Mental Health and Global Warming
Posted by Paul Mason on December 15, 2008
Two hot topics for more than a decade:
Mental Health and Global Warming.
Two issues connected in the most profound of ways…
There are only a few websites I could find covering the relationship between mental health and global warming. They look at how certain aspects of the decline of mental health in the future will be attributable to the increase of global warming. At best, these are passing comments in articles about general health concerns.
I have to admit, I’m more into preventative medicine than medical prophecy.
Global Warming, greenhouse gases, climate change, these are all with us today. We are past the point of any hope of prevention, but we must look to possibilities of minimising the damage and sequestering the problem. Being anxious about the problem, is obviously not going to be good for anyone’s mental health and general wellbeing. But working towards solutions will.
My biggest concern with contemporary neuroscience and psychology is the lack of awareness about the influence of context in the operations of the brain. It is what pulled me out from neuroimaging and neurobiology laboratories and out into the world of ethnographic fieldwork. It was my sneaking suspicion that mental disturbances, particularly those prevalent in developed countries, are linked in shape and form to our environmental and socio-cultural context.
My experiences in several countries lead me to affirm that if we have a narrow window upon the world, a restricted perception of and limited attention to the world, then our mental health and everyday wellbeing is less robust. People who I have met, who have widened the world they live in by living in an expanded universe of attention, perception and consciousness are quite often much healthier and happier. I have very much come to agree with the Buddhist notion that “With your thoughts you create the world.”
Maybe some of you can see where I am going with this. Global Warming, in a poetic sense can be thought of as a symptom of a distorted style of mental health that has neglected the world that our thoughts have created. The world we create feeds back upon the thoughts we have. The reiterative causality between brain and culture is spiralling towards an uncertain future. It’s time to step outside of the spiral for a second, and assess where we want to go, and the kind of people we want to be when we get there.
Now, not all the happiest people I know are doing something about climate change, and not all the people I know who are concerned about climate change are the perfect example of mentally balanced. But I have seen, and do see, that contributing to the social and environmental world, in the best way you know how, will bring positivity into your life. It might be the simple act of picking a piece of rubbish up, using a recyclable coffee cup, walking to the train station rather than driving, or even hanging washed clothes out on a clothes-line rather than drying them in an electric drier. Positive reinforcement people! Feel good about contributing something to the world you live in; the world you create with your thoughts!
My take-home message is: Look after your environment, and you will be looking after your mind too!