Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Review in Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations (Jan Baker 2013)

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14753634.2013.853484?tab=permissions#tabModule"This book is a real tour de force and an important addition to a currently relatively small body of writings on climate change from a psychoanalytic perspective. It is comprehensive and encyclopaedic, covering enormous ground between related and complex disciplines and theoretically dense concepts... Dodds navigates these ideas with clarity and conviction. Overall, he demonstrates the need to link the various different approaches in order to address the ecological crisis that we face. I think, the book is essential reading for all and will add specifically to their understanding for those studying psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and systemic thinking."

      - Jan Baker, Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations, Psychoanalysis and ecology at the edge of chaos: complexity theory, Deleuze/Guattari and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis, October 29, 2013, DOI: 10.1080/14753634.2013.853484.   

See here for other reviews.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Minding the Ecological Body: Neuropsychoanalysis and Ecopsychoanalysis, Dodds (2013), Frontiers in Psychology. 4:125

Minding the ecological body: neuropsychoanalysis and ecopsychoanalysis

  • University of New York in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic


Neuropsychoanalysis explores experimentally and theoretically the philosophically ancient discussion of the relation of mind and body, and seems well placed to overcome the problem of a “mindless” neuroscience and a “brainless” psychology and psychotherapy, especially when combined with a greater awareness that the body itself, not only the brain, provides the material substrate for the emergent phenomenon we call mind. However, the mind-brain-body is itself situated within a complex ecological world, interacting with other mind-brain-bodies and the “non-human environment.” This occurs both synchronically and diachronically as the organism and its environment (living and non-living) interact in highly complex often non-linear ways. Psychoanalysis can do much to help unmask the anxieties, deficits, conflicts, phantasies, and defenses crucial in understanding the human dimension of the ecological crisis. Yet, psychoanalysis still largely remains not only a “psychology without biology,” which neuropsychoanalysis seeks to remedy, but also a “psychology without ecology.” Ecopsychoanalysis (Dodds, 2011b; Dodds and Jordan, 2012) is a new transdisciplinary approach drawing on a range of fields such as psychoanalysis, psychology, ecology, philosophy, science, complexity theory, esthetics, and the humanities. It attempts to play with what each approach has to offer in the sense of a heterogeneous assemblage of ideas and processes, mirroring the interlocking complexity, chaos, and turbulence of nature itself. By emphasizing the way the mind-brain-body studied by neuropsychoanalysis is embedded in wider social and ecological networks, ecopsychoanalysis can help open up the relevance of neuropsychoanalysis to wider fields of study, including those who are concerned with what Wilson (2003) called “the future of life.”
Keywords: Chaos, complexity, neuropsychoanalysis, ecopsychoanalysis, ecology, climate change, psychoanalysis, Guattari
Full Text: pdf, enhanced pdf

Citation: Dodds J (2013) Minding the ecological body: neuropsychoanalysis and ecopsychoanalysis. Front. Psychol. 4:125. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00125
Received: 11 November 2012; Accepted: 26 February 2013; 
Published online: 25 March 2013.
Edited by:
Denis Mellier, Université de Franche-Comté, France
Reviewed by:
Philippe Claudon, Université de Lorraine, France
Claire Squires, Université Denis Diderot Paris Département Etudes Psychanalytiques, France
Copyright: © 2013 Dodds. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Joseph Dodds, University of New York in Prague, Legerova 619/72, Vinohrady, Prague 2 120 00, Czech Republic. e-mail: jdodds@faculty.unyp.cz
Based on a poster presentation first shown at the International Neuropsychoanalysis Congress, Berlin 2011.

Friday, 20 September 2013

New review in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: What does the environment have to do with psychoanalysis?

Another interesting review of my book has appeared, this time in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, reviewed by Robert Tollemache, from the Lincoln Clinic and Institute for Psychotherapy. 

Tollemache particularly focuses on the use of complexity theory in the book, including concepts such as self-organisation, criticality, swarm intelligence, emergence, and feedback loops, and offers several illuminating examples from his own clinical practice. Tollemache seems to accept the basic idea developed in the book that complexity theory and nonlinearity provide a useful way to approach the complex dynamics of change in both psychic systems (including the analyst-analysand dyad, dreams, free association, interpretation, transference, addictions, compulsions, manic-depression), social systems (such as social movements) and natural systems (ant swarms, neural networks, ecosystems, and climate change). Thus complexity theory is seen as highly applicable to clinical psychoanalytic practice, as well as helping psychoanalysis make real meaningful connections with other fields, (essential in the face of climate change).

This is an area I personally think is crucial and hasn't always been understood or picked up on in previous reviews, which have mostly (and understandably) focused on the more straightforwardly psychoanalytic elements, as as eco-anxiety and defence mechanisms. 

