The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis
Mind and Life Institute
April 19, 2022
10 Hours, 20+ Speakers, 1 Message: The Climate Crisis, It’s a Relationship Problem
The climate crisis affects us all, and increasingly it’s affecting our mental health. The problem can seem overwhelming and solutions beyond our grasp. What if what’s really needed is to reframe the issue? This 10-hour course combines the latest science—on climate change, behavior change, and social change—with contemplative wisdom. You’ll learn from 20+ leading experts from around the globe, including Indigenous leaders, scientists, scholars, contemplative teachers, and activists, about the root causes of the climate crisis and strategies for healing our relationship with one another and the earth.
Specifically, you’ll gain actionable insights into:
The climate crisis as a relationship problem and the need for a new story rooted in our fundamental interconnection
The historical and psychological roots of the crisis and the deeply-embedded values and belief systems that stand in the way of change
Practices for building resilience and reconnecting with nature and each other
The role of the mind—and importance of shifting mindsets—as part of the solution
The science of behavior change
Integral approaches and the promise of quantum social change
Strategies for motivating individual action and collective efficacy to advance promising solutions—at scale
The course is divided into five two-hour lessons that you can pursue at your own pace. The majority of content is delivered through engaging video presentations excerpted from Mind & Life’s 2021 Summer Research Institute. Also included are contemplative practices, reflection questions, and action steps. The course is designed for use by students, educators, concerned citizens, and community groups/organizations seeking to mobilize and motivate individuals to be part of the solution.
The course is open and all content is instantly available upon registration. It is self-paced and content will be available to registrants indefinitely.
Course registrants have exclusive access to a recorded Zoom presentation and Q&A with Vandana Shiva from a live event in February 2022.
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Human emissions of greenhouse gasses now overwhelm the influence of natural drivers on Earth’s climate. How will our energy choices and resulting emissions affect temperature and precipitation, extreme events, sea level rise, and more—over this century and beyond? What are the implications for meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement and avoiding dangerous change? And what about the potential for surprise, as we push the climate system harder and faster than any time in human history? Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe highlights key results and new science from the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, and lays out how climate change is affecting regions and sectors across the U.S.
Kyle Whyte | The Timing of Climate Change
Oftentimes climate change—and its urgency—is narrated through linear time. When narrated like a ticking clock, the sense that swift action is needed obscures responsibilities to others who risk being harmed by solutions to climate change. Environmental justice scholar Kyle Whyte offers four different Indigenous approaches to narrating climate change: “depth time,” “seasonal time,” “kinship time,” and “dystopian time,” showing how each offers an account of responsibility. While philosophical, the Indigenous approaches have implications for climate governance, allyship, policy, and the media.
Roshi Joan Halifax | Integrity and Moral Suffering in Relation to the Climate Catastrophe and Health
Buddhist teacher and anthropologist Roshi Joan Halifax shares her insights on the psychosocial effects of climate change and the role of moral suffering and integrity related to the climate crisis. Specifically, she explores four valences of moral suffering as well as deep health issues related to our climate catastrophe. She also addresses the role of integrity in shifting out of behaviors of harm to views and behaviors of compassion and care.
Bonnie Waltch, Don Perovich, and Thupten Jinpa | Climate Feedback Loops
Climate change is drastically and detrimentally changing our world; glaciers are shrinking, sea levels are rising and our fellow beings are struggling to survive. How do we maintain hope in the face of such enormous, seemingly unfathomable adversity? What role do the stories we tell and the compassion in our hearts play as we move into an unsettling future? This panel discussion with Bonnie Waltch, Don Perovich, and Thupten Jinpa—a storyteller, a climate scientist, and a Buddhist scholar—addresses climate feedback loops, the most compelling issue of our times. This session includes a clip from the “Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops” film series. Nischal Neupane, program manager at the Mind & Life Institute, moderates the conversation.
Jonathan Rose | Pathways to Planetary Health
Planetary Health is an emerging field of public health that explores the interdependence of human and planetary health. The depth and breadth of human activity has generated the Anthropocene, a geological age in which human activity has literally altered the earth’s ecological and atmospheric systems. Urban planner and philanthropist Jonathan Rose discusses the Garrison Institute’s Pathways to Planetary Health initiative and asks: what is the ethical responsibility that comes with degenerative interventions? and what are the main pathways of regenerative actions?
Matthieu Ricard | Altruism & Wonderment
One of the main challenges of the 21st century is to reconcile short-term imperatives—providing for one’s family’s needs, surviving the fluctuations of the economy—with the search for life satisfaction in the medium term, and the preservation of the environment for the sake of future generations in the long term. Buddhist teacher Matthieu Ricard shares his perspectives on altruism and awe as doorways to skillfully and collectively navigate the climate crisis.
Vandana Shiva | Earth Democracy: Connecting the Rights of Mother Earth and the Well Being of All
The multiple crises and pandemics we face today are all rooted in a worldview based on the illusions of separation and superiority, which deny interconnectedness and oneness. One million species are threatened with extinction, with 200 going extinct every day. Humanity’s present path is clearly non-sustainable because it is destroying life on Earth. Climate activist and scholar Vandana Shiva shares her ideas on Earth Democracy, a worldview, paradigm, and practice based on the recognition that everything is interconnected. The Earth is living. The Earth has rights. And we as humans have duties to care for the Earth and regenerate her soil, seeds, biodiversity, water, and food systems. Our rights flow like a spring from our duties.
