Mental Health and Climate Change

Dr. Lise Van Susteren

Dr. Natasha DeJarnett

I try to look at climate change from multiple angles. A few years ago I began to read about how climate change affects our mental health, especially for people who experience extreme weather events. I also got to thinking about climate advocates like me who do this work day in and day out. How does it affect us emotionally and psychologically. Lucky for me I produce a monthly podcast, so I turned to experts as my guests.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a leading expert in looking at the psychological effects of climate change, and Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, a policy analysis in environmental health at the American Public Health Association, join show me for a thought-provoking and insightful conversation.

Fritz Horstman

Another feature of my show is the Art House. This episode I feature Fritz Horstman.

Artist Fritz Horstman talks about his trip to the Arctic Circle to take underwater photographs. The visual landscape of the frozen and thawing North captivated him, but the sounds really inspired him. He asked his fellow artists on the voyage to recreate the creaks and groans of the glaciers for his video, Ice Voices.

Here is a link to the episode or click the play icon.

Ice Voices from Fritz Horstman on Vimeo.

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This post has 3 Comments

  1. Greg Robie on May 15, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Why anyone would do FB …

    But as a FB user, Samantha’s comment reflects a belief system and maturity that may be characteristic of the gestalt of the [a]social ‘networking’ media. We are two centuries down a rabbit hole where wealth is structured in the markets of CapitalismFail to be the antithesis of what English Common Law says it is. Rather than ownership of property being the right to be responsible, and now, like the libertarian view of freedom, such are experienced as the right to be irresponsible. Samantha’s assertion expresses a trust and pragmatism that is consistent with such ‘rights’; is unable to believe otherwise.

    But the social concepts that wealth and freedom are the right to be irresponsible are delusional. And by this I mean they are a product of motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is, by its nature non-rational. By some social conventions what is not rational and trusted is religious. Therefore, but for the obfuscation of our lexicon, Samantha’s trust in a greed-as-go[]d technological solution to a problem created by a blind trust in technology as driven by that go[]d is religious-like.

    It is also child-like. When she calls someone else “noble”, she seems to be conferring adult-like behavior to that person while accepting the role as that of an [irresponsible] child. Clearly she is not a child: she confidently knows the system has been pushed past too many tipping points; she knows the future includes intentional geo-engineering. But she is also irresponsible in her adulthood because of her lack of specificity concerning how geoengineering constitutes such a solution … or even part of one.

    Samantha’s point about stress is revealing. Stress is a primary trigger of motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning resolves a contradiction in favor of ones trusted homeostasis and the feelings that it encompasses. What she has trusted to be both wealth and freedom is, systemically, a fallacy. The stress of picking up long neglected responsibilities is intuitively understood to be more than what she can accomplish with what she understands and experiences to be mental health. Therefore, confidently projecting this overwhelming task onto an indeterminate “they” is her “solution”. It is also the ‘solution’ she has been mentored to trust. This projection is an example of what has been attributed to Einstein as impossible (that the thinking that creates a problem can be trusted to imagine a solution to the problem it creates). But what is strongly felt about – functionally religious-like – is both trusted and, like the addictions such are, all but impossible to change.

    But then, this is why all human efforts at civilization have collapsed. Change happens!

    Therefore before trying to straighten out Samantha’s motivated reasoning, being sure one has worked through there own might be a wise prerequisite. Metanoia.

  2. Peterson Toscano on May 15, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you Greg, for replying and for providing a full analysis of Samantha’s question. In particular, I am glad you mention stress. You wrote, Stress is a primary trigger of motivated reasoning. This stands out to me because my guest, Dr. Lise VanSustren, a psychiatrist, talked about anxiety and the stress it causes in us all, like a low-grade fever affected most of us unawares. She said, Anxiety occurs when we know something in our hearts but don’t yet know it in our minds.

    While most people are not talking about climate change, most people are likely feeling the inner stress from this large and growing problem that is not being addressed and will require massive changes. This reminds me of grief and the grief we feel when someone is diagnosed with an incurable disease. One of the things we mourn is the inevitable changes that will take place.

    Now as for Samantha, I think she still requires some sort of response. I imagine a lot of people think like she does. No sweat. There will be a technical fix to this mess. How often do people do this with their own lives and their bodies. “Sure I might get cancer eventually, but by that time they will probably have a cure.” It’s one thing to take those sort of risks with one’s body; it is quite another to make choices for everyone on earth.

    No doubt we all need to work through our own versions of climate denial and we need to remove the blockages to envisioning robust and elegant changes in the world. But I would hope someone can step up and address Samantha directly.

    Thanks for reading and responding. Hope you enjoy the podcast.

  3. Greg Robie on May 17, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    I don’t imagine there are many like Sam. FWIW, I’ve never met one. People who can articulate that it is too late, are, in my experience, much further down the rabbit hole of physics to be this blasé … & have begun to enter the stages of grief that a growing knowledge of the dynamics of abrupt climate change requires. Again, in my experience, those who have begun to familiarized themselves with the geo-engineering options struggle with anxiety. Their former trusted, but irrational, homeostasis is being threatened by their education … but they perceiver in spite of this. They hunger for righteousness.

    However, as with any addict and an addiction, doesn’t a bottom need to be experienced before there is a predilection to sober up? In my experience, few are oriented to delve into the depths of our blind faith in CapitalismFail. Few want to look behind the curtain of the economic paradigm’s motivated reasoning to see GREED-as-go[]d. Such would be too much like the experience of death … & it is.

    So, isn’t this Samantha character’s pragmatic trust in a geo-engineering fix fictitious? Regardless, and to address her as real, I would say to her: “You are correct. It is too late. What do you think motivates those who say this can be fixed otherwise? (Isn’t it important to have a person one wants to engage in a conversation feel heard?) After reflecting back and clarifying what I hear her say I would comment: “Sam, you reference a “fix”. I am aware that our economy faces a suite of problems arising from our dependence on fossil carbon and functions as a heat engine. The problems include rising in surface air temperatures, rising in ocean temperatures, shifts in climatic zones, extreme weather events, albedo and permafrost lost (both terrestrial and continental sea floor) that is integral to the cryosphere’s unfolding collapse, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and species loss. In my research I have only not run across a single geo-engineering fix for all of these, rather various ones that attempt to address some of them … with the provisos that:
    • triggered natural feed backs don’t get triggered
    • we have the computation speed of two generation faster computers to model the climate system at the resolution of the regional level
    • we have the updated data to program into such modeling

    “What do you know that I don’t?”

    The Samantha you have posited exists apparently isn’t thinking about such things. I posit she would. Therefore I feel that her disinterest and blind trust is likely a matter of projection, so I ask you, Peterson:
    • why do you think it is not too late
    • do you expect geo-engineering will be deployed … and, if so, what ones and when
    • do you expect such geo-engineering will work as intended

    The Biblical story is that the rainbow is in the sky to remind us that the destruction of the earth by flood will not be repeated by the Creator. We, on the other hand, are absolutely free to do a comparable destruction to ourselves and our home. After all, one cannot serve two masters …


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