In his review Tollemache writes that:

"Dodds shows us the interconnectedness between the ecology of mind, the ecology of society and the ecology of nature; each, worlds of infinite complexity, and locates psychoanalysis as part of a mind–society–nature continuum... He shows that complexity theory both illuminates psychoanalysis and helps to understand the crisis of man-made climate change… These ways of understanding the world are potentially revolutionary... Dodds’ enthusiasm for them is infectious, which encourages the reader to get to grips with this complicated but essential way of thinking."
     - Robert Tollemache (2013) What does the environment have to do with psychoanalysis? Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Review of Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos by Joseph Dodds. 2013 Vol.27, No.2, 187–190

See the updated reviews section of this blog. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Climate Change, Violence, and Social Disorder and Collapse (Dodds 2013)

As summer comes to an end and the heat and floods in Europe this summer subside, it may be a good time to consider an other aspect of psychology and climate change.

Mostly here on this blog we've looked at the psychological causes of climate change, the psycho-philosophical-aesthetic dimensions of the human-nature relation, the psycho-social barriers to action, and the traumatic consequences of major ecological disasters for those immediately affected. Some new studies ask us to add another piece to the puzzle, by looking at the link between climate change and increases in social violence and conflict, from the collapse of Chinese dynasties,  to increases in civil conflicts in the tropics, and rises in rapes, murders and assaults in American cities.

This work dovetails well with Jared Diamond's look at the link between climate change, environmental damage, a the collapse of civilizations, and clearly points to a link between ecological changes and human psychological and social dynamics, that includes but goes beyond conflicts over depleted resources. We also have to consider how closely our psychological states are tied to ecological mesh that we are embedded within. Another important study in this area is Smith and Vivekananda's (2007) 'A Climate of Conflict: The Links Between Climate Change, Peace, and War'. See also the accompanying video.

More recently, in Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate (Hsiang, Meng, Cane 2011) and more Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict (Hsiang, Burke, and Miguel 2013) researchers have begun to explore in some detail the correlation between climate change and violent conflict.

In the latest article, Hsiang, Burke and Miguel write that:
A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a remarkable convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate's influence is substantial: for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2 to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.
For a useful review of this evidence, see Climate Change and Violence by Ed Yong. I include this below. What does this mean for our work on the psychoanalysis of climate change? It means, we need to move beyond, or rather add to, our models of the psychology of climate denial, eco-anxiety, etc. in understanding our inaction around the issue of climate chance, to add complex psycho-social responses and how these then feedback to our existing work. It is important for us to start identifying a whole range of mediating factors in human psychology, emotional dynamics, and unconscious forces at work here. Climate psychology just got a whole level more complex.

