Sunday, January 31, 2010

Last Flights Day - a unique event at a book reading in Scotland -- re FINITUDE by Hamish MacDonald

Hamish MacDonald, author of FINITUDE, a very poigant novel about cliamte chaos in the future, recently did a public reading at an arts event in Edinburgh. He told me that he wanted the event to be a little different and memorable, so he played a game with the audience, first, based on the part in the book -- chapter 4 -- where readers are faced with "Last Flights Day". Hamish handed out some official-looking flight tickets and asked those are the reading where they would go if they only had one last chance to travel, one last flight to use. They filled out the ticket stub and handed them in (Hamish stamped them all with unique numbers), then they handed them in and there was a draw for some free books.

According to Hamish, those are the event seemed to be really taken with the idea, and it helped set up the reading from that part of the book. I think this is a brilliant idea for public readings, and I salute Hamish on a wonderful idea.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Readers comments on Solastalgia article about Glenn Albrecht by Dan Smith in the New York Times on Jan. 31, 4123 AD

readers' comments

Is There an Ecological Unconscious?Back to Article »
A branch of psychology says that there is — and that ignoring it puts not just the planet but also our minds at risk.

How do environmental changes affect your psyche? Share your thoughts.

Danny Bloom
Polar City One
January 30th, 2010

9:16 pmThis is a very important article, and both author and Dr Albrecht deserve high praise for this effort. As more and more climate refugees flood the northern regions of the world in the next 500 years, racing against time to find safe refuge in climate refugee settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Tasmania, living in what I have dubbed polar cities -- google the term -- they will suffer exactly from solastalgia, and by giving us this word to contemplate Dr Albrecht has done the world some good. Some very good! Words give us visions and by speaking the word solastalgia and coming to understand what Dr A means by it, we and future generations will become more concious of where we are headed during the Great Interruption from 2500 to 3500 AD. Bravo to Dan Smith for a very good piece of journalism. Bravo a thousand times!1.mimosapudica9
Honolulu& Chicago
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amI think that gaining more knowledge about environmental changes drove my motivation to change the way I live. Seeing the power of nature, and the affects of human footprints really made me realize that we can take care of this planet. For some people (other culture or society), the need for scientific based data is not necessary, perhaps due to installed values.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 2.Thomas Beale
New York, NY
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amI have felt the truth of this thesis in my own life. Having lived part of my adult life in Vermont, where I would argue there is a very real sense of soliphilia, and even more time in New York City, which couldn't be less natural, I know the mental peace that one environment can promote, and another makes challenging, to say the least. It's common sense that our mental state is not immune of influence from our physical environment. If we have any hope, as a species, to change our global mental health for the better, by way of our global relationship with the environment, it will be by pushing back the tide of broken minds and ideas from those citadels of sanity, whether those be the soliphilias of the Cape to Cape regions and the Northeast Kingdoms, or the deeply felt, though not always easy to embrace, reaches of our own pure minds.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 3.Marthe Savage
New Haven, CT
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThe artwork of Kate MacDowell, chosen for this article, is especially articulate on the subject.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 4.Jen
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThese are great observations, but the stumbling block is that (in America, at least) people have been severed from their places of origin. It's not about "Nature," it's about "Nature in a specific place," specific to YOU. If you ask Americans where "their people" are right now, they'll say something like "Well, my dad's down in Florida, and my mom and her second husband are in Hartford... my cousins are in Atlanta and..." It's impossible to be true to one's "eco-psyche" when you aren't actually attached to a people who are attached to any particular place.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 5.Anne Lewis
Pierre, SD
January 29th, 2010
10:13 amThose involved in the environmental education field have long known that when children learn not just about the environment but _through_ the environment and _in_ the environment they are academically successful. A robust and thorough pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 integration of environmental education (“real” environmental education and not environmental advocacy with a teacher’s hat on) into the curriculum would go a long way to improving test scores AND repairing the psychological disconnect that many people apparently suffer from.

