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Werner Sattmann-Frese - Psychological Perspectives of Ecological Crises


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This PowerPoint presentation explores the causes of ecological crises from a range of social and psychological perspectives. It compares these ways of understanding our ecological problems with the ones currently used in environmental education. Solutions for an integrated approach to positive ecological change are suggested.

Dr Werner Sattmann-Frese is a psychotherapist, social ecologist, and senior lecturer at the Jansen Newman Institute (Think Education Group) in Sydney.

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Werner Sattmann-Frese - Psychological Perspectives of Ecological Crises

  1. 1. Learning for Sustainable Living Psychological Perspectives of Ecological Crises Werner Sattmann-Frese PhD February 2011
  2. 2. I am currently working as a Senior Lecturer and Program Co-Manager at the Jansen Newman Institute – Think Education Group in Sydney. To share your feedback, please contact me at
  3. 3. The need for a paradigm change “The historical mission of our time is to reinvent the human - at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life systems, in a timedevelopmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience.” Thomas Berry
  4. 4. A Paradigm is really a paradigm “A scientific account of the world is no more and no less than an explanation proffered at a particular place and time that is judged by a particular community of researchers to be true” (Oelschlaeger, 1995, p. 4).
  5. 5. Issues affecting the health and well-being of the web of life
  6. 6. Social and ecological crises Our present environmental crises are coarising together with many other unsustainable practices and systems, such as our psychosomatically illiterate medical system, from a crisis of the egocentric consciousness that has become the normal self-experience in western societies.
  7. 7. Causes of ecological crises Our views on causes of our ecological crises and our approaches to change are emotionally and socially constructed. Useful approaches to making sense of our crises and creating positive change include: o Behaviourist psychology views o Cognitive psychology views o Depth psychology views o Social psychology views o Somatics and ecospirituality views o Technological approaches to change o Management approaches to change
  8. 8. Technological approaches to change o People adhering to technological approaches to o change commonly believe that technological solutions and innovations will suffice to solve our ecological (environmental and social) problems. Technological approaches are important but not the whole story.
  9. 9. Technological approaches to change Quick fixes are sometimes appropriate because they work sufficiently well and/or buy time to design longer-term solutions. Opposition to fundamental solutions stems from four sources that must be dealt with: lack of understanding of ecological mechanisms, failure to recognize the gravity of the problem, vested interests, and absence of institutions to address public goods and intergenerational choices effectively ( blications-repository/quick-fixes-for-environmentalproblems-part-oft-he-solution-or-part-of-theproblem).
  10. 10. Management approaches to change Environmental management is the process by which environmental health is regulated. It does not involve managing the environment itself, but it is the process of taking steps and behaviors to have a positive effect on the environment. Environmental management involves the wise use of activity and resources to have an impact on the world.
  11. 11. Limitations of the environmental management approach Environmental management systems operate on the assumption that it is possible to create a sustainable society through clever management of resources, production processes, and consumption behaviours. Such a purely rational approach to change is consistently sabotaged by psychological scenarios that undermine the political will needed to teach or enforce more sustainable behaviours.
  12. 12. A need for new progress indicators For the last century we have pursued increased well-being and quality of life through more and more economic growth, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the headline indicator of progress. But the side-effects of economic growth cause many key aspects of ecological deterioration. GDP takes no account of increasing inequality, pollution, or damage to people's health and the environment.
  13. 13. Progress indicators (continued) “It treats crime, divorce and other elements of social breakdown as economic gains. This current model of 'progress' is cheating on ourselves, other countries and future generations. We need to redefine progress, and replace GDP with new indicators of progress, which measure how our national policies truly deliver a better quality of life for all”. ml
  14. 14. Addressing institutional failures “We live in a time of massive institutional failure, collectively creating results that nobody wants. Climate change. AIDS. Hunger. Poverty. Violence. Destruction of communities, nature, life – the foundations of our social, economic, ecological, and spiritual well-being”. C. Otto Scharmer: Addressing the blindspot of our time: an executive summary of the new book by Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges
  15. 15. Ecological philosophy Ecological philosophy is concerned with our ways of perceiving the relationships between humans and the other-than-human environment. It is particularly concerned with definitions of the notion of environment and the question as to whether it is justified to allocate an elevated position to humans.
  16. 16. Behaviourist psychology: This approach to environmental change is based on the assumption that our behaviours are maladapted to the requirements of the environment in which we live. People at this level of eco-consciousness are likely to: accept the authority of specialists who claim to have identified certain behaviours as inappropriate and unsustainable agree to being persuaded or coerced into adopting more sustainable behaviour, and respond positively to behaviourist interventions such as incentives and disincentives.
  17. 17. Cognitive psychology: Environmental education and education for sustainable development are based on the assumption that sustainable development and sustainability can be achieved by: changing people’s behaviours through providing knowledge and insight into ecological issues teaching people to use practices such as recycling and the wise use of resources applying a socially reformist approach to ecological change that does not question the mainstays of the current paradigm, such as economic growth.
