ECEN 2016_Panu Pihkala_final

Dr. Panu Pihkala, ECEN Assembly, Sofia Center, Helsinki 2016
“And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave
that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers
whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’…”
(Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, 1963)
What do you think that the future will be like?
What do people in general think about it?
Are they happy and optimistic?
 My main thesis: we must given more
attention to views of future, and the
psychological and spiritual dimensions of
What happens in people’s minds when you
mention words like ”climate change” or
”environmental crisis”?
 We need to recognize that different people
frame climate change in very different ways
 The problem of polarization: some people dismiss
”eco-stuff” right away
Do people discuss climate change in everyday
life? With their family? At work places?
Instead of not caring, many people care too
And they have to resort to defences.
 Growing psychological research on ”ecoanxiety”: some people get even physical
symptoms (pain in stomach etc.)
 A huge pastoral challenge
 -> A new motivation for ”ecotheology”: even
if a Christian does not care much about
nature, he/she should care about the anxiety
Running away from the problem
 Addictions, compulsive behavior
 Inventing another enemy,which can then be
fought with one’s own guild (inner group)
Disavowal (more dangerous than denial?)
Focus on close ones and the near future
(see Sally Weintrobe (ed.), Engaging with Climate
Change, 2013)
Versions of good adaptation:
 Action
 Humor, hope, even joy
 Balance between things that are close and ”far”
In technical terms:
 responding to psychological vulnerability
 building psychological and existential resilience
▪ Spiritual resilience
 Combination of mitigation and adaptation
Practical recommendations and theological
 Some of these things have been done in
certain places
 the need for sharing ”best practices”, for example
in the small groups of this ECEN conference
We need to provide more opportunities for
people to express their feelings and emotions
regarding environmental matters
 In addition to ”What do you think?” and
”What are you doing?” we need to ask more
often ”How do you feel?”
Cf. Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone: Active
 A Christian leader must provide the Christian
adaptations. Cf. Douglas Christie: The Blue
Sapphire of the Mind
A great help in this is the literature on
environmental education
 ”Affective and existential dimensions”
 David Hicks
 Elin Kelsey
 P. Pihkala (forthcoming)
The application of processes of loss and grief
into environment-related loss
We need to wrestle with the ”grand
narratives” regarding the future of the world
 and we need to provide opportunities for
people to do this
 Technological optimism?
 Apocalyptic pessimism?
”Futures education”
We need to frame the Christian story as hope
in the midst of tragedy
 Optimism may be difficult, but still there is
 Cf. ”Modes of hoping”, Darren Webb 2007
Taking the tragic elements seriously helps to:
 Understand the gravity of the situation
(cf. The role of tragic dramas)
 Set personal responsibility in proportion
Caspar David Friedrich: Cross in the Mountains, 1807
God’s Grace and Man’s Hope 1949
Seeks to correct ”social gospel” with
 a more realistic sense of evil
(Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich etc.) and
 more emphasis on the value of the natural world
(process thought, Anglican theology of creation)
1) “Christian hope is sustained by, and
expresses itself in, a reverent grateful love for
the good earth”
 One of the first major treatments of ecological
(see Pihkala, Early Ecotheology and Joseph Sittler,
LIT Verlag autumn 2016;
or a short open access article, “Rediscovery of
Early Twentieth-Century Ecotheology”,
Open Theology 2016, 10.1515/opth-2016-0023)
2) “Christian hope is sustained by, and
expresses itself in, the never-ending struggle
for the Good Society”
 3) “Christian hope is sustained by, and
expresses itself in, faith in the kingdom of
 -> A position which is very relevant in times of
climate change
Hope in the midst of tragedy
Wrestling with the psychological and spiritual
impacts of climate change
P. Pihkala:
 ”Environmental Education After Sustainability:
Hope in the Midst of Tragedy”, Global Discourse
 “The Pastoral Challenge of the Environmental
Crisis: Environmental Anxiety and Lutheran
‘Eco-Reformation’”, Dialog Summer 2016
The psychology of climate change:
 George Marshall: Don’t Even Think About It (2014)
 Per Espen Stoknes: What WeThink About When we
Try Not to Think About Global Warming (2015)
 Cf. Clive Hamilton
Theological literature on the anthropocene
 Michael Northcott, Sigurd Bergmann
 Alistair McIntosh