Environment Education Connections of South Dakota
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 6.BR
times square
January 29th, 2010
10:14 amHumanity living in cities, never mind all the other excesses of the industrial age, is only recent, a few thousand years old, since the invention of agriculture. Psychologically, humanity has huge powers of adaptation. But you don't take a roaming nomadic simian and subject him to our modern unnatural environments and alien assaults on the natural environment without triggering some sort of intrinsic unease, biological and psychological.

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 7.C. Antony
Ocala, Fla.
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pm"Solastalgia” = solacium (comfort) plus –algia (pain) = “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’”?

A mongrel word with mongrel parentage, a word that allegedly means what the person who coined it tells us it means. He should have stuck with "nostalgia," which the dictionary defines (meaning #1) as "homesickness."

I can't help wondering if the Latin noun "solum" (soil, earth, land) isn't lurking in the background.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 8.Leigh T
Tampa, Florida
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmIn my neighborhood, in the place where I was born and have lived most of my life, a celebrity (New York Yankee) is building a massive house that has totally destroyed the sense of ease I get from my place. Noise, dust, parade of strangers, cars, stalkers, loss of view and light - all have taken away the peace, privacy and beauty my family used to enjoy. One man can have a terrible impact on a place if he is allowed to. This article describes the sense of loss I have felt since construction began.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 9.alyce
far west texas
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmthis problem began in the 17th century western culture when bacon, galileo, descartes, newton, and leibniz introduced a “universe whose atomic constituents were only extrinsically correlated with one another, obeyed generic laws of interaction that made no provision for individual characteristics, and was held together by a mysterious yet clearly nonanthropomorphic force: gravity.” - from willis harman, global mind change. modern science and philosophy is based on the separation of observer from observed, human from nature, mind from matter, science from religion.

“in contrast, the world-picture of renaissance nature philosophy had been of a cosmos composed of intrinsically correlated elements, holarchically ordered in accordance with anthropomorphic values, and held together by a force called love.” – from willis harman, global mind change. in the 16th century, people took for granted that the mind and nature were fused.

it seems another kind of renaissance is afoot. as we hurl ever forward into an age of quantum-techno-science, our need to rekindle relationships with the unquantifiable and the invisible has reemerged. giant atom smashers may never be able to isolate the “string” in string theory. we are called upon to create elegant theories to describe the ineffable, use our senses, our intuition in ways emphasized by goethe when he spoke of the need for a kind of "delicate empiricism" – “the effort to understand a thing’s meaning through prolonged empathic looking and seeing grounded in direct experience” – from goethe’s way of science ed. david seamon and arthur zajonc.

artists, shamans, permaculturists (see bill mollison’s book “permaculture, a designer’s manual), buddhists, radionics practitioners and homeopaths all have highly developed “subtle reality technologies” - techniques for connecting with nature and its unseen forces. nature was here long before there were humans to inhabit it – that we have come to perceive ourselves as outside of it or above it is evidence of a profoundly fundamental disconnect. it’s no wonder so much of society is experiencing solistalgia…

the problem is deep, and especially complex for those living in environmental war zones. fortunately, some elixirs exists. planting seeds (even an avocado pit in a glass on the counter in a small apartment works), meditating, listening to music are all food for with those parts of our humanness that go beyond that which meets the eye.

alyce santoro
center for the improbable & (im)permacultural research

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 10.schreinervideo
Salt Lake City
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmHaving grown up hating the Chicago suburbs, I spent my life looking for home I felt part of. To many of my friends' horror, I found it in Utah. When I explain to them that it has nothing to do with religion, politics or economics, they are even more aghast and confused. When I tell them it's because I love it and want to help protect as well as enjoy it, it only confuses them more. Now I can email this article to them and, because it's the New York Times, they might finally understand and respect me again. Thank you.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 11.Elizabeth
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmWhen I first moved to Houston from my farm in TN, I had that feeling of grief and disorientation that is described in this article, the feeling that happens to people removed from their land. Luckily, I can go back to my farm in the summer, and for a while in the winter. If I couldn't, I don't know what I would do. I think I would be crazy or dead.

When we had a bad drought in TN that lasted 18 months, I got so worried that I cried a lot. Certain springs that have run reliably for decades dried up. The newcomers didn't notice, but the old-timers like me did. We were very scared.

Luckily we had a very wet summer and fall, and those springs are running again. But I dread the coming changes. I know my home will change, irrevocably. I try to have faith in Gaia. I hope she will live, even if humans don't.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 12.Dena
Iowa City, Iowa
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmFeelings of despair. That's the overwhelming experience for me. Second, I look into what I might possible be able to do to be a part of the solution. But then sometimes, those thoughts lead to more despair--all of us well meaning ones, cutting back on our own personal use of resources, trying to buy less and buy right, voting for the green candidates, etc., etc., then you read about or watch some documentary about some sort of degradation and the thoughtlessness behind it . . . It's a matter of keeping up the good fight and hoping for the best.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 13.Lee
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmDitto to reader Thomas Beale. My stress levels rise as I head southbound to Long Island from my current home in Vermont; heading northbound, I heave a sigh of relief as soon as I cross the border back in to Vermont. I know many, many Vermonters who say the exact same thing. Crossing the border one experiences physical and emotional relief. We have a lot of problems here, too; but we face them as small, local communities and the prevailing mentality is to sustain the people and businesses (read "farms") in our own neighborhoods.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 14.Kim
Washington State
January 29th, 2010
12:53 pmIn the United States from a young age most people are taught to use the earth as a resource for getting more things. It is not viewed as a home. You can buy a good view (like from a cruise ship or resort), but cherishing your own view is not thought of. Our homes are mere places of investment. Keep this attitude up for years and pretty soon the health of the planet is so remote that our inborn sense of wanting to take care of our planet is gone. But the unease is still there, only reduced to a very dark chord that is felt once in a while.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 15.Janica
January 29th, 2010
12:54 pmThis article resonates. I'm an artist and a native to this state of Wisconsin. When I moved to New York City, it was an eventual sensory overload for me. Noise, millions of people, dusty air, smells of urine in the subways and in the front doorways of my two loft buildings.
(New York City is magnificent, however) the imprinting of this landscape where I'm from was too strong and I eventually returned here. My ancestors came to the United States as far back as the mid 1700's, from the woodlands of Eastern Europe to the Midwest. Certainly, this desire for
clean open spaces is hardwired into my psyche.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 16.RS
January 29th, 2010
12:54 pmWhat phenomena like global warming really threaten is not the environment, but human control over the environment. Having exercising control over our environment in a way that underestimates nature's power, we threaten to lose all control over the natural environment, unleashing natural catastrophes and human health consequences that we can only imagine. While I am no professional psychologist, I am sure the idea that loss of control is sometimes responsible for psychological phenomena like anxiety and depression is nothing new. I am sure there is some principle in psychology that when psychological phenomena can be well explained by existing frameworks, there is at least a presumption that these known psychological ailments--and not some previously unstudied ailment--is the cause. Since I feel the anxiety, depression, and grief people face over environmental degradation can be well explained by humans' demonstrated loss of control over nature, it seems without credibility to explain this behavior with some yet-to-be-documented eco-consciousness that operates in a different way than the rest of our thoughts and feelings.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 17.Larry
January 29th, 2010
2:14 pm"at the pathological end of the spectrum, for example, after psychotic delusions, he places “frank denial” of environmental issues. "

