New York magazine journalist David Wallace-Wells warns of shrinking livable space as the world warms. It is time to rethink everything. Is it time to panic? That depends…says Toronto clinical psychoanalyst and activist Judith Deutsch in our second interview.
LOTS OF AUDIO FOR YOU TO HEAR OR TAKE AWAY….
Of course, I think it is way past time to panic. In the show you’ll find a couple of minutes from my “Time to Panic” podcast in December 2005. Listen to or download that whole 11 minute roundup of 2005 climate signs of disaster here. It is fun and sad at the same time.
TWO WAYS TO HEAR MY SECOND GUEST, JUDY DEUTSCH…
We ran out of radio time on my interview with Judy, but you can grab the whole thing. There’s a lot more good stuff in that conversation. Listen to or download my full 49 minute interview with Judy Deutsch in CD Quality or LoFi (recommended)
Please support this program (and this poor radio journalist) if you can. Details on how to help are here.
DAVID WALLACE-WELLS – THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH
He set the climate conversation on fire with his 2017 article in New York magazine, where he is Deputy Editor and climate columnist. Now American journalist David Wallace-Wells is back with his new book “The Uninhabitable Earth, Life After Warming“. It’s a pleasure to welcome David to Radio Ecoshock.
Before he wrote the most popular article in New York magazine ever, Wallace-Wells covered the new science beat, stuff like gene editing, robots, and sometimes the arts. Now he is a climate columnist. Just this month, David told the Guardian newspaper “People should be scared – I’m scared“.
He just wrote an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times titled “Time to Panic – The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways.” I did a Radio Ecoshock show in 2005 called “It’s Time to Panic”. When it comes to the geo-biologic clock ticking away in the natural world, is it not way past “time to panic” about climate change?
The book began as a July 2017 article in New York magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth – Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.” It went viral, millions read it.
CLIMATE NATIONALISM AND CONFLICT
Some experts expect millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of climate refugees, as places become uninhabitable. James Lovelock suggested Britain, as an island in the climate storm, should start investing now in the new schools and hospitals that will be needed. Others want to build walls and kill anybody who comes. What do you think will happen as the livable land base shrinks?
Our second guest, Toronto psychoanalyst Judy Deutsch has a kinder interpretation of the future. It may be a myth that we will descend into a shoot-your-neighbor scenario. In other historical times of challenge, sometimes people managed to work together, building society rather than tearing it apart. Isn’t it just as possible the climate challenge will get us working together, like in the Great Depression or the home-front during War, without going through the violent breakdown so many fear? We present both possibilities in this program. More on climate and conflict is below.
Journalist David Wallace-Wells
In his new book, David Wallace-Wells suggests the flood of Syrians, escaping a civil war partly driven by climate-induced drought, stimulated the new populist nationalism in the West: “close the borders”. On the MSNBC “Morning Joe” TV David said:
“For every half a degree of warming we are expected to see between 10% and 20% increase in conflict, so if we get to where we are going, by the end of the century we could have twice as much war as we have today, and that conflict happens even at the individual level, so we’ll see rises in murder rates and rape, domestic assault. It spikes the rate at which people are admitted to mental hospitals. Absolutely every aspect of life on this Earth is scheduled to be transformed by climate changes, and that really is what my book is about, not just what the science tells is going to happen, but how the way that we will live will be changed by these forces.”
Then Joe Scarborough goes to his other guest, Penn State scientist Michael Mann for the obligatory more hopeful ending…
Lately I have been reviewing instances of rapid large-scale public change. The French and Russian Revolutions are examples. David do you think a wave of climate awareness could still sweep away our addiction to fossil-fuels and consumerism, – in time? If you have an hour and a half, here is a YouTube video from the BBC on the history of the French Revolution.
In his new book “The Uninhabitable Planet” David writes: “The majority of the burning has come in the last 25 years – since the premiere of Seinfeld.” One of my favorite lines from the Seinfeld TV sitcom comes from Elaine. After throwing a valuable fur coat out a window, she says “I guess I have to buy him a new coat, even though I don’t think I should be held responsible, which I am anyway“. Doesn’t that sound familiar for most people with climate change?
In March 2018, David published this article in New York magazine: “The Paris Climate Accords Are Looking More and More Like Fantasy – and they are the only thing keeping us from planet-wide environmental catastrophe”. I’m not sure. We are seeing far more local action, with city mayors aiming for carbon-neutral. Maybe a top-down solution will never be possible, but that doesn’t mean we completely fail.
Follow David Wallace-Wells on Twitter.
THE CLIMATE BIND: PSYCHOANALYST JUDITH DEUTSCH
Is climate change getting you down? Does it keep you up at night? Artists and academics are trying to express this new dis-ease. And some mental health professionals are seeing a new kind of climate trauma. I put a whole link-fest of articles, books and videos at the bottom of this blog.
