from the world's big
How we view our environment impacts our wellbeing, says Australian philosopher
In his book, Earth Emotions, Glenn Albrecht coins "psychoterratic."
- Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht has written the manual for understanding how societies must grapple with climate change.
- Language not only reflects reality but produces it, prompting Albrecht to coin several new words.
- Among them is psychoterratic, which relates to how our view of nature impacts our wellbeing.
Have you ever gazed upon a vast stretch of terra nullius? Or been hypnotized by the sounds of slogger? Northerners have likely experienced blinter, while beach goers are tickled by kimmeridge, perhaps right after picking up a glassel.
In Landmarks, nature writer Robert MacFarlane gathers thousands of words in danger of extinction. (Definitions of the above are at the end of this article.) "Language," he writes, "does not just register experience, it produces it." He is concerned that dictionaries add technology-based words while subtracting terms associated with the natural world. This produces a screen-based existence — one good for capitalism, not so much for the planet. We abandon language at our peril.
While MacFarlane salvages words, others coin them. Australian environmental philosopher, Glenn Albrecht, hopes that humans can leave the Anthropocene—the latest geological age, dedicated to human impact on climate and the environment—behind as quickly as possible. To facilitate our exodus, Albrecht wrote Earth Emotions to introduce a number of terms, including Symbiocene: the next age, one filled with hope and optimism as humans return to a more harmonious relationship with nature. Or, at least, one in which we don't destroy it outright.
While such a concept cannot be tackled in one article, let's focus one term Albrecht introduces. Psychoterratic refers to how we see the world around us — and how that perspective impacts our wellbeing. A discordant view of nature, for instance, the philosopher says, facilitates "environmentally-induced mental distress and physical illness." He continues,
"Psychoterratic dis-ease arises from a negative relationship to our home environment, be it at local, regional or global scales. The negative relationship involves a loss of identity, loss of an endemic sense of place, and a decline in well being."
We're witnessing this imbalance in real-time. Psychoterratic effects are separate from somaterratic issues—illnesses directly caused by climate change, such as toxic pollution. The two run in parallel, however. There is no purely physical effect without emotional malaise, and vice-versa.
TEDxSydney - Glenn Albrecht - Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia
We think nature is on our side. In some ways, sure, such as an oxygen-rich planet and bountiful resources, but overall humans are the outcome of millions of years of biological experimentation. In many ways we evolved in spite of nature, being slow and weak among larger mammals. We thrived, for a while, until we started procreating at unsustainable rates thanks to advancements in medicine, lugging our bad habits along with us. We locked nature out of our lives, every step removed becoming safer yet less satisfied.
In America, rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are rising. Pundits speculate on a variety of causes, some of which likely contribute, but let's be honest: you can't sever the relationship to your creator (in this case, the planet) and expect there not to be trauma. In fact, Albrecht suggests the creation of the Ghedeist, a secular spiritual connection that every human can invest in. It has less to do with earthy New Age philosophies, instead simply acknowledging that our lifestyles are burning down the house. We need to better coordinate to tamp down the flames.
Trauma is inevitable in the age of climate change. Government buyout programs have already begun, with homeowners in Staten Island, Houston, New Orleans, and the Florida Keys selling their houses in order to be bulldozed. Every year, American regions are becoming uninhabitable. An estimated 13 million Americans will have to move by the century's end due to rising ocean levels. This loss of property and, more importantly, identity, crushes the human spirit.
While few want to face the prospect of relocation, some academics have called for managed retreat, such as is happening in Indonesia right now. Researchers are watching Greenland closely, as the island is considered ground zero for climate change. Residents recognize their existential crisis — given current climate trends, the situation looks bleak. How they organize and manage this transition will be greatly determined by their willpower and attitude.
Estimated 250,000 people marched in New York City as part of a global strike protesting climate change. Organizers have estimated around four million people took to the streets in thousands of cities worldwide.
Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Not that all is lost. Humans would not have survived as long as we have without hope. We might have dug our own hole, but we can also pull ourselves out from it. Albrecht devotes the last chapter of his book to suggest how we can move from the Anthropecene to the Symbiocene with as little friction as possible.
