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Eco-anxiety? Get Eco-therapy!

By See-Dubya  •  April 17, 2008 02:26 PM

Low-hanging fruit from Fox News–people are so panicked about global warming that they’re freaking out and unable to cope with daily life. The new part to me was the notion that they’re seeking out “eco-therapy” to cope with it:

Things have gotten so bad, a new kind of therapy has sprouted up to keep people from going nuts over the environment.

It’s called “eco-therapy” or “eco-psychology.” The time on the couch isn’t spent delving into a patient’s childhood to find the source of misery. Instead, it looks at how much time a person spends in nature, the person’s carbon footprint and what the individual is doing to save the planet.

And the prescribed treatment may be as simple as a dose of recycling or — you guessed it — hugging a tree.

Sound like a joke? Ecopsychology, popularized in the early 1990s by social critic Theodore Roszak, is being taught in colleges and universities across the country, including at Harvard Medical School.

It might surprise you to learn that there’s actually some criticism of this technique:

But some health care professionals say eco-therapy is more of the latest in a line of money-making gimmicks targeted at the environmentally conscious, an industry estimated by the green group Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability Association at $228 million a year, and growing.

Melissa Pickett, an eco-therapist in Santa Fe, N.M., who says she treats dozens of patients a month, said sometimes she has to tell extreme greenies to chill out for their own good. “The global warming craze will cause your clients to go into extremism fueled by fear,” she says.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic. The recommended treatment seems to be detaching oneself from everyday California society and moving into the woods, which is no doubt a salubrious prescription. There is no shortage of concerned citizens eager to remind you that WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE BECAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING. The other day I heard an authoritative radio PSA reminding me not to let my engine idle, because that is known to the State of California to cause global warming.* You take your kids to the aquarium, or the zoo, and it’s never just “the blah blah starfish lives in tidal pools”–it’s always “the blah blah starfish lives in tidal pools and is THREATENED, FACING EXTINCTION!”

If my kids get eco-anxiety from this constant drumbeat of militant malarkey, whom do I sue? And will the State of California provide free access to an eco-therapist to help them get over it?


One more thing–I’ve noticed this before and I’m sure I’m not the first, but does it sound more and more like our new elite eco-theology is a substitute for Christianity? I say Christianity specifically because of the focus on sin and forgiveness. From the Fox article:

Edwards suffers from eco-anxiety, the growing angst experienced by those who can’t handle the thought that they — or anyone — are in some way contributing to global warming, species extinction and dwindling natural resources.

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.

Of course, that prayer is a supplication for mercy. But Gaia offers none of that; she’s going to kill you, and you’re going to help her do it, and there’s nothing you can do about it–no matter how many trees you hug.

UPDATE: Bay Area mom attempts self-help for eco-anxiety; partial success:

For months my mania persisted . . . until I exhausted myself. One day I tired of it all and realized that I couldn’t afford this pure lifestyle–both emotionally and financially. I started making balanced decisions. I bought nonorganic blueberries one week and organic the next. I went back to buying cheap mascara but I continued with Burt’s Bee lotion.

Hey, you’ve got to take your recovery one day at a time.

* Have any California readers heard this? I looked for it online and I can’t find it, but I’d like to link the audio if it’s out there.

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