What can CPA contribute now after the outcome of COP21?
We launch this new site at a crucial point in human and other-than-human destiny a few weeks after the December 2015 Paris talks. As George Monbiot said in The Observer 13th December 2015,
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.
Those of us who have been concerned about Climate Change may need to realise that, in a sense, the job has only just started. The December floods in UK, partly caused by climate change and predicted by the scientific community for years underline the seriousness of the endeavour, as our latest newsletter emphasises.
For the first time there is global agreement, an extraordinary achievement in itself, but there is no time for complacency; the 'grown ups' have not sorted it out for us. There is a visible gap between the euphoria of the politicians and the depression of the activists.
Bill McKibben makes this clear when he tweeted:
This agreement won't save the planet. It may have saved the chance to save the planet (if we all fight like hell in the years ahead).
His article in the Guardian 14th December Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running? makes it clear that the task is immediate and requires focus, application and strength of mind. Imagine you are training for a marathon, he says, not a 4-5 hour marathon, but under 3 hours.
What it requires is devoting yourself single-mindedly to the task. You don’t get to drink beer with dinner and run a three-hour marathon. You don’t get to skip training days. You go to bed early every night, because you’re bone-tired. You have to run even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.
Translated into carbon terms: you don’t get to go drilling or mining in new areas, even if you think it might make you lots of money. The Arctic will have to be completely off limits, as will the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The pre-salt formations off Brazil, and the oil off the coasts of north America too.
We have held from our outset as an organisation that nothing less than a cultural transformation is needed in the direction of ecologically sustainable living to address the challenges we face. This is not alarmism, but based on facts that should alarm.
We believe that there is an urgent need for us to go on developing perspectives which include an awareness of the role of identities, emotions, values, conscious and unconscious meanings and defence mechanisms in all the reactions and non-reactions to the reality of Climate Change and other environmental catastrophes. Lertzmann's recent article makes that clear.
As Harold Searles (who sadly died a few weeks before COP21) said in 1972,
My hypothesis is that man is hampered in his meeting of this environmental crisis by feelings and attitudes of which he is unconscious.
So we might want to paraphrase McKibben, translating his message into climate psychology terms to all those interested in contributing through climate psychology and ecopsychology alike:
"You don't get to face this without understanding your own collusion in the history of western consumerism and ignoring of nature; you won't have the inner resources to engage others unless you can speak from your heart, and this means knowing your heart a little bit better; you don't get to help your activist friends without giving your time and energy for deep listening. You have to learn even more about holding on to 'radical hope' and the tension between 'pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will' (Gramsci). You can't influence politicians unless you can relate in ordinary language to their deep concerns. You might think you've been doing this all along, but now you need to start as if again....and go on living and loving fully as well."
Looking ahead to 2016, we are gestating a rich event programme.
We continue to develop alternative ways of communicating and exchanging information in the complex areas that relate to climate change, sustainability and the environment.
We will go on exploring and developing our narratives, perspectives and goals in depth with writing and speaking, some of which appears in the Explorations section of our web site. We welcome contributions and feedback.
If the culture really does start shifting, how much anxiety will get triggered? How will we contain and manage this anxiety and still think creatively? How open are we to new ways of living?
Our value as an organisation hinges on whether we, and other groups like us, can really contribute to the difficult psychological tasks of climate engagement, and whether this new website can play its part in this endeavour.
Judith Anderson 8th January 2016