Usually, calls to actions in the modern age include "self-healing" techniques, like drinking a cup of turmeric tea or shutting off your phone two hours before bedtime. While such lists offer individual healing, they are self-focused and therefore egocentric — they're all about you. While it is true that taking care of yourself can lead to empathizing with others, Albrecht's book details what we collectively need to do in order to transition to widespread ecological awareness. Each prescription focuses on mobilization and action, not personal restoration:
Hold politicians accountable. Not very sexy, yet every day we're witnessing what happens when societies check out of politics. I recently discussed cancel culture as it relates to Equinox Fitness, with people canceling their memberships as a political posture while some of those same people don't bother to vote. Individual contributions for addressing climate change matter, yet not nearly as much as electing politicians that will hold corporations accountable. Refill your reusable water bottle all you want. If you're not actively engaged in local and national politics, it doesn't matter. You might feel better, but little is actually being done to address the world's most pressing problem.
Albrecht shows little patience for the economic argument proffered by politicians and CEOs. "Under the logic of gigantism and homogeneity," he writes, "we are destroying the very economy we are trying to build. As value in the world is converted to increasing shareholder profit, everything else becomes impoverished and all forms of heritage are lost."
The only way to begin is to actually drain the swamp.
Pebbles polished by the Atlantic Ocean waves, emerging during low tide, Ireland -- or, as Robert MacFarlane reminds us, glassels.
Creation of a new identity in a bioregional movement. Buddhists are especially adept at understanding interdependence. The "self" is an illusion insofar as it is inextricably entwined with the environment. Change your surroundings and you are transformed. Fixed identity is often an ideology born of fear, not reality. In a time of forthcoming mass relocations, we have to be willing to surrender who we are in order to transform into who we were destined to become, as Joseph Campbell phrased it.
Albrecht is critical of ethnicity-based nationalism. A nationalism of place is a different story. Xenophobia and racism must obviously be left behind, as does the capitalist thrust of globalization. The force that connected the world, trade (and the economics behind it), has to be rethought, as it has created a rift in our knowledge of our surroundings.
"Each generation knows less about their bioregion as an outcome of cumulative environmental desolation. The so-called environmental crisis experienced as a loss of diversity is also ultimately a human identity crisis."
The only solution, Albrecht writes, is to reimagine societies that simultaneously address identity, inequality, and environmental destruction. This means that new cultures will have to take humans, nonhuman organisms, and landscapes into consideration.
Identify and maintain life bonds. This all leads to World War 3, which Albrecht believes will not be fought between nations, but between positive and negative Earth emotions.
"A psychoterratic drama that has been unfolding over many decades must now tip over into open emotional warfare."
Earlier in the book, Albrecht points out that the word "emotion" comes from a Latin word meaning "disturb," which has as its root a Latin term meaning "to move." The neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas made a similar observation when he noted that thinking is internalized movement; at root of cognition are emotions. How we feel about circumstances dictates the thoughts that arise, both dependent on our relationship with the environment.
When Trevor Noah asked Greta Thunberg the difference between Americans and Swedes in terms of climate change, she said only in America is it a "debate." The world has to prepare to act; lack of readiness will only cause more emotional distress. This means that beyond partisan bickering we have to now evolve beyond tribal inclinations to reimagine what we are actually bonded to.
Albrecht has written the manual. It is at our peril to ignore it.
Words cited in Landmarks:
- Terra nullius: "nothing-place," uninhabitable land.
- Slogger: sucking sound made by waves against a ship's side.
- Blinter: a cold dazzle.
- Kimmeridge: the light breeze that blows through your armpit hair when you are stretched out sunbathing.
- Glassel: a seaside pebble which was shiny and interesting when wet, and which is now a lump of rock.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Do you get worried or angry? Ever forget to tithe? One minister has bad news for you.
- A recently published article claims to identify the symptoms of "low-level atheism."
- Among these symptoms are worrying, cursing, and not tithing.
