By conference convener, Stephanie Mines, Ph.D.
Ever since we first publicized the conference, Climate Change & Consciousness (CCC19), we have fielded questions like, “Why consciousness?” and “What’s the connection between climate change and consciousness?” This post offers a partial response to such questions.
When humans are confronted with an overwhelming threat, the dominant outcome is activation of an adrenally driven survival response. Dr. Peter Levine was one of the first to document this primitive brain behavior in his best-selling book, Waking the Tiger. Following extensive research into the human stress response, Dr. Bruce McEwen coined the term, “allostatic load,” to describe how the neuroendocrine system becomes destabilized when threat appears.
Climate change is undoubtedly going to present the most serious allostatic load that most humans will ever face.
I have been tracking the pathways of shock and trauma through the human nervous system for forty years. The subtitle of my book, We Are All in Shock: How Overwhelming Experience Shatters Us and What We Can Do about It, summarizes my trajectory. I believe that responses to the shock of climate change will not necessarily follow the accepted norm of simply triggering human survival responses. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that, on the contrary, climate change can catalyze an expansion of consciousness.
Yudith Nieto, for example, lives in the shadow of an oil refinery in Texas and she and her entire community suffer the consequences of toxic exposure. She uses her impassioned voice to tell the world that we must refuse to tolerate the excesses and abuses of the oil industry. Yudith is not only speaking out for herself and her family, she fights for the rights of all marginalized peoples. “I stand with other…communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry,” she says. Yudith is not ordering from the old menu of flight or freeze. Instead, she elects strategic, purposeful action to empower people who have been victimized by corporations that ravage land and life. She joined 350.org and organized her community to participate in the People’s Climate March in the US on April 29, 2017.
A massive forest fire in Montana and then Hurricane Katrina similarly transformed Jay Toups from a 9-to-5 information technology executive into an environmental activist. “Everyone has to have their own carbon epiphany to decide, once and for all, not to be victims of this oil addiction death sentence,” he says. Jay managed to survive Katrina within an inch of his life. The day after he made it out, he quit his corporate job. He observes, “I use my own grief as fuel…as the world churns and burns, I get stronger.” Jay Toups harnessed his creativity to build an alternative fuel company, Bioroot Energy. He devotes himself to educating people about clean fuel sources. “Every issue that is presenting itself on the planet right now is carbon related. The most profound shift in our time is a shift in our understanding and use of energy.”
These examples illustrate how ‘I’ can become ‘We’ in response to the threat of climate change, challenging all of the research about trauma and shock. An entirely new story is being written for the human nervous system.
Shock and trauma have historically caused painful isolation. Victims are often excluded from social interaction due to stigma. They tend to bond with the shame that is projected onto them and either hold back from society or become marginalized outcasts. With climate change however, people who have been silenced by racism, abuse and poverty are pushing back alongside farmers, scientists, attorneys, physicians and parents. These compassionate unions have rarely been forged previously, because never before has a threat been so global and formidable, yet so personal.
Climate change is an ecumenical cry from the Earth, being heard wherever people are listening. It is Nature’s way of advocating for all Her creatures. And it is wedded to the ascent of human collective consciousness. As a victim of toxic algae growth and choking water supply caused by pollution in the Florida Everglades has said, “I want to reweave the tattered web of life for all creatures on this planet.” This kind of compassionate human response is what we mean by the subtitle of CCC19, ‘Our Legacy for the Earth.’
The conference, Climate Change & Consciousness, will amplify this trend toward increased human creativity and resilience. Instead of responding from our animal brains that get mired in memories of previous threat and habituated to the past, we will collectively revitalize our cortical (executive) and neo-cortical (visionary) capacities and infect one another with transformed consciousness.
Join us in Findhorn, Easter, 2019!
Note: If you would like to start now to cultivate your creativity and resilience join CCC19 convener Dr. Stephanie Mines in the workshop, Essence and Empowerment, at the Findhorn Foundation, beginning September 2, 2017.
By conference convener, Stephanie Mines, Ph.D.
Research into the psychological effects of war (see my book, They Were Families: How War Comes Home (New Forums, 2015)) has identified secondary traumatization as the fallout from an atmosphere of trauma, just as secondary smoke infects non-smokers. It occurs when an enormous threat prevails in the ambience of a home, a community or a country. The fallout lands invisibly on the people there, even when the threat is not much palpable. In Western psychology, this is called vicarious retraumatization. When it happens to healthcare providers it is called burnout. Both are responses to shock on a subtle level.
Climate change will wreak the same kind of havoc i.e. unprecedented mental health and nervous system challenges on a pandemic scale. If we are lucky, its treatment will come from the widespread application of integrative medicine. As someone who has developed a paradigm dedicated to integrative medicine, I can vouch for its effectiveness in resolving shock. Western medicine can help us identify the symptoms, as the following article shows, so that we can treat these destabilizing influences on our nervous systems.
