The evocative title of this image was a gift
With its more literal meaning shading into the realms of imagination, death and the unconscious. The article in question is one of the latest in a string of reports about dramatic craters caused by methane release in Siberia. It tells of long-buried forests, animal carcasses and 200,000 years of climate records being uncovered.
Staying with the literal for a moment: predictions on what the eruption of subterranean carbon holds in store for us vary widely, even amongst experts. Natalia Shakova of the International Arctic Research Centre, in a July 2013 interview with Nick Breeze (340,000 views) was memorable both for her concluding comment that she didn’t like what she was seeing and for the emotion which accompanied it. Her position appears to support use of the term ‘methane time-bomb’; others like Gavin Schmidt of NASA are more circumspect about the worst-case possibility of a catastrophic surge in methane levels, as tundra thaws and clathrates warm. We have to live with ambiguities like this, and the mix of science and information management that is probably folded into them. It is inevitable that such ambiguities will be exploited by climate denialists.
But it is the underworld in myth and metaphor that opens up rich ground for psychology and its application to fields like commerce and politics. The over-arching truth is that so much of what drives human life is covert and remote from civilised ideals. Because what is hidden is so much of the truth, it is liable to erupt into view. Our individual and collective ‘deals’ with the Dionysian depths do much to shape our stories about life. They also colour our awareness of the non-human world and Nature in particular. Our myths reflect the chaotic interaction in our minds of thought and Nature.
News and Non-News
Politicians like to get re-elected and are responsive to the electoral winds wherever they blow from, as well as to special interests with deep pockets. The recent stunning failure by the US administration to uproot the Affordable Care Act is partly down to this. The story that 24 million Americans would have lost health protection won the day and the claim that no-one would lose out was seen as false. This must have been a huge relief to those who were beginning to wonder if there was any limit to the traction which ‘alternative facts’ had gained in the past two months. And at least one myth, that of the supremely gifted deal-maker, seems to have bitten the dust. In this instance, it proved impossible to unite even the liberal and fundamentalist wings of the GOP.
The healthcare result was partly down to extensive media coverage. This highlighted the importance of the issue and made it easier to examine the validity of claims and predictions. Contrast this with the information from Grist on climate change news coverage in 2016. As the article points out, the steep decline was despite several newsworthy incidents. Climate change may threaten future life on our planet but is not news in a world groomed for titillation and short shelf-life items.
What Makes Reality?
In relation to the laws of the natural world , we will either adapt to reality or perish; it’s as simple as that – physics doesn’t bargain. In the realm of human affairs, what passes for reality is very much about bargains. Despite this, and even when considerable will-power and political power coincide, there are limits to omnipotence, stubborn fences between fantasy and reality. Matthew d’Ancona, writing in the Guardian (before the collapse of the ‘Trumpcare’ dream) made this point well. The whole article is good, but his opening quote of Umberto Eco is outstanding: ‘We will always come up against “the hard core of being” and the “lines of resistance” that tell us when we are talking rubbish, or acting nonsensically.’ The travel ban fiasco is cited as evidence of DT being undone by his own hard core of being. Concluding, d’Ancona says: ‘a few chinks of light are breaking through the carapace of popular delusion.’
In the English-speaking world, The Canute story is probably the best known example of fatuous efforts [in that instance by his courtiers] to defy the laws of physics. What would be hilarious were it not so appalling, is the equivalent farce taking place in Florida today. Included in Leo di Caprio’s ‘Before the Flood’, this is also highlighted in Michael Mann’s and Tom Toles’ excellent book ‘The Madhouse Effect’ (soon to be reviewed on the CPA website). Florida, they observe, “has more to lose by unmitigated climate change than any other state. What is Republican governor Rick Scott’s plan for responding to the threat? How about banning the use of the terms climate change and global warming in all official state communications and publications?” Not new, but worth repeating. If only the matter could be settled as quickly as with the rising tide over Canute’s feet. Mann and Toles walk the same literary path as Oreskes and Conway (‘Merchants of Doubt’) and David Michaels (Doubt is their Product) before them. There is only one way that this argument can conclude as many articles such as this one attest, but where will we be when that day arrives? The madhouse effect of continued time-wasting involves anger, grief, disbelief and despair. Climate psychology seeks to help us navigate these emotions and retain some compass.