Climate Change and Violence

An analysis of 60 studies finds that warmer temperatures and extreme rainfall lead to a rise in violence.
By | August 1, 2013
In the coming decades, the world’s changing climate could herald a rise in violence at every scale—from individuals to nations, from assault to war—according to a comprehensive new analysis of the link between climate and conflict.  
Analyzing data from 60 earlier studies, Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley, found that warmer temperatures and extremes in rainfall can substantially increase the risk of many types of conflict. For every standard deviation of change, levels of interpersonal violence, such as domestic violence or rape, rise by some 4 percent, while the frequency of intergroup conflict, from riots to civil wars, rise by 14 percent. Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by 2050, with even bigger increases in the tropics. “The paper is remarkably strong,” said Thomas Homer-Dixon, an environmental and political scientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who was not involved in the study. “[It means] the world will be a very violent place by mid-century if climate change continues as projected.”
Hsiang, together with UC Berkeley colleagues Marshall Burke and Edward Miguel, focused only on studies that provided the strongest evidence for a causal connection. “The ideal thing would be to take two identical Earths, heat one up and watch how conflict evolves,” said Hsiang dryly. “We can’t do that, so we looked for these natural experiments.”
The researchers ignored any studies that compared levels of conflict between different countries, which also differ in their history, culture, and politics. Instead, they focused on data that revealed how violence rises and falls in a single place as climate changes.
For example, crime statistics in the United States reveal that the number of rapes, murders, or assaults increases on a hot day. Civil conflicts in the tropics become twice as frequent during the hot and dry years caused by El Niño events. Farmers in Brazil are more likely to invade each other’s land if they have a particularly wet or dry year. And Chinese dynasties all collapsed during long dry periods.
The team analyzed these studies and more using a common statistical framework to control for any biases on the part of the individual authors. Together, the data sets stretch back to 10,000 BC, and cover all major world regions. They represent the collective efforts of more than 190 researchers working across varied disciplines, from psychologists looking at the effects of temperature on aggressive behavior to archaeologists studying levels of violence in the ancient civilizations.
Despite this diversity, “we were shocked at how well the results from all these fields lined up,” said Hsiang. “Given how some people had been talking, we thought they’d be all over the map,” but the data consistently showed that temperature and rainfall affect violence, across locations, times and disciplines.
“This is a contested area and the convergence of results in this meta-analysis represents a significant step forward,” said Neil Adger, an environmental geographer at the University of Exeter, who was not involved in the study. He notes that responses to climate change, such as “widespread growing of biofuels or displacing populations to build dams” could exacerbate any increased propensity for conflict. “The impacts of climate change will factor large in the future, especially if the world is already fractured and unequal,” he said.
David Zhang, a geographer from the University of Hong Kong who was not involved in the study, said the results were robust and important. However, he noted that most of the data sets cover the last century, and the effects of climate on conflict, may have differed across centuries of human history. Hsiang acknowledges this gap, but said that a few century-spanning data sets have found similar trends.
“Another obvious criticism is that older societies may not be a good analogue for modern ones,” Hsiang added. For example, technological advances might help us to adapt to changing climate more effectively than past generations.
Hsiang also emphasized that climate is just one of many factors that influence the frequency of conflict, and that his study does not address why such a link between conflict and climate exists. Shifts in climate could change the availability of important resources like water or crops, leading to failing economies, weaker governments, and more incentives to fight or rebel. They could also lead to mass migration, rapid urbanization, or growing inequalities.
“We now want to understand what the underlying mechanisms are,” said Hsiang. “If we understand them, we could come up with policies that could decouple climate and conflict, which might help society to adapt. That’s a good reason to push the research ahead.”
S. M. Hsiang et al., “Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict,” Science, tbc, 2013.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Struggling with the reality-principle: Why carbon footprint feedback can backfire, and how psychoanalysis can help (Dodds 2013)

by Joseph Dodds, March 2013

Carbon footprint feedback can be counterproductive, and make people more hostile to environmental issues, due to perceived challenges to their sense of identity (see BPS: Ecological footprint feedback can make people some people less green, British Psychological Society, Research Digest, Jarrett 2011). Amara Brook (2011) found that for students for whom the environment was not important for the sense of self-esteem, receiving negative feedback on their ecological footprint made tham actually less sympathetic to green causes.
'Ecological and carbon footprints are in widespread use, but the present study suggests that they may fail to promote or even reduce sustainable behaviour for some people,' Brook wrote. 'Understanding how to modify footprint feedback to more effectively motivate sustainable behaviour is urgently needed.'
Brook suggests several possible consequences of this finding. Firstly, one possibility is that 'the ecological footprint should be targeted to people who are already invested in environmentalism...and should be used with caution, if at all, with the broader population.' Obviously this move would greatly limit the effectiveness of carbon footprint feedback for doing more than help those already highly motivated to target their efforts most effectively. The alternative would be to find ways round the deadlock.

This is precisely where psychoanalysis and psychotherapy have something important to offer. The research findings of Brook suggest the operation of defence mechanisms employed to deal with emotional threats to self identity. From a clinical point of view, what seems to be needed is a safe containing space to 'hold' and work through the complex feelings that arise, including guilt, fear, shame, anger, loss, regret, etc., in a non-persecutory atmosphere of trust.

Psychoanalysis can help by moving beyond a purely data-driven approach to environmental problems by acknowledging the powerful role of emotions, our sense of self, and the unconscious in determining our actions (see Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Dodds 2011). Psychoanalytic psychotherapist Rosemary Randall discusses the carbon conversation project, a series of six meetings in which participants address climate change in a way which seeks to both engage with the reality principle through the carbon footprint task, but also employ methods and ideas derived from group therapy methods to give space to reflecting on values, emotions, lifestyle and identity as well as the basic facts of emissions. These can include our emotional investments in consumer products (such as particular cars) whose potential loss may threaten our sense of who we are.  
Randall discusses how psychology and emotions drive behariour change in this video. Results show this approach is not only more psychologically sensitive, but more importantly as far as the planet is concerned, that it also works. A typical participant makes an immediate saving of a tonne of CO2 a year and develops plans to reduce emissions by 50% in 2–5 years. For a breakdown of carbon footprint per country and per capita, see the image below. 

