What if we are all suffering from "Climate Trauma"? Zhiwa Woodbury thinks that this is the great undiagnosed disorder of the modern age, and that facing up to it could be the biggest step towards meeting the existential threat posed by climate change.
Drawing on his decades as a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, eco-attorney, researcher, writer and climate pyschologist, Zhiwa is among the most original thinkers writing today on the connections between the ecological crisis and the human psyche.
Matthew got to know Zhiwa following the publication of his influential "Climate Trauma" paper in the journal Ecopsychology in February, 2019 — an article which has since been downloaded more than 25,000 times. The paper posed a direct challenge to the wider psychology community, which Zhiwa argues has largely confined itself to examining the emotional reactions stirred up by the climate crisis, coining new terms such as "eco-anxiety" or "eco-grief" to describe them, while ignoring the larger implications. This focus on symptoms, Zhiwa argues, misses the point: global climate change is not just inducing trauma from extreme weather events — it is instead a unique and unprecedented form of trauma itself, and one that is continually triggering all our unresolved traumas — personal, cultural, and intergenerational. As with all traumas, it is only by acknowledging climate trauma that we can empower ourselves to embark on the path of recovery. By facing this collective, biospheric trauma, we not only gain insights into our dysfunctional responses, both individually and collectively, we also begin to see how it is a relational problem that demands relational solutions.
In this episode, Matthew and Zhiwa dive deeply into the connections between climate change and trauma, exploring the emerging field of quantum ecopsychology — a worldview rooted in Zhiwa's lived experience of the Earth as a sentient, living organism — and the radical interconnectedness of all beings. It is this perspective, Zhiwa maintains, that offers us the best chance of navigating the climate and ecological emergency, and finding our way back into right relationship with ourselves and the natural world.
Climate Trauma: Toward a new taxonomy of trauma
Nature as "threat": The Plague of eco-anxiety
Zhiwa's blog: EcopsychologyNow!
Healing our collective traumas, healing our world (for Emerge)