Roberta Brown-Jones, Nederland.
The result of excessive hesitancy or avoidance to change prevents positive transformation for an individual or an entire society. (from Facing Climate Change)
The Nederland Community Library has been hosting a series of science talks by local scientists discussing various topics, including climate change. A recent arrival to the library, Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future by Jeffrey T. Kiehl provides a good addition to these discussions. A senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kiehl became a Jungian analyst in his 50’s and thus has an interesting perspective—part science, part psychology, part Buddhist philosophy—on how we should go about understanding our own attitudes toward the looming challenges of climate change. He encourages us to begin to change destructive behaviors that, if continued, will only aggravate the continued warming of our planet..
Many scientists are baffled by the public response to discoveries in the science of climate change which mostly seem to induce paralysis or even denial for the majority of people. Sprinkled with quotes from some of the great thinkers throughout history, Kiehl’s book offers a brief rundown of the fundamental causes of global warming. It then dives in to discussion of why people have been so reluctant to meaningfully address the behaviors and practices that led up to and continue to exacerbate climate change.
Kiehl believes in the transformative power of nature and seeks ways to remind humans of their connections to and responsibility for all of the world’s species, not just our own. Using his Jungian analysis background, Kiehl outlines some of the unconscious protective mechanisms people use to avoid action, even when it would be in their best interest. These include denial, projection, dissociation, and compartmentalization. He tries to argue for moving people from thinking in terms of self-protection toward having a desire to protect the environment globally.
He also advocates sharing our fears about climate change with others in order to better understand our defense mechanisms. By fostering connections between people, Kiehl believes transformation can occur. This belief in the movement from healing the self to forming communities that can then creatively act on climate change permeates the book.
Kiehl’s ideal vision for the world is one in which economies are based on GNH (gross national happiness) instead of the GDP (gross domestic product). By cultivating a more mindful existence, Kiehl believes we can curb our destructive tendencies to establish our meaning and worth through materialism and mindless consumption. By doing so, we can become happier individuals and as societies we can become more caring and less destructive of our environment. Instead of change being viewed as loss, he asserts that it can also be seen as a positive paradigm shift.
As a scientist, Kiehl makes discoveries that cast light on the previously unknown, and as a Jungian analyst he has learned to do the same in bringing the unconscious to light. His book weds scientific concepts with the psychological ways each of us establishes our own value systems and fears. Kiehl optimistically hopes to help create a new self-awareness that encourages us to connect our own well-being to that of the world-at-large through compassionate action. If people are willing to read and reflect on this book, there may just be a glimmer of hope in overcoming the gridlock of addressing climate change.
Roberta Brown-Jones is a Library Assistant at the Nederland Community Library.