Two nights ago I started to hug my wife. “Not tonight,” she said.
“What’s wrong,” I asked. “Headache?”
“No,” she sighed. “Climate change.”
The temperature in the room dropped about 10 degrees.
“I see what you mean,” I said.
Ironically, the next morning, I opened the New York Times to an article by Brooke Jarvis. The title: “Climate Change Is Keeping Therapists Up at Night: How anxiety about the planet’s future is transforming the practice of psychotherapy.”
It began with the experience of one psychotherapist to bring issues into focus. He said that many potential patients are looking for someone to talk to about climate change, only to be told (by others, not him) that they are overreacting.
Climate Psychology Alliance of North America and Eco-Anxiety
Enter stage left a group of about 100 “climate-aware” psychotherapists who call themselves the Climate Psychology Alliance of North America. According to Jarvis, they primarily deal with three types of issues:
- Acute trauma of living through climate disasters
- Fear of a collapsing future
- Psychosocial decay from disruptive changes.
Collectively, they call it “eco-anxiety” or “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”
It’s not clear from the rest of Jarvis’ story whether the psychotherapists have reached any consensus yet about how to treat this emerging malady.
Conflicting Info About Breadth of Concerns
Jarvis cites a nationally representative 2022 survey of more than 1,000 people from Yale and George Mason University. Researchers found that a majority of Americans (64%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming.
However, Jarvis does not report that the same research also found about 90% of Americans experience no distress at all about global warming.
Should psychotherapists bring climate concerns up even when clients don’t? That’s not clear either.
But the climate psychologists agree that they should validate their clients’ climate-related emotions as “reasonable, not pathological.” The climate shrinks believe they should make clients feel their fear is a “rational response to a world that’s very scary.”
Link between Eco-Reporting and Eco-Anxiety Not Examined
While not denying climate change, I also personally believe the threat may be artificially exaggerated.
The New York Times article does not examine eco-reporting that contributes to eco-anxiety. Some days, I’m afraid to open a newspaper because I may find Republicans can’t elect a speaker…due to climate change. (Just joking.)
Comments on the New York Times article seemed polarized. About half felt eco-anxiety was justified. The other half felt it was manufactured by media.
In that regard, I have previously posted about the Associated Press policy of taking money from foundations with interests in renewable energy to hire 20 reporters who focus on climate change.
Before the Internet undermined local newspapers, news organization sold advertising to generate revenue that paid employees. Ads clearly showed client’s logos. News organizations jealously guarded their editorial integrity; news almost never crossed the line into advertising.
That’s no longer the case. Now, 20 reporters are looking for any way possible to connect random weather events to climate change…using the most tenuous of threads. And if they can’t find one, they say, “So-and-so worries that climate change may make his problem worse in the future.” But they present no real statistical proof.
Not to make light of anyone’s feelings or circumstances, as I scrolled through other headlines this morning, I learned that…
- Droughts may intensify in the Amazon in the future…due to climate change.
- Fewer young people may fish in Alaska in the future…due to climate change.
- People who live on an island in a river in India may face more future flooding…due to climate change.
Such stories are rapidly becoming a parody of themselves. Regardless…
Repetition Makes Claims Rise to Level of Assumed Truth
Through sheer repetition of such claims day after day, people assume their truth. Individual events such as a flood, drought, freeze, heatwave or windstorm may or may not exemplify larger trends. But reports rarely present actual proof they do.
Rather, they quote people who have suffered some kind of weather-related damage and who fear such events may become more common in the future…due to climate change.
Of course, who can disprove the future? That’s pretty safe ground for a reporter.
I asked one of the area’s leading psychotherapists in Houston to review the New York Times article. She replied, “Climate change didn’t come up once in my 40 years of private practice.”
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/22/23
2245 Days since Hurricane Harvey