling, decimating kind of harm – dissociated by the great majority of the caucasian population. I would say it’s been a piecemeal holocaust, from which a very very few survivors continue to pull together a history and a will to protest. . . .

The circumstances, work, decisions, and solvency of small farmers involves many difficulties. It’s wondrous when things go well, but it’s very devoted and labor intensive work. An organic farm undertakes stewardship in a far more comprehensive and sensitive way than industrial factory farming, and the vulnerability of USAmerican farmers is enormous and troubling. What do the Congressional farm bills do for them? I suspect they rather favor the big interests behind monocultures and massive pesticide use.

4 28

I think anyone will likely have to oscillate, between hope, despair, fear, numbness, and other states, whether in the course of grieving or in other responses of abject foreboding and incipient or ongoing loss. I wouldn’t want people to feel guilty about feeling hope, but I don’t want to urge it on people either. 

Doppelt’s work seems to propose something to be both actively invested in and hopeful about, a transformative resilient community/way of life; I find this both reasonable and disturbingly individualist and localist. But one has to focus sometimes on what one can actually make a difference on, and that is going to be almost always the personal and the local. And his thoughts do point toward reasonably sound ways to coping – with grief as well as with tension and hardships – in the course of the GCE.

I find this thoughtful writer, Mr. McPherson, sometimes hard to follow, logically, especially at the point when he’s talking about the aerosol layer and he follows one sentence I don’t understand with another linked to it by “In other words,…” This drives me up the wall because it’s part of his argument that our planet’s life systems are doomed, it sounds like a really important part, but I can’t tell if he’s even making sense consistently with any scientific findings. So maybe I will try to look that stuff up. [Now I looked it up, at the 2019 article cited https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6427/eaav0566  in Science magazine, and I can’t understand it either.]

I am alarmed that he is so certain that humankind will die. He doesn’t say whether he understands this will happen within 20 years or 300. It’s not a shocking thoughts, but his certainty does not conform to most of the clearer science-based discussions I have read. He might say they are papering over the realities of what will surely come. His more radical stance on this contributes to my doubting him. But I have no quarrel with what he says about working through grief to become more pragmatic and imaginative in response to a crisis that isn’t ending anytime soon.

The Palestinians offer a very useful example of a lot of people who are undergoing perpetual conditions that are psychologically traumatic, without relief, for generations, along with and partly because of unpredictable physical violence and rapid arbitrary displacement. Although there is widespread depression and there are other heightened psychopathologies in the population, there is a commonly held acknowledgement of why and how the traumatic conditions are being imposed and perpetuated, and there are shared understandings of how steadfastness and focusing on shared values matters to everyone concerned there. Mental health providers in these territories don’t expect to heal anyone’s PTSD; they don’t conceptualize these problems as PTSD but as continuous traumatic stress conditions, for which group treatment, social and political engagement and involvement of family and community in systems of conjoint care make a much bigger difference to help contextualize psychological and behavioral problems and remediate them.

4 29

I don’t think it’s ever good to assume an audience will have the same point of view, ideological mindset, or primary concerns as oneself, especially when it’s a multicultural, multiracial, and/or international or multi-class group or one of diverse sexual orientations. Who knows how many think Greta should be in school on Fridays? The thing is, you can’t tailor your presentation closely to people you don’t know, and as the org is international, my own suggestion would be that you aim it at a huge wide diversity of people, all of whom know that there is some issue in the air these days about the climate and humans’ responsibility for its seeming peril. In other words, at least minimally informed, but one can’t say by whom or how much. Analysts in IARPP are likely to be a fairly liberal group, all the same, so if you’re looking for the center of your focus, I suggest it might be something like a poorly trained psychoanalytic version of Hilary Clinton. 

I feel everyone sees the GCE or climate change their own way, anyhow. It becomes sort of a Rorschach, as it’s so wildly chaotic, mutable, upsetting, and complex as a topic. And everyone comes from a differently constituted familial and cultural matrix.

5 5

The USA and its various peoples are not about to be over racism in the course of our lifetimes, or our children’s. It’s so deep and it continues to mutate, like bacteria that lives within us and mutate to evade extinction. Therefore, it’s vital to learn and reflect on and question racism and its presence and history whenever we have the mindful attention and courage to do so, which is hopefully going to be often. 

This is to say, I don’t think problems of inclusion and solidarity can be expected to get resolved and to go away, but I feel strongly that they can be addressed and worked on, in effect to be worked with like koans and relationship issues, as opportunities for healing and growth. 

5 14

I don’t know what the British people in general knew or cared about the establishment of an Israeli state in what had formerly been the British mandate, at the time it occurred. I can send you a copy of something about that piece of history if you like. My recollection of it is that Britain realized it had better get out or it would be patrolling and enforcing order in an increasingly polarized society, with no particular benefit to the British state or economy, and that without a designated, seemingly remote and ignorable space to create a nation of their own, a lot of Jews would try to immigrate to Britain, which preferred (as did the US and many other Western nations) only so much, just a little, charitably, but not too much. It served as a means to contain the massive flow of Jews from the most venomously persecutory and hateful areas of Europe. How well contemporary Brits share this impression of that history, I appear to have no way of knowing.

