Ecopsychology

Ecopsychology is an integrated field of study, combining ecology and psychology. Where these two areas interact as a study can be academic, cultural, personal, philosophical, and/or social, and can be applied to business, education, and government. Of course these examples provided are not exclusive to the field of Ecopsychology. Ecopsychology researches, examines, and explores the interconnected “relationship” between nature and humans and how that relationship is organized and/or functions. One can define and measure the developmental potential by direct contact with natural objects and landscapes. Ecology (the study of living organisms and the ways in which they interact) and psychology (the study of the human psyche and behavior) examine the interconnection of all organisms and their ecosystems through non-dualistic lenses. Wisdom from ancient indigenous traditions are explored within Ecopsychology and used to bring greater awareness to the vital significance between humans and nature.

There is also a spiritual component and language that exists in the world of Ecopsychology. This is a personal belief system and one that I’m always learning and exploring. There are two examples that I feel express my interpretation of the word and concept of spirituality. One comes from a master of Tibetan Buddhism and meditation, and founder of Naropa Institute, now Naropa University, and the other from Gretel Ehrlich, author of The Solace of Open Spaces:  

~Trungpa Rinpoche (as cited in Welwood 1992)- “Spirituality is completely ordinary. Though we might speak of it as extraordinary, it is the most ordinary thing of all. Spirituality is simply a means of arousing one’s spirit, of developing a kind of spiritedness. Through that we begin to have greater contact with reality. If we open our eyes, if we open our hearts, we will find that this world is a magical place. It is magical not because it tricks us or changed unexpectedly into something else, but because it can be so vividly and brilliantly.”

~Gretel Ehrlich (as cited in Louv, 2008, p.291)- “To trace the history of a river or a raindrop, as John Muir would have done, is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both, we constantly seek and stumble on divinity...”

 If exposure to nature is a healing mechanism then what is the outcome when nature is excluded? Physical separation from nature leads to psychological dissonance and/or disconnection. Environmental Psychologist Louise Chawla (as cited in Louv, 2008, p.98) says without the experience of nature, without the direct contact with the natural world, “we forget our place; we forget that larger fabric on which our lives depend.” Humans are literally denying a part of the self that once connected with the natural world as a source of education, information, and health.

As humans begin to develop an intimate existence of care with nature the symbiosis flourishes to its fullest capacity, and the organism survives. This existence is one of genuine love and commitment. It takes shape in many forms from naturalist to hunter to radical activist and moves people to action as you begin to feel a part of the whole system and strive to care for your environment. By interacting with nature through direct contact such as gardens, landscapes, bio-regions, ecosystems, and our own senses we connect with a deeper part of ourselves and the Earth. For these principles to be applied humanity must recognize the vitality and vulnerability of the earth and begin to preserve and restore it. Collectively, we do not all have to agree that humans are of nature and we will differ in our opinions on the state of this planet but it’s important to recognize the dependence of our home, the Earth. To apply ecological principles world-wide will take a collaborative effort by all organisms and organizations.

Examination of relationship: Above, I’ve placed the word relationship in quotations because many question for two subjects to have a relationship imply a separation of the subjects. Meaning, nature and humans are not separate. Humans are nature, created from the same matter that makes up the Earth and because humans are nature their interaction cannot be explained in terms of a relationship. To explain what is meant when referring to a relationship between nature and humans we will view the word “relationship” as one relational to a mother or father. Relationship is also expressed in terms of the behaviors or interaction between nature and human.

Ecological Principles

The following are personal developing ecological principles adapted from Naess’s Eight Platform Principles (pg. 28). 

1. The earth and all its inhabitants have innate value.

2. All plants and animals deserve to have their needs met.

3. Those capable are responsible for enhancing diversity and sustainability.

4. Sustainable practice must be implemented.

5. Live for a better quality of life, not a higher standard of life (Naess #7 pg. 28, because it’s just too good).