The Climate Emergency: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Online conference on psychoanalytic perspectives around ecological destruction.

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23 May, 2020, 2:00 pm - 30 May, 2020, 5:00 pm


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Eco Anxiety by Jess Rodrigues - The Climate Emergency: Psychoanalytic Perspectives - Freud Museum Conference

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, this conference will now take place online on 23rd May and 30th May, 14.00-17.00 BST. Your ticket admits you to attend both sessions.

What can psychoanalysis offer to the on-going discussion about the state of the planet?

The Freud Museum held a conference on Ecological Madness in 1992 which was one of the first conferences to bring a psychoanalytic perspective to this global issue. Twenty-eight years later “ecological madness” has become a “climate emergency” and the impact on mental health is a major concern.

We are revisiting this pressing subject by inviting psychoanalysts, activists, authors and young poets to explore the psychological impact of the climate emergency in the consulting room and beyond. Many of us may feel helpless, anxious, guilty, angry, melancholic, and even fatigued from the constant flow of information; more and more people are said to be suffering from “climate anxiety”. In many parts of the world populations are not only suffering anxiety about the future but from the traumatic impact of environmental catastrophes in the present.

How we process our emotional responses is an important step to understanding the crisis and acting in a determined, effective and creative way. Can psychoanalysis help save the planet?



Saturday 23 May:
2.00 – 2.05 Welcome
2.05 – 2.50 Sally WeintrobeWorking Through Our Feelings About the Climate Crisis
2.50 – 3.35 Joseph DoddsElemental Catastrophe – Ecopsychoanalysis, climate change and the viral uncanny of Covid-19
*3.35 – 3.45 Break*
3.45 – 4.30 Renée Lertzman: From Paralysis to Reparation: Accessing our Capacity to Care
4.30 – 5.00 Plenary / Questions
Saturday 30 May:
2.00 – 2.05 Welcome
2.05 – 2.50 David MorganClimate Change, Cognitive Dissonance, Human Hope and the Death Instinct
*3.20 – 3.30 Break*
3.30 – 4.15 Anouchka GroseTo Breed or Not To Breed
4.15 – 5.00 Plenary / Questions


Sally Weintrobe
Working through our feelings about the climate crisis
The climate bubble is now bursting, leaving many people finding it hard to manage their feelings as they take in the extent of the damage already caused to our climate system. What can help us to recognise and work through our feelings about this threat to survival without resorting to further denial? How can we think proportionately about our responsibility? Sally Weintrobe addresses these questions, bringing in her ideas on Exceptionalism and the culture of un-care it promotes, a culture that alienates us from the part of us that cares about the effects of our actions.

Joseph Dodds
Elemental Catastrophe – Ecopsychoanalysis, climate change and the viral uncanny of Covid-19
Coronavirus embodies the uncanny ecology that threatens our destruction – but also offers a pause in the headlong rush of our ecocidal civilization, opening possibilities for renewal. This paper will seek to apply an ecopsychoanalytic perspective to the virus and the viral.

Renée Lertzman 
From Paralysis to Reparation: Accessing our Capacity to Care
At this moment, humans are undergoing a collective awakening. The seismic ripples are activating new movements, from XR and young climate strikers, to corporate leadership. We now know enough to grasp the magnitude and scale of our planetary crisis, and the implications for all life, now and deep into the future. And yet, collectively we seem to swing from paralysis to mania. The tenor is either alarm and panic, or cheerleading solutions. None of these are wholly sufficient for a global response. What are the conditions that support our capacities to move into creative, integrative and reparative response? Where we can tolerate the anxiety, fear and shame that this crisis can bring up? We look to insights within psychoanalytic fields and beyond, to surface how we as a community can effectively bring about integrated, sane responses.

David Morgan
Climate Change, Cognitive Dissonance, Human Hope and the Death Instinct
“Knowledge comes with deaths release“ David Bowie ‘Quicksand’
At an international psychoanalytic conference, I’m aware of the cognitive dissonance that allows delegates to turn a blind eye to air travel whilst simultaneously attending a talk on the Climate Crisis.

I reflect that this is just part of being alive, our narcissism or western colonialism, hardening in the face of a crisis we have been ignoring, whilst increasingly using resources that cause it.

Like Freud when faced with the monstrosity of the World War, do we need his theory of the Death Instinct, with its longing to seek release from the complexities of life through dissolution? I conclude in a more hopeful fashion with some ideas about the post-anthropocene from Alain Badiou.

Anouchka Grose
To Breed or Not to Breed
With only a decade to turn the climate situation around, is it irresponsible to have a baby? And how might it be possible to respond to this question in psychoanalytic sessions? Is it possible to take the multiple threats posed by climate change seriously while still keeping open a space for people to make nuanced, subjective choices about their futures?

A limited number of bursary tickets at £24 are available for young people under the age of 18 and people receiving UK benefits or accessing NHS mental health services. Please contact Ivan Ward to apply for a bursary place.  [email protected]


23 May, 2020, 2:00 pm
30 May, 2020, 5:00 pm
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