I think you are right that Jews of a particularly Zionist stripe (nothing close to all Jews of the time or of the present) felt in the 40s at liberty to follow whatever vision of a possible Jewish state and law they might collectively envision and comprise, once given the green light by a deserting British imperialist authority. Rather than feel abandoned and less-than, it is sensible that many may have preferred to focus on their “chosen people” role as inheritors of their righteous path and place. This must, I think, have accentuated and even necessitated their impression that Palestine as a state or as a people had never existed and did not need recognition, although various people who identified with the place as Palestinians were indeed in the way. Since Palestinians were considered virtually non-existent (this seeming to the conquerors a far more benign attitude than seeing them as a legitimate people struggling for their own homeland), Israel could take over their land in the course of defending itself from reputedly conspiratorial enemies beyond their territories and then maintain overall authority in defense against the Arab states surrounding them. It worked. The West saw Israel as its baby and its military outpost, holding the Arab, Muslim states at bay and asserting a contained and containing military dominance in the region. 

5 16

The main thing that interested me in the article about flooding in Davenport – which I myself only skimmed – was the ways that reference to and discussion of the personal and civic costs of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere was foreclosed by the impression that this would inevitably precipitate a “political” reframing of the challenges for recovery and future security within the city. 

    To me, this indicates that the right has maneuvered effectively to intimidate civic leaders (who are sometimes supposed to be themselves effective “politicians”) from addressing global warming in any way, including with reference to scientific consensus. I thought it would interest you as an example of how recognition of climate change is forestalled. 

  When such foreclosure of reference becomes widespread, it affects all pathways in society, and so we find now that to recognize the GCE as an actuality requires acts of rebellion, even when most of the USAmerican public agrees it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Overwhelm is coming to be a norm, I think, for people in advanced Western and other societies. Certainly to read and study things with an expectation of fully understanding and formulating a constructive response to them all is bound to lead us to overwhelm. 

  I see and feel and take myself to be a world citizen, a healthcare provider, an artist, a Buddhist, and an activist. All these self-empowering frames are also compromising in a variety of ways, within any social context I know of. I certainly cannot assume I will master my functions and potential in any of them. Nor do I assume I would do better at any of them if I had fewer such identities and pursuits. I can’t even keep abreast of what’s new and important to know in any of them. So it goes.

5 26

The afternoon training I went to on May 1 was set up by a Bar Harbor group called Climate to Thrive. They arranged for Tyler Kidder, the lead trainer for Maine Climate Table, to present to whoever would come. There were a lot there from Acadia Nat’l Park and from Mount Desert Island hospital. Only one person from Climate to Thrive wasn’t too busy to show up – I commented to him, as well picked up chairs at the end, that this was rather odd, and he said well, everyone’s very busy. The training focused on how to communicate effectively if trying to address decision-making leaders and other people to address the GCE seriously. She didn’t focus on the science of climate and carbon but on the science of communication in this field and with a Maine population – pretty sophisticated, then, in its focus. Key ideas I came away with is 

  • tell stories, use narrative, to engage interest and empathy
  • don’t refer to “believing” at all
  • address the conflict underlying resistance, whether internal or social or both
  • consider the mental templates people already have ingrained, which people use to develop a reasoning chain
  • “message frames” are terms that reflect attitudes and moral templates, etc. “carbon pollution” is such a frame, which has gone over better than “climate change” or others, in the Maine population
  • approach discussion through “adjacent possibilities” which can be entry points of interest or value, and then can precipitate recognition and discussion of global climate problems
  • one good starting point: “It can be hard for people to talk or think about climate change, and folks have a lot of questions” and then ask where they are at with it, if they have any questions

The primary handouts at that training were a Communications 101 booklet and a tool kit for communicating with Mainers on Climate Change. I will attach pdfs that she sent us after the training. It all adds up to be a lot to read and I don’t have any expectation that you will or should – but you may like to browse around in it. I wonder whether many other states have this sort of an organization actively developing such guidance. 

The day-long “4th climate action conference” from Sierra Club Maine was called Building Thriving Communities. It had short talks in rounds for the assembled, as well as simultaneous panels off and on to choose from. Chloe Maxmin was spirited and inspiring, a young activist politician fired up on the issues of GCE. The psychologist Richard Thomas said he was going to contact everyone who left their email on his yellow pad but hasn’t seemed to write to me yet – he wanted to start a climate action team within the profession – of healthcare providers or something. I didn’t feel very confident he would get much headway or even get started seriously. He cited Joanna Macy as his primary influence and led a guided meditation that I would gladly have skipped, as I usually feel about them. But he also advocated for speaking more vulnerably to one another (in groups, most helpfully) about these issues and accepting the emotional intensity of the grieving process involved in solastalgia. I liked better a psychiatrist focused on neurological trauma and resilience  named Janis Petzel. She cited a PSR Maine report called Death by Degrees (available at their website, it focuses on health risks and then on what one can do, personal lifestyle and investment planning and sociopolitical advocacy) and referred to various ways GCE contributes to ill health. Other speakers dealt with various sectors or siloes, on both negative impacts of GCE and various initiatives to counteract the symptoms and effects of it. Generally these were intelligent and interesting presentations on matters I personally feel no particular need to know, but can feel an active interest in at the moment. I left an hour or two before it all finished, as I felt full up, with nothing else on the agenda I particularly wanted to check out.  https://freepressonline.com/Content/Home/Homepage-Rotator/Article/Deep-State-The-ecosystem-defends-itself-The-Sierra-Club-s-Climate-Conference/78/720/64193 is the only article I can find on line covering it as an event. I haven’t read it in full yet, but so far I give it my seal of approval as affirmative, interested, detailed reporting. Go, Maine!!!

