(The first in a series about the convergence of psychological and environmental health)
News from the natural world continues to haunt and this report from ISPO (international program on the state of the ocean) warns of a mass extinction in our lifetime. And Al Gore is assailing the Obama administration for its failure to take stronger leadership on climate change. If you add the almost daily onslaught of devastating environmental news to the list of plastics, fuel and energy that the average family in a developed country can’t help but use, it is tempting to call out in anguish, “What are we doing?” In the face of such compelling doom, most people disconnect, dissociate and deny. It is hard to change behavior in the midst of despair. Yet, while the government continues to jockey and pander in the race to win an upcoming election, a good deal of positive work is being done by psychologists, business leaders and educational institutions in the area of climate growth: changing behavior to more expansively support our ecosystems. So, “What are we doing?” is actually a good question. And the answer is plenty. No matter who you are or what you do, there is a growing movement of others to whom you can attach yourself and start figuring out your own personal, familial and professional green strategy.
Expansive and economically feasible work is being done in the field of Corporate sustainability. Innovative research is assisting corporate managers with the integration of sustainability practices into long-term planning. Most top 150 companies have executive level sustainability officers, see a partial list here.
The number of MBA’s that offer sustainability training is growing, and the colleges and universities adding sustainability and environmental training to their curriculum are too numerous to even try to list, but let me note that of my alma mater: the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University.
Psychologists of all types now tackle the problem of sustainability from psychoanalytic, cognitive and developmental perspectives. In addition to my own work many others have contributed insights into how sustainability is integral to our psychological organization. Take a look at CRED, the journal ecopsychology, the work of Stephen R. Kellert, Peter H. Kahn, Jr, Gene Myers, and this interdisciplinary conference with noted psychoanalysts and clinicians. See also the work of Glenn Albrecht, Renee Lertzman and Thomas Doherty.
The implementation of green strategies is happening everywhere. While it is being worked out in universities, corporations and by psychological clinicians and researchers, it will be carried out and actualized by individuals and their families. While we wait for the government, it is up to people to put the ideas to work, knowing that there is a large and hopeful context to support local and from-the-ground-up family initiatives. Next up: Family Strategies for Psychological and Environmental health.