Lyla June | Indigenous Regenerative Practices for Climate Healing
Indigenous peoples have engaged in land management practices on a massive scale for millenia and while only making up 5% of the global population continue to manage over 80% of the biodiversity on Earth. Scholar and activist Lyla June explains how in observing soil cores of fossilized pollen and charcoal we can see how pre-Columbian indigenous peoples transformed landscapes into edible food systems that simultaneously sequestered carbon, augmented biodiversity, and increased ecological connectivity. Such practices were held within an indigenous cosmology and spirituality based on reciprocal relationships with all living things and which viewed food not as an object for consumption but as an exchange of life.
Bobbi Patterson | Placing Ourselves with/in the Planet
How do we place ourselves in the climate crisis? Are we at home? Do we search for roots denied us or taken away? Can we quiet our busy minds and bodies to receive more than visitors do; to hear the plants and trees, to sense one another, to protect and love as do inhabitants? How can poetry, stories, movement, and art reveal and invite us to practice re-inhabitation with all beings: seeing/knowing/feeling/spirit-learning? Religious studies scholar Bobbi Patterson engages these questions by exploring the territories of places as descriptive memories of times and seasons, courageous resistance and unjust death, and practiced habitation.
We humans are creatures of bounded rationality and finite processing capacity, and it is understandable that we focus attention first on the here and now. And yet, many individual and social issues require increased attention to the future costs and benefits of possible courses of action. Climate change is the most recent and arguably the most urgent and difficult challenge for individual and collective decision making. To make wise decisions we need to fully and justly weigh the immediate and certain costs and benefits of action against their delayed, risky, and often disputed costs and benefits. Behavioral scientist Elke Weber presents some ways to focus greater attention on future consequences and thus provide entry points for achieving a better balance between short-term and long-term goals and objectives.
Elissa Epel | The Science of Behavior Change
Effective interventions to improve climate related behavior can be informed by the synergy of both psychological principles and contemplative wisdom. Principles that can be applied to climate-related change include promoting salient social norms for sustainability behaviors and schemas toward viewing the climate crisis as a moral issue. Health psychologist Elissa Epel reflects on the importance of the integration of science, spirituality, and social ethics to create greater likelihood for the transformational change that is needed. She also discusses models of research for climate change mitigation, including working with stakeholders from the outset to identify goals to impact structural change.
Bruce Barrett | Mindfulness, Co-benefits, and Behavioral Eco-Wellness
The field of behavioral eco-wellness investigates the choices, behaviors, and habits that contribute to both personal health and environmental sustainability. Eco-wellness can be defined as “living life to maximize health, happiness, and environmental sustainability.” Fortunately, many of the same behaviors that bring mental and physical health also support ecological health (co-benefits). Evidence suggests that enhancing awareness of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors through mindfulness training can lead to greater health and happiness, and perhaps to lifestyles having fewer negative environmental impacts. Physician and anthropologist Bruce Barrett discusses the Mindful Climate Action program at the University of Wisconsin and the results and implications of two pilot studies of this program.
Christiana Figueres | The Case for Stubborn Optimism
Christiana Figueres is renowned for having delivered the seemingly impossible. During her tenure as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016, she brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations, activists, financial institutions, communities of faith, think tanks, and technology providers to jointly deliver the unprecedented, historic Paris Climate Change Agreement. In this interview with Mind & Life president Susan Bauer-Wu, Christiana shares insights about her work, her stubborn optimism, her grounding in contemplative wisdom, and the motivation behind her persistent drive to make the world a better place for present and future generations.
Christine Wamsler, Ed Maibach, and Karen O’Brien | The Science of Social Change for Sustainability
This panel features three scientists who are at the forefront of creating social change in climate attitudes and mitigation behavior. Sustainability studies scholar Christine Wamsler describes her research on what mindsets matter, including mindfulness, and how we can train citizens, policy makers, and decision makers in these mindsets. Social psychologist Ed Maibach addresses the importance of climate attitudes, effective vs. detrimental messaging to raise awareness and change behavior, and the science of effective advocacy. Sociologist Karen O’Brien discusses the relationship between individual change, collective change, and systems change, whereby she presents a model showing how empowering people to be part of a quantum social change provides a new paradigm for hopeful transformation through the climate crisis. The panel discussion, moderated by Elissa Epel, also discusses priorities for research ideas for the next generation of climate researchers.
Dekila Chungyalpa | Don’t Look Down: How to Build Bridges with Unlikely Allies
Over 85% of the world subscribes to a faith. Over half of the schools worldwide are run by faith institutions. Collectively, “faiths” are the 3rd largest category of financial investors. And yet, for the most part, they are often not recognized as a stakeholder group by mainstream environmental and climate movements, let alone as a crucially important one that could change the entire game. Climate activist Dekila Chungyalpa shares her insights from working with a diverse group of faith leaders around the world, building faith-led partnerships on climate and environmental efforts in the Amazon, East Africa, the Himalayas, the Mekong region, and the United States. She discusses the science of faith-led environmental and climate solutions, and the art of finding common ground between unlikely allies in order to build the resilience of people, of communities, and of the planet.
Kaira Jewel Lingo and Willa Blythe Baker
Each lesson includes a contemplative practice that form a 5-part curriculum designed to cultivate resilience:
Body as a Mountain
Finding, Creating, and Sensing Space
Cultivating Love and Kindness
Gratitude to All for the Sake of All
What people are saying:
“An incredibly eye-opening experience.”
“I now understand in my mind what I already knew in my heart; that this moment in time is a spiritual reckoning with our habitat, and that science alone will not fix the problem.”
“Where I previously felt lost, overwhelmed, and even alone… My path is all the brighter.”
The course is now open and all content is instantly available upon registration. It is self-paced and content will be available to registrants indefinitely.