Dr. Karyne Messina’s Newsletter — Issue #8: Responding to the Threat of Environmental Collapse

PTSD on the Rise Among Survivors of Environmental Disaster

A recent article in the Washington Post Magazine examined the mental health disaster that took place among survivors in the aftermath of the devastating Camp Fire in 2018. One survivor described her trauma as, by turns, a “beast” that “could come out at any moment,” and sometimes, leaves her “so numb, she can talk about painful memories like she’s ordering a sandwich.” Though PTSD did not touch all survivors, a study conducted by scientists at UC San Diego “found that an overwhelming number of Camp Fire survivors were suffering from various mental health disorders, most prominently PTSD.” The participating researchers likened the findings to what they would have expected to see among war veterans.

“Awakening to the Existential Threat of Environmental Change” Conference Recap

Fifty years ago, psychoanalyst Howard F. Searles was nearly alone in sounding the alarm on the consequences of unchecked interference with the delicate balance of the natural world. As a pioneer of psychiatric study and the intimate, inextricable link between humans and the natural world. Even in 1972, Searles recognized the devastation the impending climate crisis would mean for our collective mental health. Though his work did not reach a wide audience right away, it has become, sadly, more relevant in the intervening years. Last month, participants of “Awakening to the Existential Threat of Environmental Collapse” explored the implications of human detachment from the natural world and the role mental health professionals must assume to help people through these crises. The conference was dedicated in Searles’ honor and aimed to take up the challenge he laid before the psychoanalytic community a half-century ago.

Green Briefs

  • Climate change’s “first-mover problem,” according to Fareed Zakaria, is that plenty of people are talking a big game about climate, but putting those words into action is slow-coming. Financing net-zero initiatives and getting China to play along are two of the largest hurdles. However:
  • We know that fighting climate change will require trillions of dollars to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. At the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, banks, investors, and other representatives from 450 firms around the world pledged over $130 trillion of private capital to help meet that goal.
  • Solar geoengineering: Can we cool the planet? (DW.com)
  • A recent report in the journal Nature Food found that climate change will negatively alter global production of crops like rice, soybeans, wheat, and corn as soon as 2030. Major culprits include increases in average temperatures and rainfall patterns alongside a rise in carbon dioxide. Researchers said they were not expected to see such a “fundamental shift as compared to crop yield projections…conducted in 2014.”
  • The recipient of the 3rd annual OBEL AWARD is the theory of the 15-minute city Professor Carlos Moreno coined the term to describe walkable urban communities where residents can easily access all their daily needs within a quarter-hour radius.

Other News:

My manuscript, Resurgence of Global Populism: A Psychoanalytic Study of Blame-Shifting and the Corruption of Democracy (Routledge, 2022) is with the editor! I can breathe a small sigh of relief, and I can’t wait to share more details with you in the coming months.



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Karyne Messina

Karyne Messina

I'm a psychologist and psychoanalyst focusing on helping people heal from toxic relationships