Steven Goldfinger, Ph.D.Principal, EcoMindFifth Conference on Integrative Psychiatry“Interconnectedness“20 April, 2012Groningen, Netherlands
A form of suicide, in which an individual or a populationdestroys the biophysical substrate on which its life andwell-being depend.
Do you believe this is a serious risk? If so, does it impact the way you currently live your life?
1) Are we really at risk of ecocide? ▪ What is the current ecological disorder? ▪ How bad/urgent is the problem? ▪ Do we know what to do about it?2) If we know, why are we behaving in ways that increase rather than reduce the problem—is there an underlying psychological disorder?3) What role should psychiatry play in addressing this disorder?
2 Hiroshima bombs a second, since 1961. Would boil Sydney Harbour dry every 12 hours—twice a day for the last 50 years.
• Climate change • Fisheries collapses • Storm surges• Ocean acidification • Peak oil • Fisheries collapse• Plastic floating islands • Collapse of global • Biodiversity loss (food chain) supply chains • Declining forests• Endocrine disruptors • Population migration -- • Loss of pollinators• Pharmaceuticals in environmental refugees • Forest fires water supply • Flooding • Peat fires• Antibiotic-resistant • Drought • Salt intrusion in aquifers “superbugs” • Freshwater shortages • Aquifer depletion• Acid rain • Heat waves • Melting permafrost• Heavy metal poisoning- • Ozone holes • Glacier recession -mercury, cadmium, • Coral reef bleaching • Crop failures lead • Topsoil erosion • Nitrogen cycle• Persistent organic • Dustbowls disrupted compounds—DDT, PCB, • More violent storms • Ocean currents slowing dioxin • Resource wars • Respiratory illnesses• Changing precipitation • Vector-borne diseases patterns • Sea level rise
West Antarctic ice sheet collapses Ocean circulation patterns rapidly shift Northern peatlands (bogs, moors) dry and burn Amazon burns, becomes a carbon source instead of sink Permafrost melts — self-reinforcing feedback loop
From 1000 environmental problems… + + + +→ 3 errors in our relationship with nature
ConsumptionResources Waste Regeneration
Resources Waste Fossil Fuels
1. Eliminate the progressive buildup of substances extracted from the Earths crust (for example, heavy metals and fossil fuels).2. Eliminate the progressive buildup of chemicals and compounds produced by society (for example, dioxins, PCBs, DDT, endocrine disruptors ).3. Eliminate the progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes (for example, over harvesting forests and paving over critical wildlife habitat).
…Avoid turning resources into junkfaster than nature can turn junk back intoresources!
"Continuing on our current course would be suicidal forglobal civilization… Here is the core of it:We are destroying the climate balance that is essentialto the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant orabstract threat; it is happening now.” Al Gore, June, 2011
“In the twenty-first century, supplies are running short and the globalthermostat is running high. Climate change is also showing us that theold model is more than obsolete...The worlds current economic model is an environmental globalsuicide pact that will result in disaster if it isnt reformed.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2011
We clearly understand how critical the situation is, we know what needs to be done, yet we fail to act. Even worse, we continue to behave in ways that accelerate rather than ameliorate the problem.
If we know, why do we fail to act? What are the psychological obstacles keeping us on an unsustainable path?
Current behavior too rewarding inability to delay gratification, even to avert future catastrophe Difficulty perceiving global, long-term trends Instincts—e.g., gathering & hoarding—that are no longer adaptive Habituation search for novelty, driving overconsumption Brain reward system for selfish behavior more powerful, more dominant than for altruistic behavior (innate vs. learned?) Habits—efficient, but can interfere with change Limited mathematical capacity e.g., failure to understand compound growth Individuals behave differently in groups/organizations; latter preserve identity by resisting change Dominance hierarchy—individual and groups reaping the rewards resist change in the status quo Situation so distressing denial, depression, learned helplessness Illusion of separateness—what is “not me” doesn’t impact me
Accurate perception/acceptance of reality Eliminate delusion that all is OK, no urgency Dispel illusion of separateness from nature Shift from pathological to adaptive behavior Emotional resilience as conditions worsen Prevent paralyzing fear, anger, depression, helplessless, etc. from interfering with effective adaptation
1. If ecocide is self-destructive behavior, is this a form of pathology that psychiatry must address, and if so, how?2. Is dispelling the illusion of separateness key to acting in alignment with nature, and if so, does integrative psychiatry, with connectedness as one of its central tenets, have a special role to play?3. Can behavior be shifted quickly enough, and on a large enough scale, to get us off our current destructive path?4. What practical steps can the psychiatric community take, and with whom should it form partnerships, to help facilitate the societal shift necessary if we are to avoid ecocide?
A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” apart limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughtsand feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of opticaldelusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us,restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a fewpersons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from thisprison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all livingcreatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Albert Einstein
“The ancients saw no division between themselves and the naturalworld. They understood how to live in harmony with the worldaround them.It is time to recover that sense of living harmoniously for oureconomies and our societies.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon