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Radical ecopsychology

Life on Earth is in crisis. To address this crisis and build an ecological society, we are called toward a more whole humanity and a full realisation of our potential, but this does not appear to be the direction in which our culture is taking us. Indeed, our human lives appear to be in crisis, too. Depression and anxiety as well as more low-grade malaise are increasingly prevalent, and as ecopsychology scholar David Kidner* argues, we are engaging with an array of maladaptive mechanisms -such as overconsumption, constant busyness and filling our spare time with commercial entertainment – for keeping these ’unwelcome’ experiences at bay. Yet, these rituals do not seem to fulfill us.

In this blog, we engage with the perspective of radical ecopsychology to examine the link between these twin crises. The crises of human and nonhuman life are typically not seen as having anything to do with each other, as we perceive of ourselves as separate from the nonhuman world. Ecopsychology, however, tackles these issues together – in the words of psychotherapist and author Andy Fisher, it addresses ”the wasting of our planet [and] the routine wasting and violation of human life”**. Fisher characterises radical ecopsychology as a psychologically based ecological politics that aims at a life-affirming and life-celebrating society.

At the heart of radical ecopsychology is a deep acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of humans and non-human nature, and an opening up to the full experience of walking this earth. Radical ecopsychology challenges the individualistic bias of mainstream psychology (and culture) that supports our striving for separation and the denial of our deep need for contact. It encourages us to question our current culture and lifestyle that revolves around fulfilling secondary needs and numbing ourselves to the destruction around us; while also questioning the script of humans as primarily selfish, self-serving beings. It also challenges modernistic environmentalism by encouraging us to consider also those aspects and experiences of nature that are more ’subjective’ and escape technical, ’rational’ expression.

A few words on this worrying word ”radical”. Intimidating mental associations aside, what it means in this context is simply what its etymology suggests: ”of or having roots”. Thus, as Andy Fisher suggests, it is about remembering our roots in a ”more-than-human world”. ”Radical” also contains a critical stance toward systems that oppress nature, including human nature.

We see that there is rising awareness of for example the well-being effects of time spent in nature, and a lot of studies exploring these connections. We are very pleased with this development but also have wanted to go one step further. In line with radical ecopsychology, we focus on the one-ness of humans and nature. This raises many questions. For example, do we go out to encounter nature ”out there”, or should we also encounter the nature in ourselves? Do we hope that the well-being effects of time spent in nature will fix our heads so that we can continue to live unnatural lives? How does environmental destruction affect us? Why is environmental protection something that we feel we need to work at, as though it somehow detracted from our happiness?

In this blog, we explore these questions and others, looking at the background and effects of the modern, limited way of being on this earth and seek to open a dialogue about ways of more fully experiencing our humanity and interconnectedness. We also reflect on what this could bring to how we view environmentalism. Although (we imagine) we will mainly write in Finnish, our plan is to also write articles in English from time to time.

 

* Depression and the natural world: Towards a critical ecology of psychological distress. International Journal of Critical Psychology (2007, 123-146).

**Radical ecopsychology (2013, xiii)