Denial of high fertility/population/overpopulation as the primary driver of ecological destruction, and an unwillingness to take action on this driver, is the "type case" of this pathology.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 18.michael
January 29th, 2010
2:15 pmI've always had a strong visceral reaction to seeing an ancient tree felled, a farm turned to subdivision, or a river dammed. My grandparents' farm of 40 acres used to have 2 ponds, 2 groves of trees, a garden, an orchard, grapes, chicken house, milk barn, and a seasonal stream. Since they were forced by old age to leave the farm, it has been cleared of all features saving one of the ponds and a few scattered trees. The first time I saw it's altered form (years later), I felt like I had been shot. I had no idea a place could be taken away so completely.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 19.Yummy Supper
Berkeley, California
January 29th, 2010
2:15 pmFor readers interested in more on this topic, but from a neuroscience perspective, I recommend Alva Noe's Out of Our Heads: Why You are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness. Hammering another nail into Descartes' well-sealed coffin, Noe proposes that consciousness is not just a product of the human brain, but arises from a complex interaction of brain, body, and surrounding environment. I would think his work, and the research he synthesizes, would be quite helpful in supporting the essential argument of the ecopsychologists. Solace for humans and the earth will only come through the restoration of relationships. Interdependency is a biological fact, why should it not have psychological and neurological dimensions?
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 20.Susan Fassberg
San Francisco, CA
January 29th, 2010
2:16 pmI can’t think of a better way to respond to this wonderful column than to quote from Jeanette Armstrong’s essay that appeared in YES! magazine some years ago:

“I am from the Okanagan, a part of British Columbia that is very dry and hot. Around my birthplace are two rocky mountain ranges: the Cascades on one side and the Selkirks on the other. The main river that flows through our lands is the Columbia.

My mother is a river Indian. The Kettle River people are in charge of the fisheries in the northern parts of the Columbia River system in our territories.

My father's people are mountain people. They occupied the northern part of British Columbia, known as the Okanagan Valley. My father's people were hunters. My name is passed on from my father's side of the family and is my great-grandmother's name. I am associated with my father's side, but I have a right and a responsibility to the river through my mother's birth and my family education.

So that is who I am.

When I introduce myself to my own people in my own language, I describe these things because it tells them what my responsibilities are and what my goal is, what I need to carry with me, what I project, what I teach and what I think about, what I must do and what I can't do.”

(J. Armstrong is an author and director of the En‘owkin Centre, Okanagan Indian Educational Resources Society)

How far most of us have traveled from this P.O.V.!

I serve on the board of Your column reinforces Terralingua’s obligation to ensure that future environmental work takes into account the profoundly deep cultural (emotional, spiritual, psychological, practical) connections to the land that many people still hold.

Paul Mason on Solastalgia, Soliphilia and the Ecopsychology of our Changing Environment

Solastalgia, Soliphilia and the Ecopsychology of our Changing Environment

Posted by Paul Mason on January 30, 2010

“As our environment continues to change around us, the question Albrecht would like answered is, how deeply are our minds suffereing in return?” (Daniel Smith, 2010)

Pelourinho is the historical and cultural drawcard for tourists visiting Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. A lively epicentre of music, dance and restaurants, the area merits its prized holiday destination status. Tourists who visit the Mercado Modelo in Pelourinho might venture beneath this popular market into the slave chambers below and become aware of the tragic history of slavery that haunts the region. What many tourists might not know, however, is that the Pelourinho district underwent massive restoration efforts under the government during the 1970s and the 1990s. The area had become home to the poor and they were offered no more than a month’s wages or nothing at all to vacate and relocate. Studies show that of the 1300 families living in Pelourinho in 1992, only about 200 were able to remain in the neighbourhood (Collins, 2004:212). Those who have seen the changes can tell you how much the tourist development of Pelourinho affected the lives of the people that lived there. But even without a mastery of Portuguese, you don’t have to wander far off the pretty streets of Pelourinho to see a community in disarray. In my own travels, I encountered pregnant women high on drugs, old drunken men wielding screwdrivers as weapons and seven year olds with pocket-knives and guns. You only have to look at the long queue of tourists that line up daily at the tourist-police bureau to understand the amount of crime that plagues the region. Tourists are not being robbed by poor people that hate them, the tourists are being robbed by people who are indifferent to them.