- There is a solution to all of this though, not being an atheist. Sending in money is also involved.
Are you worried about literally anything? You're an atheist now!<p>The essay begins by focusing on worrying, an all too common problem and gateway emotion to atheism:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Every time we take a thought break and begin to wonder about how we will pay the stove oil bill, or the light bill, or what we are going to do if we get laid off from work in six months, we are worrying. We are actually telling the Lord, 'Jesus, you know all that stuff you said in Matthew chapter six about how you will take care of us? I don't believe it. I don't believe that you can do what you promised, so I am taking matters into my own hands; I'm going to worry about it until the situation is taken care of.'"</em></p><p>As it turns out, God plans his days around your dilemmas and will get to them in due course. So, if you are bothered about not being sure where your rent is coming form this month, you're doubting the Lord. Concerned about things like climate change? You're practically an iconoclast. Anxious at the thought that you aren't a good enough Christian? According to this, that exact worry is a sign that you aren't!</p><p>Are you feeling even more worried now? Oh, that isn't a good sign at all. You ought to be worried about that. </p>
Swearing and occasionally being angry, now signs of metaphysical distress!<p>According to Lindley:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"I have only sworn two times since receiving the Holy Ghost. The Lord has the power to change our attitudes and habits. I wish I could say that I never get angry anymore either, but that is not the case. Just like you, I struggle with atheistic tendencies.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Every time something doesn't go the way we want it to and we get angry, we are telling the world, 'I am losing my temper, because this problem is so messed up that not even God can sort it out.' When we slam doors, swear, yell, break dishes, speed, or shake our fist at somebody we are in the grip of an atheism attack. </em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"You see the Bible very clearly states that there is nothing too hard for God to fix.</em> <em>'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.' </em>(Romans 8:28 NKJV) <em>This is why a person who has been born again can hit their thumb with a hammer and not swear. This is why the sincere Christian can look at a flat tire and say, 'I guess God needs to slow me down, because he has someone he needs me to cross paths with today.' Swearing and getting angry only says, 'There is absolutely no way that God can turn this flat tire into a blessing!'"</em><em></em></p><p>Well, shit. It seems that being angry with things, including things that might seem to be perfectly reasonable things to be mad at, is admitting that you think God is useless.</p><p>How exactly this reconciles with Jesus getting pissed off at <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple" target="_blank">the moneylenders in the temple</a> and <a href="https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+3&version=NIV" target="_blank">healers that refused to save lives on Sunday</a> is unclear. Neither of these incidents seem to be the things that happen to somebody without bursts of anger, though I do suppose it is possible Christ had fits of atheism multiple times in his life. </p><p>Sometimes I don't believe in myself either. </p>
Stinginess, now coming to a den of heathens near you!<p>Lindley points out the final, most advanced symptom of atheism last: Not sending God money. He writes:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"<em>Some people are so greedy that they actually rob God.</em> <em>'…In what way have we robbed God? In tithes and offerings</em>.' (Malachi 3:8 NKJV)) <em>To those who would hold back the tithe the Lord has a challenge</em>: <em>'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.' </em>(3:10 NKJV)"</p><p>While the God of Abraham is well known not to need money on account of his transcendental nature, it seems that he is still owed ten percent of everybody's earnings. This is not paid to him, of course, but to his helpers. In exchange for this, God will make good things happen. If you don't send money in addition to swearing or occasionally being grouchy, the minister assures us that <em>"you are at extreme risk for very serious complications from your atheism."</em></p><p>While this may look remarkably similar to a concept used by the mafia, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_racket" target="_blank">the protection racket</a>, it is an utterly different operation. In the case of the mob, the threat of punishment is used as a way to force people into paying part of their earnings to a larger organization. In return, they are promised the protection of that organization from vague threats, often including that organization. <br> <br> In this holy case, vague are threats used to show people the wisdom of paying part of their earnings to the church. In exchange for their payments, they are offered kickbacks from God and protection from vague threats made by the people telling them they need to send in money. </p><p>Luckily, Lindley suggests a solution for all three problems, especially the last one: Don't be an atheist! In particular, start praying and sending God money. This will resolve the third symptom automatically and the first two eventually.</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhnsHvz7UL8" target="_blank">It's an offer you can't refuse.</a> </p>
