Interview with Sally Weintrobe
Sally Weintrobe is a psychoanalyst and editor and contributor to Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Her website can be found here.
Why are we not changing our behaviour with regards to climate change?
To change our behaviour we need to care more about the environment and about each other. But to care more we need to understand the effect of our culture on us. Our current culture of uncare works to boost our uncaring part so that we come to see ourselves as entitled consumers. We are mostly not aware of this or its effects.
Do you think art can have a role in the process of acceptance of climate change and of mourning?
Art can play a huge role as good art reaches people directly at the level of feeling and the senses.
We love undisturbed nature, but we need to use so much of it industrially or for housing to support human populations. How do we reconcile these different relationships with nature?
The issue as I see it is knowing we are part of nature and subject to laws of nature not of our making, rather than seeing ourselves in an illusory way as apart from and in control of nature. Nature also includes human nature. Facts of human nature are people struggle between a part that cares and a part that does not care, and they can only cope with so much trauma, inequality and despair. Because of this, we need to put in place frameworks of care that help us curtail our uncaring part and support our caring part.
Climate change requires us to act globally, united in a common cause with people from all over the world: how can we not create divisions of ‘them and us’ when we think about our situation?
It involves hard emotional work to undo ‘them and us’ divisions. We need a strong, new, integrating, caring imagination to see that we all share resources that are stretched.
Related to this: How do we avoid blame and guilt becoming the discourse?
We know climate change is human caused, but we have barely begun to take in the implication of this, which is that it is caused by us, collectively. We need to be able to look at issues of blame and responsibility with a sense of proportion and to offer each other support. We should not shy away from holding certain groups more responsible than others. For instance, it has just been revealed that Exxon and the coal company Peabody wilfully kept back their findings on climate change to boost their profits. These companies are responsible for their actions, just as VW is responsible for emissions cheating. As such they should be held responsible. As ordinary individuals we need to be able to think about our own responsibility for climate damage proportionately, and understand that when we collectively see ourselves as not responsible (‘my carbon footprint is so minuscule in the scale of things that it does not matter’), damage rises. Our current culture promotes the idea we do not need to see ourselves as responsible, which makes it more difficult to own our responsibilities.