The local government has not stopped removing people from their homes in their bid to increase tourism. There are still attempts to forcefully move people out of the coast-dwelling shanty-towns in order to erect 5-star resorts and luxury wharfs. One of the communities that I worked with in the Alto da Sereia were actively involved in public actions to resist these attempts. There are people who care, but I have to admit that Brazil was the first place where I learnt that indifference really is the opposite of love. So many people have grown up learning to be indifferent to their situation as a psychological survival strategy against solastalgia. This culturally entrained indifference is the source of a lot of crime in Brazil. In my own country, Australia, I am starting to see the cultural entrainment of ‘indifference‘ taking place in another sphere of human concern that affects our homes and where we live.

Solastalgia: noun. From the Latin solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain). “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’.”

The New York Times has a fascinating article asking “Is there an ecological unconscious?” Starting off with a brief story about Australian researcher Glenn Albrecht who is Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University, the article goes on to discuss ecopsychology which is the study of: ”the interplay between human beings and their natural environment.” Albrecht’s story struck me because the condition of solastalgia is as important to understand as nostalgia. I once thought that nostalgia was a section of the video store containing old movies, or at most a sentiment that old people felt for the “good ol’ days”, but when I read William Fiennes’ The Snow Geese while on my own travels of self-discovery in Europe, I learnt that nostalgia was a real neurological disturbance closely related to depression.

“In 1668 a Swiss physician, Mulhausen, proposed that it be known by the term ‘nostalgia’, a word he had constructed from the Greek nostos, meaning ‘return’, and algos, meaning ’suffering’”. From the sound of “nostalgia”, one can “define the sad mood originating from the desire to return to one’s native land.”

The debilitating effects of Nostalgia can occur when you are physically displaced from somewhere you call home. Solastalgia occurs when the environment you call home changes unrecognisably for reasons beyond your immediate control. Solastalgia can lead to distress, but I believe that this distress is felt by people who care. I am not concerned about the psychological effects of solastalgia as much as I am concerned about the psychological defense against solastalgia. The indifference and resignation that the sensitive observer can read on the faces of the poor in Pelourinho, the indifference that can lead a seven year old to hold a gun to a person’s head and demand money, the indifference that can allow a pregnant mother to abuse drugs are all, to my mind, a psychological defence to the debilitating emotion of ‘care’ in a world that has taken away even the most fundamental security of ‘home’ and removed all sense of place. In subtle yet alarming ways, I can see a similar culture of indifference creeping into societies who are beginning to understand that “In a world that’s quickly heating up and drying up, you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.” (Leisureguy)

From my earliest days at primary school in Australia, I can remember learning about pollution, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, global warming, climate change, the destruction of the rainforests, exploitation of marine life, overpopulation and poverty. And yet, today so many of my age group either seem numb to the topics or they simply have a jerk reflex whenever the issues are raised. Often the topic is changed all too easily. Daniel Smith’s article in the New Yort Times, however, has made me think that perhaps another process is at work. Perhaps there is an overwhelming solastalgia that we feel when discussing these topics that leads many of us to avoid the issues, ignore the problems and consciously overlook what we really need to be doing. The idea that the changes that we have begun are irreversible, (or at the very least the changes we have contributed to are irreversible), is an idea that is perhaps too much to bare and in an act of self-preservation, in a defense against overwhelming solastalgia, we have learnt to become indifferent.

Daniel Smith’s article also gives me hope. Albrecht’s most recent research is about Soliphilia: “the love of and responsibility for a place, bioregion, planet and the unity of interrelated interests within it.” Soliphilia is associated with positivity, interconnectedness and personal empowerment. If we can make our psychological defense against solastalgia into the positive manifestation of soliphilia, then we can definitely improve the interplay between human beings and their environment for generations to come.