Climate Change – Will Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother Turn Up in Time?
The news vacuum mentioned above is a reminder of the collusions at work in denial, condemning the subject of climate change to Cinderella status. This continues, despite the wider signs that the presiding ‘ugly brothers’ in Washington are starting to see their hubris unravel. What is happening in the physical world, in the efforts of science to make sense of it, in the realms of policy, media and all our minds remains a maelstrom of uncertainty and contradiction. Government and policy news is predominantly grim (EPA evisceration, threats to NOAA and NASA, XL Keystone reversal, repercussions for G20 climate change funding). The climate / ecological alert has been in condition red for a long time. But fairy godmothers of unknown and largely untested powers are appearing in various places and guises. This newsletter ends with a selection of stories, which at least confirm that the struggle continues on many fronts.
*Climate Change Financing Dropped from G20 Draft Statement - Reuters
*Trump’s Defence Secretary Cites Climate Change as National Security Challenge - Propublica
*Meterologists Refute EPA Head on Climate Change - The Hill
*Shell’s CEO Admits Survival of Fossil Fuel Industry is at Stake - 350.org
*Amazon Jungle Faces Death Spiral of Drought and Deforestation, Warn Scientists - Independent
*Cities Shop for $10bn of Electric Cars to Defy Trump - Bloomberg
*China to Replace all Beijing's fossil-fuelled taxis with Electric Vehicles - Cleantechnica
*Pakistan Passes Climate Change Act - Reuters
*UK Businesses Call on Government To Embrace Low-Carbon Future - Independent
*Critical stage in UK fracking struggle - Guardian
10th June CPA Members Day - Telling Better Stories at The Guild of Psychotherapists. In addition to our speaker Andrew Simms, CPA members have come forward with some very exciting proposals for brief presentations and we’re looking forward to a diverse and interesting range of stories and discussion. For full details please see our website or the flyer attached. Please book your place! It’s free for members, £20 for non-members.
12th May CPA Scotland – Inaugural Meeting at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) . All Scots welcome! ( for more information).
4th May -20th July Art exhibition at Friends Meeting House London on 'making connections’ - a series of narrative paintings inspired by a personal link with Japan and a passion for sustainability
17th June 2017 Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society
A Postgraduate Conference
We invite postgraduate students and research fellows to submit proposals for papers on psychoanalysis or psychoanalytically informed research. The deadline for submission of abstracts is May 31, 2017. Further details from Anne Worthington, Bookings: here.
7th-9th July Prometheus Trust conference, 'Deep Philosophy, Deep Ecology’
13th - 16th July 2017 6th annual Edge of the Wild eco-psychology gathering
Keynote speakers Tina Rothery Anti-fracking activist and co-founder of the Nanas and Celtic shamans: John Cantrell and Karen Ward.
December 1st-3rd Analysis and Activism III: More Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (Prague)
On behalf of the Executive Committee
Editorial support from Judith Anderson, Paul Hoggett and Chris Robertson
Prometheus Trust Conference 7th-9th July 2017
CPA Newsletter March 2017 - Absurdity Reigns
Denial: a film and a cultural complex
What's going on in Australia with Climate Change
Good grief? The role of emotional methodologies in engaging and sustaining action on climate change
CPA Members (and Guests) Day 10th June 2017
CPA Newsletter February 2017 - Shoot The Messenger
Now available Videos and Transcripts of Climate Leadership event November '16
Good leaders and bad leaders
Taking the Green Agenda out of the Margins: Psychological Strategies
Science, experts and the media – key messengers in a confused, inattentive and suspicious world
The Climate Psychology Interviews
The Birth of a New World (Dis)order
Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements
Attitudes to climate change mitigation in local authorities