6 6 2019

I really think that all refugees now, from now on, are climate refugees, even if that isn’t the primary presenting problem. Because our climate crisis exacerbates all the CNS and interpersonal tensions and violence that promote all other injustices, it is predictable that all sorts of aspects of the world order and of its peoples’ loss and harm will be effectively enhanced by climate emergency effects.

6 14

Personally, and as a psychologist too, I just don’t believe in trying to motivate change through blaming, shaming, or angering. (You know this from one or two of the slides in my talks in Surry.) XR’s events haven’t struck me that way. I see them more as trying to awaken and broaden awareness and interest. If they sometimes blame or shame elected representatives of the people or major corporate chieftains, they are calling them out on their willing betrayal of their promises, pledges, and responsibilities. If this is a XR tactic, I don’t think it will specifically work — treating anyone as an antagonist, getting them uptight and defensive, only escalates the combative and heels-dug-in stance and CNS functions. This shuts down empathy, compassion, and rational thought. Not a good plan for solving profound systemic problems.

If we are in an emergency (or, although we are in an emergency), psychotherapists in general are not the key to addressing it effectively. Psychoanalysts in particular are perhaps by temperament generally unlikely to rally to activism and vigorous, intensive advocacy. Some are, but most perhaps are not. 

How strong and active do you think psychoanalysts have been in their efforts to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the risk of nuclear war, which are a constant glaring and rising emergency (this year the famous nuclear clock has advanced as close to nuclear midnight as it’s ever been) that could end our civilization far faster and with far greater immediate death, injury, and disability than the climate crisis? Nuclear war, whether regional or worldwide, could begin at any minute, given the degree of global tension, nationalist and autocratic leaderships on the rise, and potential for technical and diplomatic errors. What good does it do us to maintain these weapons and engage in escalating competitions to develop and produce them?

6 7

My sincere impression, based on speaking with Palestinians, based on reading a variety of sources, based on my observations, is that Palestinians are afraid for good reason of the Israeli Defense Forces as well as the Palestinian Authority Police and other officials who coordinate with the IDF. 

If you read some recent statements for Israeli administration top dogs, you can find that all Palestinians are considered terrorists, without exception, when they are regarded as human at all. They can be quickly imprisoned, beaten forced into false confessions, locked up for many months, as well as abruptly shot dead, without having committed any crime. Children are as vulnerable to this as adults, if not more so, in the West Bank. 

However, Palestinians do not appear to have such one-sided reductive ideas about Israelis or USAmericans. Many Israelis, I believe, are afraid of Palestinian terrorists, and some are likely agree with Bibi and others that all Palestinians are terrorists, barbarians, inhuman, or that any might become or surprise them with terrorism. Many Israelis have never met a Palestinian and are protected from knowing anything about their culture and concerns, and Palestinians are generally treated within Israeli mainstream culture as non-existent. The ways that state media and information and commentary have profiled the conflict is that Israelis are perpetually at risk of violent subjugation by the Palestinian people. However, Israelis have not been evicted from their homes, their libraries seized and stolen, submitted to humiliating laws and repression, denied freedom of movement, and reduced to poverty and inability to utilize their native traditional resources, as have the Palestinians. 

Israelis are not subject to military occupation forces since 1967. Palestinians are. Can you imagine what that’s like to live with? Israelis are not limited by a system of checkpoints and cages, interrogations at gunpoint, when they try to drive from one city or town to another. They do not find new settlers destroying their farms, chopping down their generations-old olive trees, bulldozing their homes. The fears of Israelis are well-fanned to keep this system in place. 

6 13

Us-them, ingroup-outgroup thinking has been common among homo sapiens for a long time. A basic factor in group psychology, which you probably studied for a licensing exam. The emotions drive cognitions and are easily conditioned and exploited by social context and programming, of which we like other groups have had a lot, enough to saturate people who are more prone to react than to question. A very interesting interview reflecting on this sort of thing is at https://theduran.com/how-psychological-vulnerabilities-are-exploited-to-control-us/

 I read tonight the article “What would it mean to deeply accept that we’re in planetary crisis?” I thought it was really good. The alternation between the two writers helped open it up well. I think you saw this, but in case you lost or never read it, it’s at https://truthout.org/articles/what-would-it-mean-to-deeply-accept-that-were-in-planetary-crisis/

If time permits among so many other things, I may read more by these people.

6 14

To engage in a more loving, affirmative relationship to the lives we lead and share as we continue in skedillions of ways to encounter everyone’s GCE seems to me really important. 