You can read more about Glenn Albrecht’s research at his blog: Healthearth
p.s. As Greg knows, I have always been a softy for neologisms

MORE ON: Solastalgia - Glenn Albrecht -- Daniel B. Smith - New York Times - Climate Change - climate refugees -- polar cities -- James Lovelock

Danny Bloom
Polar City One
January 30, 3010

This is a very important article, and both author Daniel Smith and Dr Albrecht deserve high praise for this effort. As more and more climate refugees flood the northern regions of the world in the next 500 years, racing against time to find safe refuge in climate refugee settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Tasmania, living in what I have dubbed polar cities -- google the term -- they will suffer exactly from solastalgia, and by giving us this word to contemplate Dr Albrecht has done the world some good. Some very good! Words give us visions and by speaking the word solastalgia and coming to understand what Dr A means by it, we and future generations will become more concious of where we are headed during the Great Interruption from 2500 to 3500 AD. Bravo to Dan Smith for a very good piece of journalism. Bravo a thousand times!

This is a very important article, and both author and Dr Albrecht deserve high praise for this effort. As more and more climate refugees flood the northern regions of the world in the next 500 years, racing against time to find safe refuge in climate refugee settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Tasmania, living in what I have dubbed polar cities -- google the term -- they will suffer exactly from solastalgia, and by giving us this word to contemplate Dr Albrecht has done the world some good. Some very good! Words give us visions and by speaking the word solastalgia and coming to understand what Dr A means by it, we and future generations will become more concious of where we are headed during the Great Interruption from 2500 to 3500 AD. Bravo to Dan Smith for a very good piece of journalism. Bravo a thousand times!

This is a very important article, and both author and Dr Albrecht deserve high praise for this effort. As more and more climate refugees flood the northern regions of the world in the next 500 years, racing against time to find safe refuge in climate refugee settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Tasmania, living in what I have dubbed polar cities -- google the term -- they will suffer exactly from solastalgia, and by giving us this word to contemplate Dr Albrecht has done the world some good. Some very good! Words give us visions and by speaking the word solastalgia and coming to understand what Dr A means by it, we and future generations will become more concious of where we are headed during the Great Interruption from 2500 to 3500 AD. Bravo to Dan Smith for a very good piece of journalism. Bravo a thousand times!

Daniel B. Smith, who now knows about polar cities and wanted to include the idea in his article but he had already submitted the article to the Times before deadline, holds the Critchlow Chair in English at the College of New Rochelle. His last article for the magazine was on the writer Lewis Hyde.

Daniel B. Smith, who now knows about polar cities and wanted to include the idea in his article but he had already submitted the article to the Times before deadline, holds the Critchlow Chair in English at the College of New Rochelle. His last article for the magazine was on the writer Lewis Hyde.

Solastalgia - Glenn Albrecht -- Daniel B. Smith - New York Times - Climate Change - climate refugees -- polar cities -- James Lovelock

Is There an Ecological Unconscious?

Daniel B. Smith, who now knows about polar cities and wanted to include the idea in his article but he had already submitted the article to the Times before deadline, holds the Critchlow Chair in English at the College of New Rochelle. His last article for the magazine was on the writer Lewis Hyde.