Randall has been at the forefront of psychoanalytic approaches to climate change, including her groundbreaking papers: A New Climate for Psychotherapy (Randall 2005) and Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives (Randall 2009). She is also active in the Steering Group of the Climate Psychology Alliance and contributed to the recent book Engaging With Climate Change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives (Weintrobe, ed. 2012)

Brook, A. (2011). Ecological footprint feedback: Motivating or discouraging? Social Influence, 6 (2), 113-128 DOI: 10.1080/15534510.2011.566801

Carbon Conversations.org

Clark, D. (2009) Carbon Conversations. Knowledge and awareness of climate change isn't enough; people need to be engaged on a emotional level. Guardian, July 13 2009

Dodds, J. (2011) Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory, Deleuze|Guattari, and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis. Routledge

Jarrett, C. (2011) Ecological footprint feedback can make some people less green. BPS Research Digest. 3 May 2011.  

Kerr, M. (2012) Rosemary Randall: Carbon Conversations

Randall, R. (2005) A New Climate for Psychotherapy Psychotherapy and Politics International, Issue 3:3, September 2005

Randall, R. (2009) Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives. Ecopsychology. September 2009, DOI: 10.1089/eco.2009.0034

Weintrobe, S. (ed.) (2012) Engaging with climate change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives. London: Routledge.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Are we right to use the term 'climate change denial'? - Paul Hoggett, CPA 2013


The question of the use of language such as ‘denial’ in the context of climate change has already emerged as an issue on postings on this website. The argument is that such language is unnecessarily provocative and polarising, and brands as ‘deniars’ all those who remain sceptical of some of the claims made by the majority of climate scientists (see piece in the Guardian March 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/01/climate-change-scepticism-style-guide).

Indeed my experience is that the use of the word ‘denial’ in conjunction with climate change seems to provoke a range of vehement responses. When we ran a conference on climate change denial at the University of the West of England in 2010 the on-line furore preceding the conference was such as to force one of my colleagues to consider organising conference stewards to prevent disruption on the day, something he hadn’t thought about since the days of anti-fascist politics in Britain in the mid 1970s. Wind forward to 2013 when Sally Weintrobe and I went on Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed at the end of January to talk about climate change denial the following week the show’s host, Laurie Taylor, referred to “the maelstrom of correspondence” that our remarks had provoked.

At their most virulent such protestors accuse people like us of equating climate change denial with holocaust denial. We are therefore forced to question whether it is any longer appropriate to use a term which has become unnecessarily provocative. I want to argue strongly that I believe it is still appropriate, not the least because by insisting on the validity of this term we draw attention to a deeper truth about what we are all capable of as human beings and the tragedies that may then follow.

Holocaust denial is a case in point. It is a huge shame that the term has become synonymous with the ravings of a small band of miscellaneous zealots such as the historian David Irving andIran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who, 60 years afterAuschwitz, still insist that the idea that 6 million died in the concentration camps is a hoax.  By making this connection to a small group of denialists something much more disturbing is conveniently covered up, for holocaust denial more properly refers to the behaviour of a silent majority rather than a noisy minority. That is, the silent majority of Germans who, in the 1930s and 1940s, knew something was going on but chose to turn a blind eye to it. Hence the significance when, at an event in January this year to commemorate Hitler’s taking control of the Reichstag in January 1933 (exactly eighty years ago), the current German President Angela Merkel said that the rise of Hitler had been made possible because “the majority had, at the very best, behaved with indifference”. This is what the holocaust survivor and unsurpassed chronicler of life in the camps, Primo Levi, described when he said in his book The Periodic Table, “(A)t that time, among the German silent majority, the common technique was to try to know as little as possible, and therefore not to ask questions”.  It is crucial to understand that this would have been us had we been living inGermanyat that time. We (and I include myself here) would no doubt have behaved in precisely this way, no differently to the way in which normal anxious German citizens behaved at that time. For this is how ‘silent majorities’ tend to behave when faced with unpalatable truths and unless we begin to realise this we are doomed to repeat the crimes of omission of previous generations.

This is what the late and much missed Stan Cohen picked up on in his book States of Denial, it is the organisation of denial in whole societies or specific institutions within a society (such as the UK’s Stafford Hospital) that is the problem, not individual denial or the denial of small groups. This is what we are talking about in the case of climate change – the problem is not the noisy minority (although they can be a distracting pain in the arse), the problem is the silent majority and that, to a greater or lesser extent, includes all of us. When Levi says that we try to know as little as possible, I recognise traces of that in myself. I’ve seldom visited the IPCC website or kept abreast of the latest findings in the scientific journals and when I do read some of the most recent research which suggests the IPCC projections were too cautious I fight hard not to be overcome by despair. I also recognise that there is a part of me that wants to be deceived, wants to be told that things aren’t as bad as they seem. The point is that we are not just dupes of powerful media forces, governments and advertisers, there is someone inside each one of us that wants to be persuaded that everything is ok and who is ready to collude.

