Clinician's Digest

Clinician's Digest

Therapists and Climate Change

By Garry Cooper

September/October 2011

Since the early 1990s, ecopsychologists have been a marginal but persistent voice in the field, warning that separating ourselves from the natural environment creates a wide range of mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. Now as evidence mounts about the growing impact of climate change, recognition of the link between the environment and mental health issues is increasing within the field.

As evidence of this trend, the May/June 2011 issue of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) flagship journal, American Psychologist, includes recommendations from the APA’s Task Force on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change. Psychologists, says the Task Force, have a responsibility to motivate individuals, communities, organizations, corporations, and governments to address climate change and “help humanity effectively mitigate and adapt to it.”

The Task Force’s call is a sobering acknowledgment that the question has shifted from whether we can stop climate change to whether we can eventually slow it down and learn to live with its serious consequences. A stark statement of that later position was Bill McKibben’s much-discussed recent book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, a look at what our lives will be like in the next half-century. He purposely changed the spelling of Earth to emphasize that, in the future, we’ll be living on a different planet. According to McKibben and many other…

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