Energy medicine (such as trauma-informed touch, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Repatterning), TRE (Trauma Release Exercises), Art Therapy and Movement Therapy) gracefully leads the nervous system back home to its innate symmetry, frequently making pharmaceuticals unnecessary. This is integrative medicine at its best. We will be considering these kinds of health impacts and their treatment when we come together in Findhorn for CLIMATE CHANGE & CONSCIOUSNESS. This article summarizes what we now know about the mental health impacts of climate change in places where it is already doing damage. The good news is that we can prepare ourselves and be ready to come to the aid of those effected. Western science has been consistent in singing the praises of early intervention. I am grateful to be one of early intervention’s team leaders.
Summon Your Essence – Energy Medicine and Climate Change
By conference convener, Stephanie Mines, Ph.D.
Part One in a Series on Health, Resilience and Climate Change
In the Spring of 2013, two sisters aged 14 and 16 from the small town of Lebanon, Oregon, were released from school unusually early. As they strolled onto their rural property they were met with a horrific sight; their father was pinned under a 13 ton tractor. The girls rushed over and somehow managed to lift the tractor off their father. One stayed with him while the other raced to find a neighbor.
The story was reported in the NY Daily News on April 13, 2013 and broadcast by ABC News. YouTube interviews with the girls are available online. What I want to examine is how it was possible for these girls to lift such a heavy weight.
We humans are capable of re-engineering our capacities and shifting the boundaries of who we are when extreme circumstances require, e.g. when those we care for are in dire need or when there is no other choice in the face of an overwhelming challenge or threat. These young women acted out of love for their father and their instinctual commitment to him. They didn’t think about whether they could meet the challenge; they simply met it.
Climate change poses the same kind of threat to every one of us. We and our loved ones are at great risk and that risk is mounting moment by moment. We need to find the courage of these youth in order to meet the crisis.
The health consequences of climate change are comprehensive. Most threatened are the very young, the elderly, and the impoverished; those who have had little or nothing to do with creating climate change. These health consequences threaten to trap us, to pin us down, as the father in this story was pinned under his tractor. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US, have already calculated these health impacts. They include: increased cardiovascular disease caused by rising air temperatures and accumulated pollutants; widespread allergic reactions resulting from increased frequency of high pollen levels; weather disasters that cause injury, displacement and loss; poor nourishment due to soil degradation; an increase in infectious disease; the contamination of food; and a proliferation of vector and water borne infections. And this is just the short list.
As someone who diligently studies the effects and treatment of overwhelm on the human nervous system, I argue that the level of stress caused by climate change will be the greatest burden on the human nervous system that our species has ever known. However, as a student of the human response to shock and trauma, I can also say that every one of us has the capacity to find what that those teenagers found within themselves when they saw their father trapped. I believe that climate change will result in an evolutionary upgrade, which I am determined to espouse and promote.
Among its many purposes, the Climate Change & Consciousness conference (CCC) will offer antidotes for the health impacts predicted to arise from climate change, which have already begun to impact the world. Researchers, including those at the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, suggest that we will need multiple strategies: mitigation, adaptation, networking and preparedness. We will explore and experience these responses at our CCC gathering.
These same esteemed agencies are largely unaware of alternative therapies such as subtle touch, energetic healing, craniosacral therapy etc. and their proven ability to increase neuroplasticity and promote neurogenesis sufficiently for humanity to meet this most profound test of our nervous system and its resilience. Without ignoring the physiology of how neuroendocrine systems must be strengthened, along with nutritional alternatives and even technological innovations for protection, Climate Change & Consciousness will offer workshops and presentations about the science of energy medicine as a means to strengthen our ability to adapt and transcend overwhelming conditions. I will be one of those workshop presenters because I am blessed to be the recipient of an ancient system of energy medicine that stimulates a profound and innate energetic vibrancy.
This is the first in a series of articles designed to address the likely health consequences of climate change and what we can do about them. I wanted to begin, however, with an introduction to energy medicine as a resource. During the conference and the period leading up to it, we will espouse as thoroughly as possible, routes to mitigation and adaptation so that we can be prepared for what climate change will deliver, including and perhaps even especially, in the field of healthcare.
It is daunting to look squarely at climate change and recognize that humanity is facing an existential crisis. Energy medicine strengthens the fortitude to not turn away from this reality, but to rise up and meet it with faith and love, intelligence and creativity. Climate Change & Consciousness is the place where Our Legacy for the Earth will be forged using the greatest energy medicine that exists: our human connection; our human community.
We must come home to our oneness, as the central stance in acknowledging and meeting this crisis. Even if you are privileged enough to not experience the climate crisis at the moment, somewhere in the world others are doing so. And the current acceleration of global warming means that the impacts by 2019 will be felt even by you. Comment on this website, participate, engage, join us at Climate Change & Consciousness and/or sponsor others to do the same. Be part of a new revolution in sustainable humanity. Be a member of our mutual reinvention that is our only hope. Awake. Celebrate. Act!