Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics  book cover
1st Edition

Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics

ISBN 9781138124868
Published September 16, 2016 by Routledge
164 Pages

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Book Description

Psychoanalysis engages with the difficult subjects in life, but it has been slow to address climate change. Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics draws on the latest scientific evidence to set out the likely effects of climate change on politics, economics and society more generally, including impacts on psychoanalysts.

Despite a tendency to avoid the warnings, times of crisis summon clinicians to emerge from comfortable consulting rooms. Daily engaged with human suffering, they now face the inextricably bound together crises of global warming and massive social injustices. After considering historical and emotional causes of climate unconsciousness and of compulsive consumerism, this book argues that only a radical ethics of responsibility to be "my other’s keeper" will truly wake us up to climate change and bring psychoanalysts to actively take on responsibilities, such as demanding change from governments, living more simply, flying less, and caring for the earth and its inhabitants everywhere.

Linking climate justice to radical ethics by way of psychoanalysis, Donna Orange explores many relevant aspects of psychoanalytic expertise, referring to work on trauma, mourning, and the transformation of trouble into purpose. Orange makes practical suggestions for action in the psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic communities: reducing air travel, consolidating organizations and conferences, better use of internet communication and education. This book includes both philosophical considerations of egoism (close to psychoanalytic narcissism) as problematic, together with work on shame and envy as motivating compulsive and conspicuous consumption.

The interweaving of climate emergency and massive social injustice presents psychoanalysts and organized psychoanalysis with a radical ethical demand and an extraordinary opportunity for leadership. Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics will provide accessible and thought-provoking reading for psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, as well as philosophers, environmental studies scholars and students studying across these fields.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Climate Justice and Business as Usual: What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Chapter 2: Historical Unconsciousness and the Invisible Present

Chapter 3: Beyond Evasion: Psychoanalysis for the Climate Crisis

Chapter 4: Radical Ethics for Our Climate Emergency

Afterword: After Paris

Appendix I: UN Declaration on Climate Justice

Appendix 2: Internet resources

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Donna M. Orange, PhD, PsyD, is a psychoanalyst and philosopher living in California. She teaches at the NYU Postdoctoral Program and the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York. Her books include Thinking for Clinicians (2010), The Suffering Stranger (2011) and most recently Nourishing the Inner Life of Clinicians and Humanitarians (2016).


"Donna Orange’s prophetic voice once again rings clear, this time showing us the way psychoanalysis, history, philosophy, and politics can be drawn from to address the immediate existential threat to life on earth. Her book helps us respond to the greatest moral/political crisis of our time with intellectual complexity, moral vision, political immediacy ¾ and as always with her characteristic learnedness and humility. A brave, essential, inspiring book."-Philip Cushman, Ph.D., author of  Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy. In private practice, Vashon Island, Washington.

"In a terrific addition to the literature on our paralysis in the face of the climate crisis, Donna Orange uses the thread of her psychoanalytic understanding to weave an analysis connecting climate science, theories of justice and radical ethics. Not surprisingly she comes up with some great new insights. In particular I love the way she locates denial and indifference to climate change in the context of racism, cultural entitlement and superiority, reminding us that it is the global poor who will suffer most and black lives really do matter."-Paul Hoggett, Chair, Climate Psychology Alliance.

"Entwining psychoanalysis, political critique, and research on climate change, Orange makes a a formidable argument: that climate justice is inextricable from social justice, and from the radical ethics she has been advocating throughout her scholarly work. Both passionate and measured, this beautiful book asks us to awaken to the call of our home, the earth, against which we have transgressed. And she calls upon psychoanalysts to illuminate, and challenge, the 'ethical unconsciousness' that is blinding us all."-Sue Grand, Ph.D, faculty and supervisor, NYU Postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, author of The Reproduction of Evil and The Hero in the Mirror.

"A significant contribution to the (still too small) psychoanalytic literature on what underlies our disavowal of the serious effects of climate change. Donna Orange's perspective is interdisciplinary (philosophy, relational psychoanalysis and social justice) and her scholarship is deep. I found very powerful her argument that an attitude of exaggerated entitlement - and disavowing the suffering of the poorest that results - is rooted in centuries of colonialism and slavery, This alone made her book for me a ‘must read’, but there is much more, including, for instance, an important in-depth analysis of the role shame plays in supporting the disavowal."-Sally Weintrobe, practising psychoanalyst, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society, editor of (2012) Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge), founding member of the Climate Psychology Alliance.