23 Sep 2008

Emotional responses to Peak Oil

I have found the psychology of tackling climate change and peak oil of much interest - it is surely a part of the key to getting folk motivated in a positive way?

Photo: Old tall sweet jar converted into home for caterpillars that were eating my broccoli - it allowed 7 year old granddaughter to watch them turn into chrysalis - isn't that just amazing - and then a butterfly! No coincidence I chose it for this blog item about change.

In an article, "The 8 Emotional responses to Peak Oil", adapted for the web here from 'The Transition Handbook', Rob Hopkins outlines the emotional stages people may go through when they begin to really understand the full ramifications and implications of declining resources.

He writes: "Having been around the subject of peak oil for a while, I have observed many people go through the process of becoming aware of peak oil, having what I sometimes call their 'End of Suburbia moment', and have seen how that awareness affects them. For some it is a traumatic shock, for others an affirmation of what they have always suspected. For many though, it is not so clear-cut either way. I have noticed, over the years, certain symptoms of what I have come to call 'post-petroleum stress disorder.'"

Some of the symptoms Hopkins has observed include bewilderment, anxiety, a sense of unreality, an irrational grasping at unfeasible solutions, nihilism, survivalism, denial, exuberant optimism and even the 'I told you so' syndrome!

Getting sidetracked into these symptoms, Hopkins believes, could prevent us from really analyzing "the strengths and weaknesses of our proposed solutions in the context of diminishing net energy. We need to really think through the implications – in a low-energy context – of our proposals, and not remain too attached to our long-cherished beliefs and ideas. We may find instead that by letting go of them we actually come up with something better and more appropriate to a culture in transition."

Identifying, naming and understanding responses is very important - but I do agree we need to move rapidly to solutions - but often just the process of understanding can allow release. There is indeed too much focus on the negative everywhere - the papers are full of it, the blogs and web is full of it, TV and radio is full of it - indeed I just had an email from a blog called Ecological Problems - there is loads of great info on the site - but how much more I would have liked to look at it if it had been called Ecological Solutions!

Positive approaches motivate and empower while the negative can disempower...I am sure the positivity of the Transition movement is part of it's success. Yes of course images of starving children make money - but I remember reading that to develop longterm relationships with donors, positive images were more successful - of course I don't always manage that myself!! Yes we have a Safe Water Campaign rather than an Anti-Fluoridation campaign but how to tackle nuclear power - by the time you give all the reasons for going down that crazy route it is hard to show all the evidence from so many that the alternatives which incl renewables are so much better - indeed Greens in the past were seen as campaigning against everything from GM to nukes. See previous discussion re some of this on my blog here.

Anyhow some will be aware there is a whole movement looking at how we cope with dealing with such enormities as climate change - see for example the International Association for Ecotherapy at: http://thoughtoffering.blogs.com/ecotherapy

Moving in that direction towards ecotherapy there are also Social Workers and many other mental health workers - see for example the Global Alliance for a Deep Ecological Social Work: www.ecosocialwork.org And check out this useful website, which offers a wealth of resources re teaching psychology: www.teachgreenpsych.com

1 comment:

xxancroft said...

Good to see Rob's wise words getting extended over the ether.

There is also a useful website called Peak Oil Blues which looks at the psychological adjustments necessary for all of us who's world views are the first casualty of Resource depletion