And now, the serious part.<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="SuG8OGad" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e1bfda7981ed1abe9eb979157ea0496"> <div id="botr_SuG8OGad_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SuG8OGad-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/SuG8OGad-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SuG8OGad-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>While it is fun to mock the often-ludicrous positions of those who misunderstand atheism, that very misunderstanding is an all too common and all too real issue for the millions of Americans who are not religious. Atheists in the United States face <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists#United_States" target="_blank">discrimination</a>,<strong></strong> are not <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-25187-001" target="_blank">trusted</a>, and are barred from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists#Atheists_eligible_to_hold_office" target="_blank">running for office </a>in several states.</p><p> In my experience, many of these tend to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism <em>is</em>. I, at various times, have been accused of being a Satanist, a pagan, or an amoralist, among other things. It is little wonder why a person who doesn't understand what atheism <em>is</em> would find a variety of issues arising from it. </p><p>The minister in this case makes a similar mistake: He begins by thinking that atheism is something other than the proposition that there are no gods and then works forward. In this case, he seems to presume it is some kind of psychological condition which manifests as a hybrid of anxiety, Tourette's syndrome, and kleptomania. His use of the word "symptoms" is revealing. </p><p>While it is true that atheism can be anxiety-inducing, this falls more under the category of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism#Angst_and_dread" target="_blank">existential dread</a>" than psychosis. John-Paul Sartre, the atheistic philosopher who made Existentialism popular, wrote on this extensively. In his essay <em>"</em><a href="http://www.mrsmoser.com/uploads/8/5/0/1/8501319/english_11_ib_-_no_exit_-_existentialism_is_a_humanism_-_sartre.pdf" target="_blank">Existentialism is a Humanism</a><em>," </em>he explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist see him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of himself … what do we mean by anguish? The existentialist frankly states that man is in anguish. His meaning is as follows: When a man commits himself to anything, fully realizing that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind—in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility."</em><em></em></p><p>If choosing what you are and what meaning your life will have doesn't give you anxiety, Sartre would suggest you're doing something wrong. </p><p>However, this anxiety isn't necessarily cured by belief. <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kierkegaard/" target="_blank">Soren Kierkegaard</a>, the founder of Existentialism, wrote extensively on the topics of angst, dread, anxiety, and regretting all of your life choices while being a thoroughly devoted Christian. While he argues that the leap of faith can help, he also argues that we are still fundamentally alone and responsible for our choices when it comes to making that anxiety-inducing <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Concept_of_Anxiety" target="_blank">leap</a>.</p><p>The minister's point about swearing as a result of lacking faith is bizarre enough to be left alone. Ten minutes in any bar in the middle section of the country on a Friday night should be enough to convince anybody that any sincere believer can swear while remaining a believer. </p><p>Furthermore, the minister presumes that a believer is going to be of the kind that thinks God is very engaged in human life. While he may suppose God was involved in his tire going flat, many other approaches to the divine reject that idea. Deists, who tend to think that there is a God who created the cosmos but leaves it <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism#Aspects_of_contemporary_deism" target="_blank">alone</a>, would be an example. </p><p>All in all, the essay described above is an unintentionally hilarious look at what some people think being an atheist is like. It is hardly the <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-atheist-be-in-awe-of-universe/" target="_blank">first</a>, and it won't be the last. Anxiety about atheism has a history going back to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apology_(Plato)#Accusers_of_Socrates" target="_blank">ancient Greece</a>—studies demonstrate the continued <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/atheists-threaten-believers-with-mortality" target="_blank">existence</a> of Christian anxiety about atheists—and this essay is another example of people being unduly concerned about it. </p><p>I'd accuse the minister of worrying too much about atheism, but then he'd be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39Bnk6VU53Y" target="_blank">one of us</a>. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?