Vital signs – new year essential reading

January 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Christmas is a time when environmentalists feel duty bound to have a quick moan about the way over-consumption is wrecking the planet. (I joined in with a post for the Guardian in December.) The reasons why UK citizens purchase an unconscionable amount of ‘stuff’ are complex and not reducible to simplistic notions of greed or manipulation by advertisers however.

I explore some of the psychological dynamics in more detail in my article Fragile identities in the new book Vital Signs: psychological responses to ecological crisis edited by MaryJayne Rust and Nick Totton, published this month by Karnac. I have written before about the tendency to underestimate the emotional impact of climate change and in this article I explore how the instabilities of late modernity mesh with crises of identity to make it hard to relinquish a high-consumption lifestyle, discussing on the way how this can be addressed in Carbon Conversations groups.

Vital Signs is worth a read as a whole however. It represents a broadening of the eco-psychology approach to include perspectives from psychoanalysis and social psychology, critiques of the idea of ‘nature’ and accounts of practical applications of depth psychology in campaigning, community action and therapy. Its contributors are a broad and eclectic group of academics, therapists, activists and campaigners. Definitely one for 2012’s bookshelves.


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