Working as a clinician I see this on a regular basis, it seems to me to lie at the heart of the difficulty we all have when trying to change. Most of the people I see as a therapist gain insight into their difficulties relatively quickly but change is much slower to occur. This is, I think, the problem with cognitive therapies. Changing scripts or narratives is usually not a sufficient condition for personal change. To change, people also have to negotiate loss (the loss of old identities and meanings), contain the despair and anxiety that accompanies loss, and abandon the pleasures (often perverse) they got from old but destructive ways of being.

And this brings us back to climate change and why it is possible to have some insight about climate change and yet carry on with old forms of behaviour. As should by now be clear  when I use the term denial I do not do so to refer to some group ‘out there’ who are different to me, I use the term knowing full well that it applies to myself. I remember a precisely analogous situation in the early 1990s when news reports were reaching us about ethnic cleansing in the formerYugoslavia. To begin with the response of ordinary citizens in theUKincluding myself was negligible, largely because the line being pedalled by the media and by politicians (of left and right) was that this was a civil war rather than a war of aggression by Serbs, and to a lesser extent Croats, on other ethnic groups. But more and more reports came through, including scarcely believable reports of rape camps and even people being held in conditions (at Omarska, Trnoplje and elsewhere) that resembled concentration camps. Yet still our response was negligible (perhaps just as it was in the early 1940s). I remember feeling many of the things I now feel in relation to climate change. Disbelief to begin with, surely this couldn’t be happening in a part ofEuropewhere only recently, like hundreds of thousands of others, I had been on holiday. Then, later, guilt, the evidence particularly from journalists such as Ed Vulliamy was incontrovertible and I can remember having that sense of what Sartre termed ‘bad faith’, feeling that ‘we’ or ‘they’ (the government etc)  should be doing something whilst doing nothing myself. Finally in 1994 we formed a Bosnia Support Group inBristolwhere I live. No political parties or campaign groups were active aroundBosniaat the time and a national demonstration inLondonthat we attended only managed to rally a few thousand people.  We raised money, twinned with a project for young people inTuzlawhich remained a multi-ethnic city, and eventually I went out there to see for myself. In a way, you could say, that only when I saw it with my own eyes did reality break through. But at the time and to this day I still feel that what I did felt like ‘going through the motions’, just enough perhaps to ease my feeling of guilt, just enough to enable me to live with myself.

Now come back to climate change. One of the preoccupations of climate change campaigners is that the ordinary citizen’s actions seem too little in relation to the scale of the problem we face. As a result there is much concern with communication, how to get the message right and how to communicate it in the right way. Much useful work focusing on the lifestyle choices and consumption habits of individuals and groups has been done here. But the fact is that ultimately climate change is a political problem and at the moment we have no political movement dedicated to this problem (no equivalent to the anti-poll tax, or anti-nuclear, or anti-war movements of the past).  When you look at the history of political movements you can see the powerful effect of emotion in determining whether or not they get off the ground. Sometimes it is despair that has a demobilising effect, something explored vividly by Debbie Gould in Moving Politics her history of gay and lesbian activism in the time of AIDs.  Sometimes, particularly in authoritarian societies such as those in much of the Middle East before the Arab Spring, it is fear that keeps people from taking action. But in democracies which rule by consent I believe that we learn to live with unpalatable realities through collusion, and denial is a crucial element of collusion.

So to return to my theme, the silent majority, people like us who consent to the political and economic regimes we find ourselves in and yet who are the true power in the land, unlike the noisy minorities, the ideologues. Of course in climate change politics we have our ideologues too, on both sides, united in their preferred position on the moral high horse, and what strikes me is the way in which both groups use the rhetoric of denial in a spiral of accusation and counter-accusation. In fact it is quite hard to use the term ‘denial’ these days without a chorus of injured voices immediately shouting on the virtual stage “how dare you talk about me like that!”.  I think there is a secret enjoyment here, the thrill of victimhood.  And to such people I would say that I’m sorry to disappoint you but when I talk about denial I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about me and people like me, those who through inaction, prevarication and omission are consenting to a civilization which seems increasingly bent upon self-destruction.  Perhaps we should more properly speak of ‘denial and collusion’ because the two things seem to go hand in hand.