The challenge is, in part, to deliberately practice a kind of deep self-realization and become the people we want to know and meet, as well as helping to base our living on earth day by day on a new, more progressive, inclusive, kind and generous sort of ideological orientation that we can encourage in others by modeling and acting on, in innumerable ways. 

This is part of how I understand transformational resilience and why I think it’s worthy of engagement and development, even though in the ways that ITRC does this it may appear very dry and programmatic. A formula is not a living being in development. There is a quest involved, no matter how many answers people feel they already have, life will present more questions, dilemmas, and frustrations to encounter with our most vital, caring nature.

7 4

I got disgusted early in the day hearing it referred to on NPR as ‘Independence Day’ and thinking about what an outrageously stupid idea it is to celebrate ‘independence’ that is nothing but myth and chimera…  

7 7

I also read what I found a very engaging and meaningful article by Paul Hoggett, “Climate change and the apocalyptic imagination,” which I urge you to sit down with if you haven’t before. It seems to offer responses to some of the issues raised in your IARPP paper and in our dialogues on line. Sensibly enough, if offers more warnings of emotional, rhetorical, and political traps any of us may succumb to than clear-headed definitive advice on how to proceed, but I feel one can use it to sort of clear the chakras as one does one’s best to address the emergency. I can’t find or figure out how I found a copy to read. Foolishly I didn’t download and save it.

I decided to send my APCS essay to ROOM, after I got a very warm belated response from Jill Gentile, whom I’d sent it to incorrectly thinking she’d asked to see it, after she rather said at the APCS last day that she’d been sorry to miss hearing it. 

I sent this message to Division 39 Section IX on 6 20:

Last night about 16 of us in Section IX had a caring, meaningful, sensitive, and dynamic set of conversations revolving around questions about reparations for all the kinds of injuries stemming from the history of slavery in our nation and from its legacies, aftermaths, and resistances to becoming forgettable history. It felt to me like the first of innumerable conversations that may go on for generations, if humans are to respond to this horrific moral and political violence responsibly.

This evening I read a paper, published March 2019 in Ecopsychology, devoted to reckoning with the Global Climate Emergency as not only a material roiling and devastation but also an ongoing, gathering, and perhaps perpetual global experience of psychological trauma. Basing her thinking on psychoanalytically informed trauma theory, Zhiwa Woodbury argues clearly and brilliantly for our coming to terms with the specific and unprecedented nature of Climate Trauma and its relationship with other phenomena of epigenetic, personal, and cultural trauma in ourselves, our clients, our communities, our media, and world populations. 

The best papers and articles I’ve read in recent months on why we don’t respond more proactively to the general crisis (which this work analyzes tellingly and afresh) tend to draw a blank on just what is needed from us to move into it and to survive as well as we can, collectively and individually. This article does powerful, stimulating work on both. The kind of conversation we initiated last night, concerned with a shared legacy and perpetuation of a terrible and alarming injustice and dehumanization over many generations, is an example of the kind of cooperative, integrative sharing of awareness toward solidarity and reconciliation that is vital in this period, during which many repressed, unresolved collective traumas of relational violence and dehumanization are in various, vital ways erupting and demanding healing through acknowledgement, learning, and a democratically embodied empowerment through solidarity.

This article may be accessed for $51.00 at liebertpub.com or in a free pdf from Academia.edu, which is easy to join and can lead to happy surprises, as well as offering you an easy way to make your own papers more widely accessible. Or ask the author for a reprint, at [email protected]

I recommend this article particularly strongly to Section IXers.

7 11

I am pretty squarely on the side of anticipating extinctions increasingly widespread, non-linear programming, and generalized chaotic unpredictability, even if things go as best they may from now on – but of course the USA, Brazil, and many other nations and conglomerates will not help and will hinder things going well. 

I wish I could trust talking to anyone frankly about it, but it’s so overwhelming to address and so amorphously impossible to time events and their sequencing that I hesitate to broach the topic very directly, aside from just to say not infrequently that it’s something I’m thinking about myself, with my kids and most other people. The time when we all speak of it more directly is fast approaching, and perhaps it’s best, with most folks I come into contact with, just to offer an open door to discussion by letting them know it’s on my mind as a concern and investigation – so that later they can bring up feelings or broach questions.

7 11

This evening I read the article attached (from the Mondoweiss website) on the challenges for people who’ve grown up in Gaza coming to the US or France and considering psychotherapy for help to their OTSD (explained in article). I send it on to you not only because it’s interesting and meaningful on its own terms, but also because you are committed to considering roles for psychotherapists in relating to people suffering through the OTSD that is likely to develop more and more deeply and widely in response to ongoing GCE phenomena and their relentless and uncertain future course. It seems to me there are similarities or overlaps between what Gazans deal with – living in Gaza or as temporary or permanent emigrants – and what we increasingly face as world citizens living through this overwhelming, unstoppable, and unthinkable development in our environments, societies, identities, and loved ones. 

7 12

To the degree, significant but relatively minor, that my mother shared her grievances and private matters with me growing up, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I ought to be able or even permitted to solve or fix them. I felt that at most I was recruited as a “good listener,” and a bit of a love substitute for my dad, and I think really she then hoped I would forget whatever I had listened to. She used my next younger brother more intensely and less cautiously in this regard, and I believe it has been an abiding injury that he has felt gravely through his adulthood. This is very different than the challenges you faced as an only child with your mother’s severe disability and your father’s dismay and troubles in supporting her. That they even allowed you to carry a hope or belief that you might solve their problems seems terrible and deeply harmful, as I understand such matters. 

I would just further state that I don’t believe I can ever comprehend or learn, emotionally or cognitively, about all the pain, distress, and sufferings in this world. I know that I have my convenient and privileged means of buffering and compartmentalizing, as well as of channeling into use sometimes, the horror, anger, and grief that can get stimulated by reading or hearing about some of them. Thus, I don’t actually feel it all, intimately and effectively. I am generally able to feel some and then respond – even to respond by turning the page to a different article, or opening an art book or watching some film to relax my mind – without obsessing and making unmanageable demands on myself. I can easily accuse myself of not doing enough or not taking things seriously enough, as a result, but over time I manage to accept that I am not about to quit work to move someplace I can get arrested for blocking a pipeline or otherwise change my life course and security in a radical way – but that I am still willing to join in solidarity and be some part of an awakening to the need to address injustices and catastrophes, especially ongoing and accumulative ones. 

7 14

It was a warm lovely day with a late afternoon thunderstorm. I went to the zendo for a sitting and an annual business meeting, which was interesting. I don’t remember attending one before – though I likely did at least once. Then I went to a place called The SEED Barn in Blue Hill, on a gorgeous isthmus, where the daughter of the man who bought it (I think) is working with schoolchildren, local organizations, and other organizations in Haiti, to restore native botanical life, to develop renewed access to medicinal plants, and to express artistically the spirits of nature, ancestors, dignity, and strength. I thought to go upon hearing about a small collection of Haitian sculptures she has arranged in her garden – they are wonderful, powerful, evocative bricolages of materials found wherever, easily lost among the bounteous plants in her gardens in Maine, as they might have been before they were pulled off the street or out of trash heaps in Port au Prince. It was an inspiring visit, with her offering a tour of her gardens – plants and sculptures – and answering questions, primarily about her botanical projects. Dinner with my daughter tonight was very good and warm and calm, too.

7 19

Major cities are extremely dependent on reliable transportation systems, efficient construction projects, continuous energy and communications flows, so it’s an extremely uncommon thing that major disruptions on these would be tolerated without regular law enforcement and without advance agreement on permits. 

XR will do what it will do, with many persons willing to accept arrest, but huge masses of people are unlikely to risk facing toxic sprays, police aggression, and worse, whether on a work day or a day off or a day of deliberate defiance of corporate powers. The governing authorities have their own priorities. Strategies are key in developing activist plans. I doubt that XR is surprised at this news story.

7 28

Our GCE not something I seem to formulate clinical questions about, but I do think about it and how it may relate to clinical processes. 

I mention it when I mention it, and the emphasis varies a lot (like everything else does) depending on who I’m talking with (in clinical work and outside of it). I even suggested it as a significant contributor to a vague uneasy sense of anxiety that  a returning client told me about – as an aspect of vulnerability, which I feel has been growing as a developmental achievement in him (in his 70s), also I think due to a new terrific love relationship that now involves co-domesticity, as well as his reflecting more on his age and mortality. 

Your accounts of 3 cases with this issue embedded in them are interesting. I feel that sometimes just a little mention is enough. If and when the patient is ready, it will come up again, maybe front and center. I wouldn’t want to focus a patient on making definite short-term decisions in relation to it, but I am more likely to comment in passing on the big unknowable state of things to come, if we’re thinking about grandchildren, about legacy, about long-term planning. So far, there haven’t been any episodes in which I sense a major conflict or overwhelm emerging as a result. But I don’t yet share the collapse of society idea with my clients. I want to be respectfully sensitive specially with those who have children.

The whole thing is a whopper. I try not to get the discussion going, so far, so much as acknowledge it seems likely to be an issue, over years to come, as well as now already.

7 28

Lately I want the world to know one of the ways in toward the realization of how we are becoming subject to the global climate emergency is through listening to 46-year-old British organizational analyst Jem Bendell, whom I first heard conversing at length with psychoanalyst/activist Ro Randall in a two part video. I find it helpful, though some may find it just desperately depressing. Bendell published a year ago a calmly, abruptly thrilling 20-page paper titled “Deep Adaptation” (at http://lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf) that stepped just outside conventional academic norms and unexpectedly blew up all over the internet, sparking affinities and controversy over its discussion of the coming societal collapse. He maintains a website blog (at https://jembendell.com/) and also works with an on-line forum for those highly active on these questions (at https://deepadaptation.ning.com/) and a facebook page one may join to participate in more broadly democratic discussions (at https://www.facebook.com/groups/deepadaptation/). In a new paper (at https://iflas.blogspot.com/2019/07/compendium-of-research-reports-on.html), he summarizes a number of the past year’s peer-reviewed scientific papers that reinforce his convictions that we’re on the accelerating pathway to radical disconnection with systems and expectations we have come to rely on, (which he then comments on at https://jembendell.com/2019/07/07/a-year-of-deep-adaptation/). I encourage starting with a recent podcast interview that allows breadth and time to a conversation touching on personal as well as scientific and social facets of his emerging and morphing thoughts and experiences (at http://www.thefutureisbeautiful.co/2018/12/27/e45-jem-bendell-on-deep-adaptation-climate-change-and-societal-collapse-acceptance-and-evolution-in-the-face-of-global-meltdown/) .

To me it’s not painful reading. It’s honest reportage, from him as a person and on the planet as it’s changing. We don’t get enough of that, although occasionally a leak occurs in the wall of information management, giving us a flooded sensation. 

7 29

This isn’t the end of the world, just of the world as we’ve known it. It seems to have been predictable, but I don’t know whether this particular phenomenon was predicted or by whom. I don’t keep track of that, as my memory would make a hash of it, but I do expect diverse alarming trends, extreme weather events, fires, and floods, releases of methane and stored carbons, and a developing planetary alterations of everything short of geographic structures, and I think these alterations will be faster and less manageable than anyone has a capacity to compute, due to combinatory effects. 

We will be grieving from here on out, especially those of us who’ve been able to appreciate any degree of security, affluence, comfort, and routines over the years. So, for my mind, the “deep adaptation” agenda, always under development, is crucial to finding my bearings as things unravel and become less recognizable and tolerable, while also pressing the powerful to address strategic planning with scientifically informed foresight and to exercise compassion for the world’s growing number of homeless, hungry, thirsty, and under-informed. 

7 29

My supervisor when I was first doing therapy at the Wright Institute clinic later wrote an outstanding paper on the manic society. I was thinking of it earlier today as well. Mania would put us on route to hype up our psychotic decision-making increasingly to the point of exhaustion of all means to execute them; it seems a more worrisome analogy or paradigm than addiction, which we might manage to recover something from after hitting bottom. But these are all analogies and stories, anyway. 

7 29

I totally agree that male childhood development deserves attention in our recognition and understanding of patriarchy, which can include some compassion for the oppressor and traumatizer. Anyone inflicting trauma on others is experiencing trauma himself, as I see it. What a horrible experience of one’s life and love capacity. 

I think it was Juliet Mitchell who also write some powerfully suggestive theory about early male development. Not remembering the course of it too well, it did involve something about early divorce from identification with the maternal caregiver, promoting the boy’s experience of existential isolation, alienation, false-self machismo or self-sufficiency (consider how the neoliberal and USAmerican stereotypes are typified). The male child, per Mitchell, would be obliged to discount the power of natural life and of the planetary interdependencies, in order to preserve and develop a sense of  personal survival and integrity. Grim, isn’t it?

Some of us pansies didn’t really grow up that way, but it wasn’t easy being so different as all that, no matter how safe or toxic our mothers were. 

I will read this article. The British “public school” system, through which the affluent and distinguished process their children, is notorious for bullying, hazing, class prejudices, etcetera. I can hope it’s watered down better nowadays, but I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through it. I had enough of that sort of thing, in a less severe form, through attending, as a day student, a renowned prep school that had long been a feeder program for Princeton University. I was fortunate enough to discover a few other boys who were odd enough, creatively independent enough, and/or unconventional and easy-going enough to become friends to me. I miss them!

I’m in touch with some of those friends. Another for mysterious reasons won’t speak to me or communicate at all since I last saw him 30+ years ago. Another died with his wife, murdered in their small home on the Meher Baba commune in coastal India years ago, after we had renewed contact and had a marvelous correspondence for a couple years. He was a very kind, resourceful, unique fellow.

7 21

I read two blogposts by Bikkhu Bodhi intended to rally Buddhists to engage in some form of activism when they can, and I appreciated his resolute and clear thinking and expression. I didn’t really enjoy them, perhaps because the ideas were second nature to me and because the style was rather impersonal and starchy, but basically I felt that they were good and they certainly deserve to be read. I imagine listening to him in person would be very different, and I still hope I make time to listen to a talk or two of his on line. There is so much I hope to make time for!

I read a few short blogposts by Ro Randall this morning, and I plan to read her “Loss and climate change: the cost of parallel narratives” from about a decade ago, after reading a two paragraph summary of it in her blog.

The local small group that met to discuss an article reflecting on the GCE from a myth-oriented frame of mind elicited a very active, dynamic, moving, and meaningful discussion from the 8 of us there. 

Today two board members at the zendo took about a half hour each in place of sitting and walking meditation to talk and elicit comments on the GCE, hope, despair, and deep ecology. These were two people I have trouble listening to, although their intentions are okay, and it was a struggle to tolerate these presentations, which to me seemed vague, simplistic, short-sighted, academic, and self-important. Life goes on.