  18. 18. Social psychology The social psychology approach to environmental crises explores the relationship dynamics that leads to ecological deterioration. These include in particular: the need to ‘impress the Joneses’ through the new car and the extension to the house the dynamics that stop people, communities, or whole countries from being the first ones to implement environmental legislation (“If we introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme, we will be unfairly disadvantaged in the international market place”).
  19. 19. Depth psychology: Depth psychology is concerned with four profound human needs: the needs for emotional integrity, happiness, freedom, and belonging. It recognises that many people experience severe frustrations because these core needs are often neither met during their childhood nor during their adult lives. Many of us unconsciously satisfy these human needs then symbolically by employing mechanisms such as addictive compensatory consumption (‘retail therapy’). These practices prevent us from finding healing and inner peace and keep our ecologically unsustainable economies going.
  20. 20. Somatics and ecospirituality: Somatics and ecospirituality are concerned with creating a form of self-experience that is often also called ecstasy, enlightenment, satori, or grace (Watts, 1961; Moore, 1996). It is based on our ability to experience ourselves as interconnected and energetically ‘streaming beings’ (Boadella, 1987). These knowledge disciplines conceptualise that many key aspects of our ecological crises are based on our difficulty with experiencing an embodied sense of person-planet unity. This lack of unity experiences are usually the result of early developmental traumas, but also of strong emotional conflicts and fears caused by exploitation in our present lives.
  21. 21. Mental health and sustainable living Environmental sustainability is intrinsically interconnected with physical and mental health. Holistic thinking suggests that mental and physical health are dependent on our ability to lead physio-emotionally, psychosocially, and environmentally sustainable lives. These three notions are explained in the following slides:
  22. 22. Physio-emotional sustainability The concept of physio-emotional sustainability can be employed to denote our ability to have a friendly and nurturing relationship with our bodies, to understand their signals, to experience pleasure through them, and to cope with life’s demands without resorting to compensatory, and often destructive, behaviour such as consumerism (Sattmann-Frese & Hill, Learning for Sustainable Living, 2008).
  23. 23. Physio-emotional sustainability denotes our ability to: understand and flow with our natural body needs understand the signals of our body and use them as important guides and mechanisms of selfregulation understand the meaning and purpose of our physical illnesses, and experience a high degree of body-mind unity and to cope with life’s demands without having to consume excessive food, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs.
  24. 24. Psychosocial sustainability The term ‘psychosocial sustainability’ can be employed to describe the emotional and structural features and mechanisms governing the relationships between human beings. Relationships are psychosocially sustainable when they provide support, nurturing, emotional holding, and emotional and spiritual growth for everyone involved (Shem and Surrey, 1998; Hill, Wilson and Watson, 2004).
  25. 25. Psychosocial (relational) sustainability denotes our ability to: identify conflicts with other people and to find creative solutions for them identify with our feelings and find adequate expressions for them in our relationships maintain and enjoy nurturing relationships and connections with other people respect social boundaries and appreciate ‘otherness’, and enjoy social contacts without needing substances to facilitate these contacts or to provide stimulation.
  26. 26. Environmental sustainability (1) There is a growing agreement that our society will be environmentally sustainable when we will: implement our present technological possibilities to produce high-quality goods that have a long lifespan and can be easily repaired and serviced • acknowledge the planet’s finite resources and the necessity to move from non-renewable to renewable resources, and • observe limitations imposed by the carrying capacity of this planet.
  27. 27. Environmental sustainability denotes our ability to: • • • experience a strong sense of self without having to harm the environment through compensatory selfsupport mechanisms, (e.g. consuming non-essential goods or holding racist or anthropocentric values) understand the links and analogies between personal, psychosocial, and ecological sustainability, and to maintain a caring interest for the non-human beings on this planet, a need to preserve the Earth’s resources, and to keep air, water and soil clean for the benefit of all beings, in present and in future.
  28. 28. Three “kinds of changes” We may actually have to address three interrelated levels of change: • Personal change, growth, and • • healing Social change Environmental change
  29. 29. Lifestyles of health and sustainability • Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) describes an estimated $209 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living (
  30. 30. Aspects of LOHAS • • • • • • • Personal Health Natural lifestyles Green building Alternative transportation Eco-tourism Alternative energy about.html
  31. 31. Additional aspects of LOHAS • • • • Personal downshifting The ‘Slow Movement’ Sharing resources to downsize the economy Forming co-ops
  32. 32. What are downshifters? • • Downshifters are people who adopt longterm voluntary simplicity in their life. They accept less money through fewer hours worked in order to have time for the important things in life. Downshifters also place emphasis on consuming less in order to reduce their ecological footprint (
  33. 33. References o Boadella, D 1987, Lifestreams, Routledge & o o Kegan Paul, New York. Fromm, E 1955, The Sane Society, Fawcett World Library, New York. Hill, SB Wilson, S & Watson, K 2004, ‘Learning Ecology: a New Approach to Learning and Transforming Ecological Consciousness: Experiences from Social Ecology in Australia’, in EV O'Sullivan & M Taylor (eds.) Learning toward an Ecological Consciousness: Selected Transformative Practices, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 47–64.
  34. 34. References (2) • • • • Moore, T 1996, Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, Hodder & Stoughton, Rydalmere, NSW, Australia. Sattmann-Frese, WS & Hill, SB 2008, Learning for Sustainable Living: Psychology of Ecological Transformation, Lulu.Com, Morrisville, USA. Shem, S & Surrey, J 1998, We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men, Basic Books, New York. Watts, A 1961, Psychotherapy East and West, Ballantyne, New York.
  35. 35. Thank you for your attention!