A final point. There is something about the age we live in which means that denial and collusion has become a necessary part of everyday life, part of what the German social critic Peter Sloterdijk calls the ‘unhappy consciousness’. In our world the means of communication are such that it is impossible not to know about things that have the potential to disturb us deeply. A child dies of hunger every 6 seconds, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates more than 20 million sharks are killed (just for the fins) every year (recent research suggests this dramatically underestimates the actual numbers), in September 2012 the extent of the summer Arctic Sea Ice was the lowest since satellite imaging began and was 50% below the 1979 to 2000 average, despite the Winter Fuel Allowance in the UK during the winter over 25,000 people (mostly elderly) continue to die from cold related illnesses. I could go on but my point is that our world is now saturated with this kind of information and therefore dramatically different to the world that existed just 50 years ago. And if we let all of these facts disturb us likely we would go mad. So we develop a thick skin and become versed in the arts of distancing, dissociation, rationalisation, diffusion of responsibility and all the other techniques of making sure that these facts remain just that, useless facts that don’t affect us.  Hence the name of Stan Cohen’s book States of Denial. And you could say, this is our predicament, this is the predicament of being human and living in technologically advanced and relatively open societies. Except I’d add one extra clause and put ‘neo-liberal’ after ‘technologically advanced’.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Videos on Speculative Realism, Object Oriented Ontology, Empirical Metaphysics

An introduction to speculative realism with Robin Mackay, publisher of Collapse, a magazine that was part of initiating the movement in 2007 and has published a number of essays by Resa Negarestani, Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux, Iain Hamilton Grant and related authors active in the US such a Eugene Thacker and Nicola Masciandaro. Lately Mackay has published Nick Land, a central thinker to the work of Negarestani, and Francois Laruelle, Elie Ayache at his publishing house Urbanomic.

Robin Mackay will introduce us to the central strata of speculative realism, develop on key concept from Meillassoux, Brassier, Hamilton Grant.

The seminar was part of the DOCH course Speculative Realism and was open to the public.
Video and sound by Malin Korkeasalo.

Alenka Zupančič

"The Fantasy of Speculative Realism, 2011" 

"Psychoanalysis and the Study of Science, 2011"

http://www.egs.edu/ Alenka Zupancic, Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, talking discusses
Quentin Meillassoux and After Finitude, speculative realism, Jacques Lacan, Immanuel Kant, psychoanalysis, fantasy, the discourse of science, materialism, contingency, nature, correlation, and Slavoj Žižek Zizek. This is the third lecture of Zupančič's 2011 summer course at the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe 2011 Alenka Zupancic.

Alenka Zupancic, Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, talking discusses Quentin Meillassoux and After Finitude, speculative realism, Jacques Lacan, psychoanalysis, science thinking and the unconscious, materialism, nature, necessity and contingency, Stephen Jay Gould and the God of creation, and correlation. This is the fourth lecture of Zupančič's 2011 summer course at the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe 2011 Alenka Zupancic. 
Alenka Zupančič, Ph.D., is a Lacanian philosopher and social theorist, based as a full-time researcher in the philosophy department of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She was born in 1966 in Slovenia. Alenka received her Ph.D. from the University of Ljubljana in 1990 and currently is a member of the Ljubljana School for Psychoanalysis. At the European Graduate School, she holds a position as a lecturer where she teaches an intensive summer seminar on Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
The foundation for Alenka Zupančič's philosophical work is influenced primarily by Slovenian Lacanian scholars, such as Mladen Dollar and Slavoj Žižek, but also uses the tools and methodologies of classical philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Henri Bergson. Zupančič is a particularly interested in the works of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Jacques Lacan, and often uses their work as a conduit through which to explore conceptual spaces defined on one hand between the psychoanalytic and philosophical, and delimited on the other by the frenetic nature of contemporary culture.

Alenka is the author of the following books: The Odd One In: On Comedy (The MIT Press. 2008), Why Psychoanalysis?: Three Interventions. (NSU Press. 2008), Warum Psychoanalyse? drei Interventionen. (Diaphanes. 2009), Poetika. Druga Knjiga (Analecta. 2005), Nothing/nichts. (Filozofski Inštitut. 2005),Esthétique du Désir, Éthique de la Jouissance (Théétète Editions. 2002), Das Reale einer Illusion (Suhrkamp. 2001), Realno iluzije (Naklada Jesenski i Turk. 2001), Nietzsche: filozofija dvojega (Društvo za teoretsko psihoanalizo. 2001),The Shortest Shadow. Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two (The MIT Press. 2002),En kisa gölge: Nietzsche'nin "Iki" Felsefesi (Encore. 2005), L'être et le rêel : Kant, Lacan. (Dissertation, 1997), Argument za strpnost (Društvo za teoretsko psihoanalizo. 1997), Claudel z Lacanom. (Analecta. 1996), with Slavoj Žižek (Advisor) Dejanje in zakon, nezavedno in pojem: doktorska disertacija(Dissertation 1995), Etika realnega - Kant, Lacan (Teoretsko Psihoanalizo. 1993), Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan (Verso. 2000), Ethik des Realen. Kant, Lacan Verlag Turia + Kant. 1995), L'éthique du réel: Kant avec Lacan (Nous. 2009) and Riaru no rinri : Kanto to Rakan (Kawade shobou shinsha. 2003)

