Nature in Crisis

“It takes more than physics to explain nature.  Physics is only the abc. Nature is an equation of unknowable grandeur; a Hebrew word of which only the consonants are written, and to which understanding must add the diacritical vowels.” *

As we are all aware, the earth’s systems that support human life are collapsing, this is so awful it is difficult to contemplate, let alone think about.

As a result we face a threat to the future of our children, grandchildren as well as to the security of our familiar ways of life.  The pandemic has worsened the situation.

The upside is that we are in a needed confrontation. A problem well named is enabling. Nature, as the above quotation suggests, is god-like, we are part of it and there is tremendous energy and creativity available.  There are potentials for new connections within ourselves, with others and other than human life.  A recovery of care.

If one accepts the confrontation it is wise to join with others for support and to prevent being overwhelmed. Amongst other groups, I find Extinction Rebellion and protests against the HS2 railway hugely heartening in their ethos as well as in meaningful and effective in raising consciousness. The important thing is to be with others in this, part of some group that is doing something relevant and that is meaningful to you.

There are shafts of joy to be found our dire circumstances.

For instance, recent research about the interaction of plant and tree roots with mycilium (fungus), and bacteria in the soil is a matter of wonder and, similar to the exchanges taking place in our small intestine.  George Monbiot’s recent book Regenesis shares this delightful information, as well and being a well researched account of food supply, economics and climate change. Accounts of the conversational intelligent nature of nature, of our already existing in communities of co-operative complex systems, enthuse me.

Our current confrontation with human disregard for the environment parallels common limited personal understanding of ones own self.  Whatever your personal problems, they are bound up with, implicated in our disjunction from “nature”.   The disjunctions is embedded in assumptions of human entitlement and exceptionalism.  Sally Weintrobe’s book Psychological Roots of The Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare is a powerful and important account of the entitlements evident in our consumerist ways of living.

Recovery involves capacities for presence, and, understanding ourselves as participants rather than creatures apart or above.

Amongst sources of joy that support and compensate the appropriate fear of our current circumstances I have found the teachings of the Trust Technique helpful.  In his work with animals and their carers James French [1] shows that when he is with an animal and with himself in a quiet deep meditation simply being present, the animal by degrees slowly relaxes and both enter into connection that is mutually healing. ( This can lead to co-operation. conversations and enjoyment. This ‘being with’ is the needed precursor of listening and understanding that applies within and between persons too.

The work of psychotherapy is developing the capacity to be with, present to, feelings, dreams, physical events and to know that understanding can take time.

In the field of psychology different kinds of therapy are emerging to heal this disjunction from nature and make evident that all life forms, all matter exist in in matrices of inter- communications. There are now courses in ecotherapy, Mary-Jayne Rust’s book Towards an Ecopsychotherapy is a valuable resource. “As a psychotherapist with some 30 years experience, I am interested in a psychology in the service of the earth. This is Ecopsychology.  How might we support the genius of human nature to re-imagine our relationship with the earth? How might we understand and confront the shadow sides of human nature that have led us to this point of global crisis?”

In my own practice the attraction of energy psychotherapy, in addition to its effectiveness, is that its theories and practice offer convincing evidence that the body and mind are one, and furthermore that what we think of as “mind” is a relational process.

Shamanic practice demonstrates confidence that the imaginal is as real as the material physical world.

We need a different psychologies, ones that are not just human, and includes all matter and forms of life. The fear you may feel in being confronted with human degradation of the environment on which we depend has the potential to realise better quality of life. This enrichment involves engaging with our resistances in recognising changes that are not compatible with our current ways of life or with human survival. There is a helpful account of these self-destructive defences in a handbook created by Climate Psychology Alliance.

In her book the Ecocritical Psyche Susan Rowland establishes a position from which anything, material object or phenomena, can be considered in the context of its relationship with the environment, nature.   Coming from being a literary critic she develops a theme of literature as part of nature so that liberated by her, books, poems amble through our lives as surely animals do in material and imaginal realities.  She ably gets hold of the imaginal and human culture as part of nature.   She also establishes the imaginal, this integration of language and nature and imagination, as central to human resource rather than an after-thought, an entertainment.

Richard Power’s novel Overstory is both a gripping novel and a sound account of how humans are completely dependent on trees.

Powers, Richard (2018) Overstory: A Novel. W.W. Norton & Co

Rowland, Susan The Ecocritical Psyche: Literature, Evolutionary Complexity and Jung

Weintrobe, Sally (2021) The Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare. Bloomsbury.

[1] I’m enthused by the Trust Technique. It works with people and their animals, or animals and their people. It teaches an unsentimental, grounded, accessible meditation practice in presence to the animal. The animal is affected by the human’s peaceful state, and through repetition it brings down the animals stress or trauma. There comes a point where the animal recognises it’s the human giving it peacefulness and a connection is made.

It’s obvious the skills James and Kelley French teach draw on psychotherapies, meditation practices and indigenous wisdom, with an apparent simplicity that betokens good understanding.  What endears me in particular is they utterly get that listening presence is actually bi-directional. Our human exceptionalism assumes we help the animal, our subject, verb, object language structures this mindset too. So an animal may catch, flirt with, our attention. Its distress might catch us. Or there may be a wound animal and human share that brings the two together. The gift to the human is a practice that brings it into presence, and the revelation that in presence connection, healing, responsibility, relationship, conversation (with “nature”) are either happening or in potential. In effect I’m experiencing it as an ecopsychology practice that springs joy as well as having gravity.

There are three videos “Messages of Trust” by James French, that yes, are about relating to animals, but actually nail, in very clearly thought-out language, working with unconscious process, therapeutic presence, learning being contingent on connection, the creative nature of dream level states, and distinguishing over-thinking from the qualitatively different kind of thought that arises from presence to self and/or another.