The one-day climate convergence conference transpired yesterday from 9 to 330 at the local high school, which lacks air conditioning and as usual sitting in the gym was weird and oppressive. There were some good speakers, including some college and high school students and one 8th grader. I went to breakout ‘workshops’ on the emotional processing of GCE, on teaching undergraduates about this in a cross-disciplinary course (a philosophy and a physics professor), and about the latest summary of global changes and what to expect (good but very limited in fact as a composite account of all aspects and challenges entailed). 

My reading and the small group that meets on Thursday evenings are my primary resources for coping and learning how to accept and reflect on GCE as well as to learn about what to expect. 

After reading his essay from 7/1/19, Don’t police our emotions, I signed up for communications with Jem Bendell’s various on-line stations, a quarterly report from a Forum and a Facebook page and his blog and maybe another group. To the essay I mentioned, he linked to a 7/26/18 List of emotional support resources, which I also read. I hope to read and listen to some of the things he refers to there. Then I also read just now his rather devastating but clearly reasoned Compendium of research reports on climate chaos and impacts, 7/7/19. I feel he is both reinforcing his own committed belief in the strong likelihood of societal collapse and also manifesting enough peer-reviewed scientific analyses to fully justify it.

As he typically notes, we have become very used to the dire, injurious effects of government, military, and corporate policies being minimized, soft-pedaled, and diverted from discussion. It makes complete sense to me that the chickens are coming home to roost, and the future of life on this planet will need to accommodate very different structural and adaptive qualities than we have become used to. 

On interlibrary loan I borrowed a copy of a coffee table book called Genesis, made of photographs by Sebastio Salgado, which are beautiful and deep. He made these in the previous decade all over the world, focusing on the natural world as he anticipates the loss of many current qualities to be found there. I’m just looking through it a few pages at a time, fascinated.

I wanted to give you some account of what I’ve been up to. I’m not obsessing, I believe, but I am thinking about all this, a lot lately. Meanwhile, grateful to be alive and to have many benefits of good fortune at hand. 

7 28

various THINGS have somehow come up that seemed to require immediate attention, including deciding in a rush saturday morning to send off an application for a residency of a month or less in alabama as a poet person. which i will probably not get.

and reading bruno latour’s recent book down to earth, which my old friend jonathan lethem (somewhat notorious as a novelist who actually sells books) had just ordered and read and wanted to loan me so we could talk together about it. it was a real page turner and helpful, to my mind, in contemplating a political framework for understanding how politics has been working, particularly in europe and the usa, and how the GCE may stimulate a very different and more compellingly adaptive sort of political struggle and alignment. it is only 100 pages though i often had to stop and think about a sentence or reread it, as i do also with arendt, which has all been very worthwhile to me. you may find it interesting too. i read the first half on wednesday while sitting in shade and sun at schoodic head, a favorite place of power a bit over an hour’s drive from here. 

our thursday reading group is going to shift into discussion of race/racism this week and the reading is interesting and brief but i will be at a contemporary music concert in an old mill that a bassoonist (who is also a water surveyor and a restorative justice leader, since she moved here from the nyc avant garde scene 3 years ago) lives in and turns into a space for electronic and improvised musics, so I will skip the reading group this time. 

7 29

Yes, the burden is going to be enormous, on young old and in between, in the years to come. Greta Thunberg is starting in on it early, and at least can see (and model a sense of) making some difference, although not yet on the persons who are still bent on destroying the planet’s life forms or trying to retard rather than accelerate methods of reviving and stabilizing them. 

I feel you are fortunate to have been to Alaska. I want to travel more outside the 48 but wonder increasingly whether I ever will again. It feels increasingly difficult to conscience air travel without a strong and specific socially redemptive purpose.

I’m on a kick of idolizing GT, rather wantonly. So thanks for sending these links, most of which are new to me. She is, to my mind, a sort of genius – her ability to speak purposefully, meaningfully, in a compelling and strategic way, to great emotional effect (enhanced no doubt by her history of mental health challenges, including years of mutism), as well as to make clear cut distinctions and choices. It helps me to collect experiences of her appearance and speaking voice, to help keep my inner gyroscope in some degree of balance day to day. (I could say the same of Arendt, whom I read rather religiously once a week, or Bendell, whose speaking voice I find really comfortable, although I don’t feel any of these people are trying to comfort or please any of us.) Like others put maxims on their bathroom mirror, I put photos of younger persons I admire and feel encouraged by (to keep my pluck, energy, and spirits up) here and there on my walls at home. 

I also find good fiction, set in times before an acknowledged onset of the GCE, in audio recordings, a big help. 

Buddhist is all inclusive, as I understand it. And you write with various elements of sympathy and compassion here. I can understand wondering about Bendell’s personality, male privilege, potential follow-through. He does seem to have taken great risks with his life course in order to experience himself sharing what he sees as honest truth and connect with others with such integrity as he can, and that can’t be accomplished perhaps with some (hopefully healthy) narcissistic investment. 

Our air, our waters, everything is full of strange chemicals by 2019, and so our bodies and our fetus’s bodies are to some degree permeated by alien toxins and chemistry. I have a hard time doubting this problem increases incidence of autistic disorders and dementias too. So there could be any one of a thousand reasons that a lung cancer gradually began to develop.

8 9

You ask whether I think that climate action needs to be larger than, say, the U.S. mobilization for World War II? I don’t feel I’m a person to know about such things, and maybe no one does, but all in all, I expect the adjustments that accommodation and adaptation will require and/or that preventative measures must require will be at least as great as that. I don’t really know what people went through in the late 30s early 40s, but the situation was entirely different – the danger and enemy were palpable, and the USA waited quite a while before getting involved (aside from our national commerce getting pretty damn involved in transactions with the Third Reich to its advantage). 

USAmerican powerhouse finance and industries are well oriented to taking advantage of disasters and social collapses in order to take over and turn a profit and extend their empires, but this is a different situation from that too. They are perhaps pathetically resistant and under-prepared for a growing overwhelm that hasn’t changed their own life styles or supply chains too much yet. 

8 9

I am already among the overcommitted, by my own reckoning. I didn’t mean to give up reading poetry or psychoanalysis to wrestle with climate change, and I’d like to correct the balance in how deeply that’s happening. It’s very hard to do. It seems to me that the inessential reading, doing, seeing occupies very little of my weekly life at this point. And but I do try to keep active in ways that matter to my soul and nature.

8 10

The best way to discuss it is to meet with people who are also recognizing their doubts or despair about a habitable planet. They generally do not need convincing, and they are capable of empathizing and sometimes of reflecting with us. Other people we can alert to the fact that we’re continuing to learn and worry and even stay active on this front, and they can ask more or share more when they are ready. To try to get them to listen or talk about it, if they haven’t asked to or begun the conversation as a real exchange seems a frustrating and futile use of energy. So it seems to me. 

The “community healing discussion group” that Benjamin and Lori started in East Blue Hill is of the former kind. It has now refocused on white fragility in the context of USAmerican racism, but the group members are now knowable as people who get it about potentials for massive disaster, shortages, societal collapse, and possible extinction. And the linkage between white male supremacy and global climate emergency is so tight as to make them pretty much the same thing, it seems to me. 

The other day on the way to this group I was thinking about the expectations of societal collapse and the world and national news I receive, realizing that such collapse is already well underway. In the USA and elsewhere we have a rise in authoritarian political leaders and formations, divisiveness and intensive conflict between elements of the general population, exercise of violence to address differences and misunderstandings, disrepair, damage and decay of outmoded infrastructures, gridlocked governmental decision-making about vital social issues, severe separations between science and policy, and mistrust of those traditionally expected to keep the status quo manageable. The authoritarian may be chosen by a voting majority as the strong man leader who will take care of all this chaos, and he then typically incites more of the same. Whether the 2020 election in the USA will simply heighten this tendencies or lean effectively into resolving them (somehow!!) inspires gathering suspense to the point of near breathlessness . . . Holding our breaths for another 14 months seems dangerous, however. 

8 12

 There are many rising outrages, including those against injustice and those against dark-skinned people. 

I’m not sure I would care to invoke rising tides of outrage so much as awakenings of interdependency consciousness and love of life and its home.

8 12

Human life on planet earth is not going to survive in a post-industrial period based on hunting and gathering, or not until the population is radically diminished and wildlife has miraculously flourished across populated zones, so farming is going to be necessary in one form or another for the indefinite future. Some farms do enrich the soil and its ability to not only support healthy organically grown edibles but also to sequester carbon and generally serve a healthier atmosphere with less carbons getting released. All farms occupy land that might otherwise be taken up with deciduous or other trees and forests, and perhaps other sorts of effective carbon-management vegetal life. But there’s not point in proposing that all farms be destroyed and outlawed. Farms that practice intelligent management of the soil and produce foods not troubled by chemical fertilizers and pesticides are perhaps the most worth preserving. And I believe that they can increase in share of the planet’s farmland while the farms that ruin and abandon the soil in various ways can become fewer and disappear over time. (Over a lot of time, probably. I don’t think we’re talking about saving the spectrum of life forms on the planet fast in this discussion about farms.) If some of the ruined or badly exploited farmland were to return to wilderness or forest, that might help, eventually, with our carbon climate issues. If it were all lost, I think there would be tremendous increases in social disruption due to starvations. Empty lots and parking lots and dead malls, etc., are especially great candidates for new forests and wild plants, in my estimation. 

Meanwhile, with Greta Thunberg, I see the virtues and values of a vegan diet, in its refusal to depend on sentient animals as food source, as an intelligent plan for as many as will embrace it, or to whatever expect people will lean that way, with respect to conserving the best in our atmosphere’s capacity to support life. I understand that both the depletion of trees and other natural growth to allow for grazing, etc., and the radical proliferation of methane gasses resulting from animal husbandry on a vast factory-farming scale contribute very significantly to global heating. 

9 2 2019

I have the sense that the more people are engaged, even if only in the struggle to recognize the imposing impending reality of the GCE and to respond with some degree of love for themselves, for one another, for the providence of our ecosystem, a great deal is accomplished. Most people may take a long time to move from getting it as an unparalleled dilemma to getting active and pursuing activist methodologies. But the more our social worlds resonate with love and compassion, actual thought and curiosity, the better our outcomes as a set of communities will be. 

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