Published: January 27, 3010

About eight years ago, Glenn Albrecht began receiving frantic calls from residents of the Upper Hunter Valley, a 6,000-square-mile region in southeastern Australia. For generations the Upper Hunter was known as the “Tuscany of the South” — an oasis of alfalfa fields, dairy farms and lush English-style shires on a notoriously hot, parched continent. “The calls were like desperate pleas,” Albrecht, a philosopher and professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth, recalled in June. “They said: ‘Can you help us? We’ve tried everyone else. Is there anything you can do about this?’ ”

Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image

Artwork by Kate MacDowell; photograph by Dan Kvitka for The New York Times
Readers' Comments
How do environmental changes affect your psyche? Share your thoughts.
Post a Comment »Read All Comments (20) »Residents were distraught over the spread of coal mining in the Upper Hunter. Coal was discovered in eastern Australia more than 200 years ago, but only in the last two decades did the industry begin its exponential rise. Today, more than 100 million tons of black coal are extracted from the valley each year, primarily by open-pit mining, which uses chemical explosives to blast away soil, sediment and rock. The blasts occur several times a day, sending plumes of gray dust over ridges to settle thickly onto roofs, crops and the hides of livestock. Klieg lights provide a constant illumination. Trucks, draglines and idling coal trains emit a constant low-frequency rumble. Rivers and streams have been polluted.

Albrecht, a dark, ebullient man with a crooked aquiline nose, was known locally for his activism. He participated in blockades of ships entering Newcastle (near the Upper Hunter), the largest coal-exporting port in the world, and published opinion articles excoriating the Australian fossil-fuel industries. But Albrecht didn’t see what he could offer besides a sympathetic ear and some tactical advice. Then, in late 2002, he decided to see the transformation of the Upper Hunter firsthand.

“There’s a scholar who talks about ‘heart’s ease,’ ” Albrecht told me as we sat in his car on a cliff above the Newcastle shore, overlooking the Pacific. In the distance, just before the earth curved out of sight, 40 coal tankers were lined up single file. “People have heart’s ease when they’re on their own country. If you force them off that country, if you take them away from their land, they feel the loss of heart’s ease as a kind of vertigo, a disintegration of their whole life.” Australian aborigines, Navajos and any number of indigenous peoples have reported this sense of mournful disorientation after being displaced from their land. What Albrecht realized during his trip to the Upper Valley was that this “place pathology,” as one philosopher has called it, wasn’t limited to natives. Albrecht’s petitioners were anxious, unsettled, despairing, depressed — just as if they had been forcibly removed from the valley. Only they hadn’t; the valley changed around them.

In Albrecht’s view, the residents of the Upper Hunter were suffering not just from the strain of living in difficult conditions but also from something more fundamental: a hitherto unrecognized psychological condition. In a 2004 essay, he coined a term to describe it: “solastalgia,” a combination of the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain), which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ ” A neologism wasn’t destined to stop the mines; they continued to spread. But so did Albrecht’s idea. In the past five years, the word “solastalgia” has appeared in media outlets as disparate as Wired, The Daily News in Sri Lanka and Andrew Sullivan’s popular political blog, The Daily Dish. In September, the British trip-hop duo Zero 7 released an instrumental track titled “Solastalgia,” and in 2008 Jukeen, a Slovenian recording artist, used the word as an album title. “Solastalgia” has been used to describe the experiences of Canadian Inuit communities coping with the effects of rising temperatures; Ghanaian subsistence farmers faced with changes in rainfall patterns; and refugees returning to New Orleans after Katrina.

The broad appeal of solastalgia pleases Albrecht; it has helped earn him hundreds of thousands of dollars in research grants as well as his position at Murdoch. But he is not particularly surprised that it has caught on. “Take a look out there,” he said, gesturing to the line of coal ships. “What you’re looking at is climate change queued up. You can’t get away from it. Not in the Upper Hunter, not in Newcastle, not anywhere. And that’s exactly the point of solastalgia.” Just as the loss of “heart’s ease” is not limited to displaced native populations, solastalgia is not limited to those living beside quarries — or oil spills or power plants or Superfund sites. Solastalgia, in Albrecht’s estimation, is a global condition, felt to a greater or lesser degree by different people in different locations but felt increasingly, given the ongoing degradation of the environment. As our environment continues to change around us, the question Albrecht would like answered is, how deeply are our minds suffering in return?

