Where does the self end and nature begin? Is the human psyche part of nature or separate from it? How does the environment affect one’s state of mind?
In Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, a book largely considered as a defining seminal text in this burgeoning field, James Hillman, Lester Brown and Theodore Roszak, among others, argue for a psychological reality that extends beyond the four walls of the office, that sees humans first and foremost in the context of their natural environment.
Ecopsychology is important for the movement to counteract global warming because it offers a channel through which to relate to the very ecology that the movement is fighting to save. It proposes a sense of self that is shaped by and with the ecological system of which we are part and in which we participate, raising the priority of this interaction above that of social systems that define us. It reminds us that the problems of polluting, over-consuming, modifying land and food, disregarding the habitats of other species, and politicizing and economizing the debate are as much problems of lack of relationship with that which sustains life on Earth as they are problems of careless lifestyles. That is, if we have consistent contact with the rhythms of nature, the awareness engendered will sustain us in our efforts to change our ideas, habits, and economic realities. There are good reasons to fight against the causes of global warming and the players enacting it. There is perhaps an equally compelling reason to strive to stay in touch with that which we are championing: It champions us as well.
Image credit: Kai Kane, courtesy Flickr.