Judith Deutsch is a psychoanalyst with a private practice in Toronto, Canada. Raised and educated in California, Judy has been on the faculty of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute. She is a wide-ranging voice for social conscience, – as past president of “Science for Peace”, a member of “Independent Jewish Voices Canada”, a respected columnist for Canadian Dimension magazine, and contributor to CounterPunch.
Judy Deutsch, Toronto psychoanalyst
On Radio Ecoshock, dozens of scientists expressed their personal worries and loss concerning climate science they have published. Two of the saddest cases are the Australian coral reef scientist Charlie Veron. He is losing his life’s work as the corals get wiped out by hotter oceans, Dr. Orrin Pilkey established the science of coasts. Now the Carolina coasts he loves are being eroded, flooded, and buried under the sea. Scientists talk about being “kept up at night” and “deeply worried”.
In October of 2018, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the paper “Empirical evidence of mental health risks posed by climate change“. The authors compared public mental health records with extreme events, like hurricanes, very hot weather, and even multi-year warming. They used, quote, “2 million randomly sampled US residents across a decade of data collection”, and conclude that “environmental stressors produced by climate change pose threats to human mental health.”
But does this approach tell us anything beyond the obvious? Judy suggests it can be pretty shallow to work up numbers when we don’t know the specifics about individuals. We are all different. Some of us will react with a sense of doom, while others may be stimulated by the challenge. As a clinical psychoanalyst, Judy doesn’t like to generalize.
“PRETRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME”?
In 2016, the American Professor and author E. Ann Kaplan wrote book “Climate Trauma”. She surveyed global warming in movies and literature, and she talks about “the traumatic imagining of future catastrophe”. Kaplan calls it “Pretraumatic Stress Syndrome”. Knowledge of the climate future, she warns, can lead to nightmares, paranoia, and depression. But in the psychoanalysis founded by Sigmund Freud, must trauma always be something that occurred in the past, or did the early pioneers of mind consider the possibility of “future trauma”?
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, developed several concepts that might help us understand ourselves in climate shift. Do you think Jung’s idea of “the shadow” could apply to denial of climate change? With a deep discussion of fairy tales and myths, Carl Jung described a “collective unconscious”. Now I wonder if our collective unconscious affects our ability to adapt to a radically changed future which has no model in our memory.
In a review about a new book on “The Life and Works of Karl Marx” by Sven-Eric Liedman, Judy writes: “nature is just as much a source of the use values that people live on . . . Humanity is a part of nature; society and its culture develop out of nature. Class society creates a gap between society and its source.”
CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGEES
As far as I know, the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees, and subsequent international law, still does not recognize climate refugees. Donald Trump sure doesn’t. But rising seas and extreme climate-driven events will set off the greatest mass migrations in thousands human history. Are governments waking up, are we ready at all?
In an email to me, Judy writes:
“What has happened now is far from inevitable, and unnecessary choices were made at many points. My putting together the confluence of events around 1990 or 2009 show that much could have gone in a very different direction. When the Berlin wall came down, there were 15 walled borders in the world and now there are 77; it could have been a time of dismantling border, of dismantling nuclear weapons, of keeping GHG concentration below 350ppm. We must understand how these huge threats to people are interconnected.”
MIKE DAVIS & CLIMATE-INDUCED HOLOCAUST
Judy tipped me off to Mike Davis’s book “Late Victorian Holocausts“. Here on Radio Ecoshock, we had a great interview with Mike, posted at ecoshock.org on January 16, 2019. But I missed the climate connection behind that great die-off in the late 1800’s, and how early global trade made it worse. Judy explains that in our interview. At page 280 and following in Mike’s book “Late Victorian Holocaust” you can find a key difference between “Bad Climate” versus “Bad System”.
By contrast, Davis says that in the Qing dynasty of China, there was a much better response to the El Nino event of 1743/44. There was no mass mortality from either starvation or disease. Instead of chaos and death, there was immediate rationing, soup kitchens for poorest residents until state distributions began. The Chinese brought in millet and rice reserves from outside the radius of drought. Two million peasants were maintained for 8 months. The government imposed strict price controls on food. They were prepared for emergency!
But today, there is a growing public fear that mass deaths are inevitable, even in this century. We try to think people “over there” will be the ones to die, not our relatively-rich selves. But wait a minute! Judy cautions: maybe the future will not turn out that way at all. Perhaps this great fear is just that, a great fear being projected on to the future. Maybe it is that fear we should address.
TALK TO ONE ANOTHER ABOUT CLIMATE STRESS
Psychoanalysts recommend talking about our problems and our selves. But there cannot be enough trained health professionals to deal with the tsunami of upset people arriving as the future is disrupted. I talked with UK psychotherapist Rosemary (Ro) Randall about her healing movement called “Carbon Conversations“. They are circles of people who meet to share our feelings about climate change. Judy, can we help ourselves with local climate conversation or support groups?
We know we are damaging the climate every day, by driving cars, by the food system, everything. And yet we have to keep on doing it, because we depend on the carbon culture. That predicament sounds familiar to people with other damaging personal behaviors they feel unable to control. Should we be talking about carbon addiction? Judy doesn’t think that is the best way to look at it.
In our extended interview, I bring up a different problem. Only a few listeners will be familiar with the work of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Heidegger was brilliant in philosophy, a founder of existentialism, and also a kind of naturalist. For example, Martin said the Rhine River should not be dammed, because rivers have a right to their own existence.
And yet, Heidegger could not escape his time and place. He was an active supporter of National Socialism, helped select Jews on his University staff for displacement (and then death). Why can some brilliant minds be blind to their own harsh violence? And are we all likewise trapped in the inherently violent consumer/capitalist urge to dominance? We may be tempted to excuse our own time and place, but Nature will not…
THE MILITARIZATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE
As a Peace activist, you have been writing about the dangers of nuclear weapons and militarization for decades. In the last ten years, Judy added new warnings about “climate militarization”.
America has just dumped a missile Treaty and the Iran nuclear deal. Russia has announced a new series of new terrible nuclear weapons, including a tsunami-maker. We thought that was over. Now we again we make super death weapons – just when we urgently need trillions to convert to renewables, to capture carbon, and to prepare for extreme weather and rising seas. If there is a collective unconscious, are we expressing a desire for mass suicide, a will to death?
In the radio interview, Judy recommends this work: Amartya Sen and “The Idea of Justice“. We used to say “Give Peace a Chance”. Now, with the climate crisis, I say “only peace will give us a chance”.
You can download a .pdf copy of this article “The Militarization of Climate Change” by Emily Gilbert from the University of Toronto here. (Look for the box saying “.pdf” on the right, and click there to download it).
“VIOLENCE IS ATTRIBUTED TO THE VICTIMS”
Judy discusses the militarization and securitization of climate change. In addition to direct massive emissions of operations (bunker fuel, jet fuel, diesel, etc.); and destruction of soils and carbon sinks (like forests in Korea and elsewhere in Asia); the new military now has troops on borders, and talk about need to protect the major emitters from their victims. The climate impact doesn’t even consider the “externalities”, like the life cycle analysis of all the carbon emitted in the production of bases, equipment, ships, etc.
Many women have been writing again about the links between climate change, militarism, and the fact this has been left out of climate control talks and measures. That was recently brought up by peace activist Nadia Benjamin together with Alice Slater.
Check out “Why Green New Deal Advocates Must Address Militarism” by Medea Benjamin and Alice Slater, an article published in Common Dreams on December 12, 2018. Tamara Lorincz, Canadian peace activist is writing about this climate and military connection too.
NAMES AND LINKS FROM JUDY:
Of course you should read Judy’s article in Counterpunch — “Convenient Untruths about Human Nature”.
In the interview Judy talks about “A Doctor’s Quest: The Struggle for Mother and Child Health Around the Globe” by Gretchen Roedde September 8, 2012; and Sara Flounders, the American progressive political writer, and peace activist.
Judy also points to valuable new historical works that help us understand where we come from and how our current problems became shaped. She gives recommends a new book “The Shock of the Anthropocene” by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, as well as works by Jason Moore and Andreas Malm (found here at Verso Books).
EVEN MORE SOURCES ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Listeners who want to track more articles and ideas about the links between psychology and climate change can find a good resources at the Climate Psychology Alliance web site, https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/ .
For example, in April 2019 the Alliance will be hosting a workshop on “Social Collapse”. It’s in London, with speakers Radio Ecoshock guests Jem Bendell and Ro Randall. At the Alliance web site you can also learn about becoming Conscientious Protectors or Earth Protectors. They are also assembling their “Handbook of Climate Psychology” on the web.
Some of you would be interested in the book “PLANETARY HOSPICE. Rebirthing Planet Earth” by Zhiwa Woodbury. Former psychologist Carolyn Baker has several books out on coping with climate grief.
RESEARCH ARTICLE|MAY 01 2018
Environmental Humanities (2018) 10 (1): 1-19.
and THIS ARTICLE ON CLIMATE TRAUMA
“The climate crisis has arrived – so stop feeling guilty and start imagining your future” The Conversation Matthew Adams, Principal Lecturer in Psychology, University of Brighton February 7, 2019.
AND these Youtube videos by American psychiatrist Dr. Lise Van Susteren
OVER AND OUT FROM ALEX
We are hearing more about mass death and extinctions in the insect world. On February 20th, CNN reported a small brown rat in Australia is the first mammal to go extinct directly due to climate change. I worry a lot is happening with small creatures we just don’t know about are disappearing first.
Next week we are back to more shocking climate science from some of the best in the world. Please support this program (and this poor radio journalist) if you can. Details on how to help are here.
I’m Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock.