Section I. The Threatening Catastrophe: Responding Now
Track 7: Organizing for Change and Sustaining Involvement
The point of this track is the experiential life of the environmentally aware and active human being: how do we survive emotionally, morally, and spiritually when we are in the midst of a slowly, irrevocably unfolding disaster? Our sessions will not be social theory, but (as Kierkegaard might say) the ‘existing individual’. Consider that each person at the conference has to confront the bad news and what it means for life on earth. How are we to remain active and alive, whole and sane, in the face of the truth?
1. “Climate Crisis as Trauma: From Shock to Mourning and Responding” Friday 2PM
Recognizing climate change as climate crisis that threatens human life on this planet now and in the immediate future can paralyze us in states that we have learned to recognize as psychological trauma. Whether we consciously see ourselves as frozen and disoriented or not, we may unconsciously avoid the mourning needed to free ourselves to respond radically to the actual situation. Participants in this session will be invited to reflect together on their experiences of moving through realizing climate change as psychological trauma. Educated in philosophy, clinical psychology and psychoanalysis, Donna Orange, is a clinician and supervisor and author of Thinking for Clinicians: Philosophical Resources for Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Humanistic Psychotherapies (2010), The Suffering Stranger: Hermeneutics for Everyday Clinical Practice (2011), and forthcoming (2015) Nourishing the Inner Life of Clinicians and Humanitarians: The Ethical Turn in Psychoanalysis.
2. “The Place of emotions in public and political life” Friday 4 PM
Tim DeChristopher will be leading a discussion about the role of anger and other “impolite” emotions in public and political life. This session will highlight the importance of the expression of emotional truth in the avoidance of burnout for activists and others.
Tim DeChristopher is currently a master’s of divinity student at Harvard Divinity School. Tim has been a leader in the climate justice movement since his 2008 act of civil disobedience stopping the sale of mineral rights to the oil industry, an act which launched the organization Peaceful Uprising and inspired the film Bidder 70.
3. “Teaching environmental crisis I: Dealing with students’ numbness, depression and despair” Saturday 11 a.m.
Roger S. Gottlieb
Exposing students to the details of the environmental crisis too often leads not to activism but to numbness, depression and despair. In this session the presenter will briefly describe his theoretical and practical response to this critically important dilemma, participants will share their experiences, and participants will experience practices for dealing with the issue. Professor of Philosophy (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) Roger S. Gottlieb is the author or editor of eighteen books on political philosophy, environmental ethics, religious environmentalism, and contemporary spirituality, including This Sacred Earth, A Greener Faith, Engaging Voices, and Political and Spiritual: Essays on Religion, Environment, Disability and Justice.
4. “A Joyful Heart?” Saturday 2 PM
We can prepare for the worst and work for the best with a sad or a joyful heart. This session lays out 7 practices designed by Thandeka to uplift the heart and thus steady the mind and the hand in the midst of global catastrophes. As the realization of what is happening becomes more widespread, not only individuals but also whole communities will need to prepare themselves to help people in these ways.
Thandeka, Visiting Professor of Affective Theological Studies at Andover Newton Theological Studies (Newton, MA), is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and congregational consultant, an Emmy award-winning television producer, and founder of Affect Theology, which studies religious experience from the standpoint of emotions. Polebridge Press will publish her next book, Love Beyond Belief: Recovering the Emotional Foundation of Liberal Christian Faith, in 2016
5. “Living with the Truth: Practices to heal grief, fear, and despair in the face of the environmental crisis.” Saturday 4 PM
As the Earth careens headlong into the 6th Great Extinction, we are often overwhelmed by feelings of fear, helplessness, and grief. Yet we are also called to recognize and utilize our own gifts to respond to the environmental crisis. This session will describe and demonstrate experiential practices (pioneered by Joann Macy) keyed to allowing participants to express and share their emotions and connect with internal spiritual and psychological resources to sustain them and the planet.
Linda Seeley, nurse-midwife, has studied intensively with eco-philosopher Joanna Macy since 1999 and devotes herself to the creation of a nuclear-free world through her work with the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign.
6. “Teaching environmental crisis II : Dealing with students’ numbness, depression and despair” Sunday 11 a.m.
Roger S. Gottlieb
Exposing students to the details of the environmental crisis too often leads not to activism but to numbness, depression and despair. In this session the presenter will briefly describe his theoretical and practical response to this critically important dilemma, participants will share their experiences, and some practices for dealing with the issue will be demonstrated. This continues version I, but will include a totally different set of exercises to experience. Professor of Philosophy (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) Roger S. Gottlieb is the author or editor of eighteen books on political philosophy, environmental ethics, religious environmentalism, and contemporary spirituality, including This Sacred Earth, A Greener Faith, Engaging Voices, and Political and Spiritual: Essays on Religion, Environment, Disability and Justice.
7 . “The Way I Live Determines The Way My People Survive” Sunday 2 PM
While most of us are deeply aware of the need to care for the environment, being mindful of the carbon footprint, global warming, and the manner in which our lifestyle must change. This presentation and experiential dialogue will focus on our inner world and what we must confront in ourselves in order to promote compassion and loving kindness to ourselves, our community and our world. How we live in harmony with the sacred potential of being human psychologically and spiritually will determine the way our people survive. We will specifically deal with effective ways to handle the emotional reaction to the environmental crisis that we face with skill and helpfulness.
Walt Rutherford, PhD has been involved in the fields of counseling, consulting, and academic instruction for over forty years. After serving as a combat platoon leader in the Vietnam war, he returned home and joined Vietnam Veterans against the War where he first started working for peace. Later he began working clinically with veterans and other survivors of violence and abuse including those addicted and suffering from trauma. In 1979 Walt was named the Director of one of the first Vet Centers in the nation while in Vermont where he began his study of the phenomena later to be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To this day he is known as a pioneer in the research and treatment of this issue. He has counseled more than three thousand veterans and their families.
In the late 1980’s Walt began an intense study of Tibetan Buddhism and its medical approach. Since this time he has taught these principles and has created programs in Tibetan Buddhist Psychology in several universities. As a Trans-personal Psychologist, he espouses the need to treat the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Again turning to “the least of these” Walt is currently employed as the coordinator of Combat Post-Traumatic Stress treatment at Veterans Village of San Diego working with homeless and addicted veterans.
Walt continues to teach and advocate for peace and equality in individuals, families, communities, and the world. The common thread of his personal and professional efforts is the response of compassion to self/others and right emotional action in response to horrific circumstances.
8. Conclusion, wrap-up, moving forward: Prospects for continuing connection and expression of what we’ve learned. Sunday 4PM. A group discussion.