Restructuring Planet ~=~ Restructuring Brain

Our mental well-being is declining in parallel with the degradation of our biophysical environment. In general, we will classify these phenomena into two categories: direct psychological and emotional effects of climate change and psychological adaptation to technological development. There is an increasing amount of research being conducted on the relationship between the climate crisis and psychology, such as the psychological impacts of climate change, eco-anxiety, and ecological worrying, among many others. On the other hand, rapid technological advancements in recent decades have influenced a radical transformation of human psychology. Kahn outlined two fundamental trends that are radically restructuring human existence, “One is the degradation and destruction of large parts of the natural world." It’s something about nature that we depend on for our physical and psychological well-being. The second is an unprecedented technological development, both in terms of computational sophistication and pervasiveness. It’s exponential technological growth. "Humans will adapt to such changes psychologically.” (Kahn et al, 2009) In the past centuries, we have not just restructured our planet, we have also restructured our brain.

The ecological crisis that threatens mankind and most of the biosphere is more of an internal psychological problem than an external environmental crisis. There are several issues have been researched on the incredible emotions evoked by ecological crisis including grieves (Randall 2009), melancholy (Lertzman 2015), fear, and terror (Doppelt 2016). Obviously, large numbers of these sentiments are just stirred once somebody gets mindful of our deteriorating planetary health, since it is in the idea of a feeling that it has a conscious object (climate change) and implications (hazard, crisis) appended to it. Yet, there is another sort of feeling, ordinarily alluded to as an ‘effect’, which works at a substantially less cognisant level. Anxiety (the centre element of stress) is an exemplary model. It is additionally instinctive, felt fundamentally through the body as opposed to through insight. This differentiation is significant because it empowers us to see how individuals, for example, those in denial, may not be ‘climate conscious’ but then still influenced by incredible emotions incited by environmental change.

The illness that develops from loss of identity, loss of an endemic sense of place and a decline in well being, which arises from negative relationship to our biophysical environment is termed as Psychoterratic (Albrecht et al, 2007). Both somatic and psychological illnesses are likely to increase as a result of relentless interconnected development pressures and global warming. As ecosystem and climatic health deteriorate, so will the vitality of human psychology and physiological health. Unfortunately, synergistic associations between biophysical and psychological distress are now involved in many cases of earth-related dysbiosis.

Our fragmented and segregated education tradition has always succeeded in reducing our cultural worldview into myopic preconceived ideas and distracting our short-span attention from our fundamental interdependence relationship with merely every natural entity around us. The world as we know it has been designed to meet the demands of the prevailing capitalist economy, without any consideration of equality or justice towards living or non-living entities. As Glen Albrecht, the environmental philosopher highlighted, “The issue is not simply climate change (as bad as that is) it is the whole Capitalist development paradigm that is at the dark heart of mal-development; that is, a development that undermines and destroys the very foundations of all life on Earth.” (Albrecht, 2016) Thus, it is no surprise that most of us still do not realize how the climate crisis has impacted not just our physical health but our mental well-being as well.

Our biophysical climate provides many provisioning, supportive, administrative, and social benefits to humans, and the cycles and highlights that provide these benefits are now often referred to as “ecosystem services.” It could not be more critical than the presence of humanity, as well as public health and welfare, is deeply dependent on these ostensibly ‘services,’ and the assorted exhibit of living beings they uphold.

The majority of us regard nature as a set of objects rather than a communion of subjects, as set of apparatus rather than threads of interdependent ecosystem. An ideal shift would necessitate a rethinking of the human-nature relationship as well as the cultivation of deep consideration towards the nonhuman environment. As the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould once claimed, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature — for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

— Albert Einstein (from a letter dated 1950, quoted in the New York Times in 1972)

1 Katie Hayes and others, ‘Climate Change and Mental Health: Risks, Impacts and Priority Actions’, International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 12.1 (2018), 28 <https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-018-0210-6>.

2 Pihkala Panu, ‘Anxiety and the Ecological Crisis: An Analysis of Eco-Anxiety and Climate Anxiety’, Sustainability, 12.19 (2020), 7836 <https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197836>.

3 Bas Verplanken and Deborah Roy, ‘“My Worries Are Rational, Climate Change Is Not”: Habitual Ecological Worrying Is an Adaptive Response’, ed. by Qinghua Sun, PLoS
ONE, 8.9 (2013), e74708 <
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074708>.

4 Peter H Kahn, Rachel L Severson, and Jolina H Ruckert, ‘The Human Relation With Nature and Technological Nature’, 18.1, 6.

5 Rosemary Randall, ‘Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives’, Ecopsychology, 1.3 (2009), 118–29 <https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2009.0034>.

6 Renee Lertzman, Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement, Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement, 2015, p. 222 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315851853>.

7 Bob Doppelt, Transformational Resilience: How Building Human Resilience to Climate Disruption Can Safeguard Society and Increase Wellbeing (Routledge, 2017).

8 Glenn Albrecht and others, ‘Solastalgia: The Distress Caused by Environmental Change’, Australasian
Psychiatry, 15.1_suppl (2007), S95–98 <
https://doi.org/10.1080/10398560701701288>

9 Glenn A Albrecht, ‘Exiting the Anthropocene and Entering the Symbiocene’, Minding Nature 9, 9 (2016), 5.

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