0:00:00 Welcome Address and Introduction
0:05:35 Graham Harman lecture - The Prince of Networks
0:36:10 Bruno Latour Lecture - Response
1:01:09 Graham Harman's Response and Audience questions, comments and discussion
2:07:47 Panel Discussion featuring Bruno Latour, Graham Harman, Lucas Introna,
Noortje Marres, Edgar Whitley

ANTHEM Group Symposium Tuesday 5 February 2008, The Harman Review: Bruno Latour's Empirical Metaphysics at the The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Cloud Atlas - Clouds are alive with life

Clouds are alive with life - New scientific research shows

Joseph Dodds


Clouds - A Poem of Life, Kosho Uchiyama

suddenly appear out of the whole universe
and disappear into the whole universe.
Floating absentminded with a smile,
some flow peacefully and quietly.
Others evolve violently and laugh darkly,
inviting thunder and roar.
Spring clouds moisten the earth.
Monsoon clouds sweep with long rain.
Snow clouds remorse in winters deep silence.
Typhoons filled with hatred run wild.

Clouds swirl and storms blow
as if trying to kill all beings
and sometimes,
the clouds all disappear,
leaving only the deep blue sky
that presents no obstacles.

suddenly appear out of the whole universe
and disappear into the whole universe.
These clouds,
the original form of all living beings.
The whole universe is nothing
but life

- Kosho Uchiyama, The Zen Teaching of “Homeless” Kodo

New research shows that bacteria reach miles into the atmosphere, supporting the notion that microbes affect precipitation and cloud formation (Bacteria Are Blowing in the Wind, Richards 2013).  Every cubic metre of air holds up to 100 million micro-organisms. "Microbes also help create the intricately beautiful designs in snowflakes and facilitate the formation of clouds, for example. Studying them, researchers say, could give insight into how to better monitor global climate change, as well as predict and track weather cycles and disease and allergen outbreaks" (Atlas of the Atmosphere,
contributes significantly to the hypothesis that the atmosphere is alive... The possibility of microbes being metabolically active in the atmosphere transforms our understanding of global processes.”

Atmospheric micro-organisms have now been shown to have roles in cloud formation, precipitation, ice crystallization, as vectors for disease and carbon and nitrogen cycles, all or which have potentially important complex interactions with global climate change. Hurricanes have significant effects on these communities, with storms whipping up new bacteria from the earths surface. It is intriguing to also consider the possibility that through their influence on cloud formation and precipitation, they might also play some role in the formation of hurricanes themselves (not only a butterfly flapping its wings, a microbe nucleating a cloud). Micro-organisms are also released into the air by popping bubbles of crashing ocean waves. 

Such research reveals the need for scientists to look beyond their narrow specialisations, as Anne-Marie Delort, professor of microbiology and organic chemistry at Université Blaise Pascal in Franceas, says: "Physicists don't think about the possibility of life in the air. They study the particles, but ignore the biology", while aerobiologists often ignore important physical and chemical characteristics microbes, according to Jordan Peccia, an environmental engineer at Yale.

Increasingly, the atmosphere is seen not only as a means of transporting micro-organisms by wind, but as a habit and ecosystem in its own right. Microbes can find here suitable temperatures, pH levels, and rich sources of organic carbon, and can sustain populations in the air for 50 generations, or up to 200 days, living and dying on the wind, and riding in, and also making, clouds.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Climate Psychology Alliance

Introducing a vitally important new movement, organisation, resources, and website helping to provide a common platform for those working on the psychological dimension of climate change or those wishing to draw upon the knowledge gained by such research. Its members have already published three recent books, including Rust and Totton (eds, 2012, Karnac) Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis; Weintrobe (ed. 2012, Routledge) Engaging With Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives; and Dodds (2011, Routledge) Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory, Deleuze|Guattari and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis (listed in the books section of this blog). It is possible to join the Climate Psychology Alliance and also freely access the online material which seeks to bring together in one place a range of psychological approaches to the most urgent crisis of our times. Active involvement and contributions are more than welcome for readers of this blog.

The Climate Psychology Alliance has been set up to facilitate a deeper understanding of our human responses to climate change. To this end, we are bringing together a wide range of resources here and promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration.
The Climate Psychology Alliance is a new initiative bringing together those seeking to deepen our understanding of human responses to climate change. We believe that nothing less than a cultural transformation is needed in the direction of ecologically sustainable living to address the challenge we face. This is not alarmism, but a fact that should alarm. Why nothing less? It’s like the Sufi saying that the fish will be the last animal to discover water. Our lives, at least in the West, are so mediated by our culture and its collective complexes, that we seldom engage with direct experience of nature.

Human-generated climate change and biodiversity loss are manifestations of the increasing threat our species poses to the global ecosystem, and therefore to ourselves. A concerted effort should be made to influence priorities and behaviour in all parts of our society in response to this vast and complex problem. There is growing recognition of the importance of co-operation; particularly in the face of fear, ignorance and hostility, many disciplines need to contribute their perspectives to this endeavour.

Important psychological research has been done to elucidate cognitive and behavioural responses.  We also believe there is an urgent need for approaches which emphasise the role of identities, emotions, values, conscious and unconscious meanings and defence mechanisms. These perspectives are fundamental to many of the psychotherapies, to ecopsychology and, within the universities, to some psychological and sociological research. Our view is that much is to be gained from elaborating these perspectives and integrating them into existing knowledge through processes of dialogue and collaboration.
The origins of the Climate Psychology Alliance lie in the conference “Facing Climate Change” on 7th March 2009, hosted by Bristol’s University of the West of England’s Centre for Psycho-Social Studies (CPSS). Conceived and chaired by Adrian Tait, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, its approach was pluralistic.  Its speakers were George Marshall, founder of Climate Outreach and Information Network, Professor Paul Hoggett, Director of CPSS, and the Ecopsychologist Mary-Jayne Rust.  The diversity of speakers was further enriched by the range of workshop leaders, and by Judith Anderson, then Chair of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility.
CPSS mounted or contributed to four further events aimed at bringing psychoanalytic, psycho-social and other psychological perspectives to bear on the issue of human engagement with the twin challenges of climate change and ecological crisis.  Some interesting questions began to emerge: Is there common ground, in this context, to be developed between the diverse range of psychological disciplines?  If so, can this be used effectively as a resource for improved communication in the voluntary sector, government and the public sphere?  How might collaboration to this end be most fruitfully pursued?  Given that the climate/ecology problem is very probably the greatest challenge to our own survival yet created and faced by humanity, are we motivated to transcend our cultural differences in the interest of pooling our energies, insights and potential influence?
The Climate Psychology Alliance was launched as an experiment to put these questions to the test. We hope to demonstrate that our shared field, with its knowledge of mechanisms such as denial, has the capacity to make a useful contribution to the task of mobilising a relevant collective response.  A “relevant collective response” might fall under the heading of mitigation, adaptation, or both.  Central to the vision behind CPA is that we are seeking to place human science alongside natural science in the cause of ecologically informed living.
In practical terms, the Alliance is just going ‘live’ with its own website (climatepsychologyalliance.com) and through this and other means seeks to contribute to the following tasks:

  1. Through dialogue to:
    a. extend and deepen understanding of complex human responses to the natural environment and to climate change. These responses include not just defensive responses such as denial, apathy, anxiety or greed but creative ones such as love for Earth, empathy for other beings, and courage in relation to change;
b. develop methodologies for both research and practice that take account of these human responses in relation to the need for systemic change at individual, social, cultural and political levels
  1. To develop collaborative relationships with interested people to incorporate a deeper psychological understanding into their work on climate change, for example campaigners, activists, educationalists, climate scientists, communicators, government and business.

  1. To organise events (workshops, conferences, etc) which deepen the connections to be made between the psychological and socio/political dimensions of climate change.

Our intention is for the Climate Psychology Alliance to be an organization controlled by and for its members with elected and accountable officers. What does membership mean? It can be passive, all of us probably belong to some charities or political organizations that we are sympathetic to but nevertheless have no intention of being involved in. We would like membership of CPA to denote a more active commitment than this and truly hope that our members would feel that this is their organization and thus, if they wished, feel encouraged to contribute to the website, initiate activities and events and help shape the organization.

There is much to be done and many potential opportunities, together we could make things happen. For more information, resources, to join the alliance, or the contribute to our discussions, please visit our website at http://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org and come to our conference in March 16.

There are already several interesting articles from a psychoanalytic perspective

Paul Hoggett: Psychoanalysis and Climate Change 
Renee Lertzman: The Myth of Apathy
Rosemary Randall: Will 2013 shift people’s indifference to climate change?
Judith Anderson: Absorbing the Implications of Climate Change for Health by Anderson.

In addition see further articles from Jungian, Psycho-Social, Ecopsychology, Humanistic-Integrative, Cognitive-Behavioural, and Interdisciplinary approaches. 

See also sections on education, research, policy, media, arts, discussion forums, events, climate change, and useful links.