Albrecht’s philosophical attempt to trace a direct line between the health of the natural world and the health of the mind has a growing partner in a subfield of psychology. Last August, the American Psychological Association released a 230-page report titled “Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change.” News-media coverage of the report concentrated on the habits of human behavior and the habits of thought that contribute to global warming. This emphasis reflected the intellectual dispositions of the task-force members who wrote the document — seven out of eight were scientists who specialize in decision research and environmental-risk management — as well as the document’s stated purpose. “We must look at the reasons people are not acting,” Janet Swim, a Penn State psychologist and the chairwoman of the task force, said, “in order to understand how to get people to act.”

Yet all the attention paid to the behavioral and cognitive barriers to safeguarding the environment — topics of acute interest to policy makers and activists — disguised the fact that a significant portion of the document addressed the supposed emotional costs of ecological decline: anxiety, despair, numbness, “a sense of being overwhelmed or powerless,” grief. It also disguised the unusual background of the eighth member of the task force, Thomas Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Ore. Doherty runs a private therapeutic practice called Sustainable Self and is the most prominent American advocate of a growing discipline known as “ecopsychology.”

There are numerous psychological subfields that, to one degree or another, look at the interplay between human beings and their natural environment. But ecopsychology embraces a more revolutionary paradigm: just as Freud believed that neuroses were the consequences of dismissing our deep-rooted sexual and aggressive instincts, ecopsychologists believe that grief, despair and anxiety are the consequences of dismissing equally deep-rooted ecological instincts.

“If you look at the beginnings of clinical psychology,” Patricia Hasbach, a psychotherapist and prominent ecopsychologist based in Eugene, told me, “the focus was on intrapsychic forces” — the mind-bound interplay of ego, id and superego. “Then the field broadened to take into account interpersonal forces such as relationships and interactions between people. Then it took a huge leap to look at whole families and systems of people. Then it broadened even further to take into account social systems” and the importance of social identities like race, gender and class. “Ecopsychology wants to broaden the field again to look at ecological systems,” she said. “It wants to take the entire planet into account.”

The terms in which ecopsychology pursues this admittedly ambitious goal are steeped in the field’s countercultural beginnings. Ecopsychology emerged in the early 1960s, just as the modern environmental movement was gathering strength, when a group of Boston-area graduate students gathered to discuss what they saw as the isolation and malaise infecting modern life. It had another brief period of efflorescence, particularly on the West Coast and among practitioners of alternative therapies, in the early ’90s, when Theodore Roszak, a professor of history (he coined the word “counterculture”) published a manifesto, “The Voice of the Earth,” in which he criticized modern psychology for neglecting the primal bond between man and nature. “Mainstream Western psychology has limited the definition of mental health to the interpersonal context of an urban-industrial society,” he later wrote. “All that lies beyond the citified psyche has seemed of no human relevance — or perhaps too frightening to think about.” Ecopsychology’s eclectic following, which includes therapists, researchers, ecologists and activists, still reflects these earlier foundations. So does its rhetoric. Practitioners are as apt, if not more apt, to cite Native American folk tales as they are empirical data to make their points.

Yet even as it remains committed to its origins, ecopsychology has begun in recent years to enter mainstream academic circles. Last April, Doherty published the first issue of Ecopsychology, the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to “the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being.” Next year, M.I.T. Press will publish a book of the same name, edited by Hasbach and Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, and Jolina Ruckert, a Ph.D. candidate, both at the University of Washington. The volume brings together scholars from a range of disciplines, among them the award-winning biologist Lynn Margulis and the anthropologist Wade Davis, as it delves into such areas as “technological nature” and how the environment affects human perception. Ecopsychology is taught at Oberlin College, Lewis & Clark College and the University of Wisconsin, among other institutions.

Ecopsychologists are not the first to embrace a vital link between mind and nature. They themselves admit as much, emphasizing the field’s roots in traditions like Buddhism, Romanticism and Transcendentalism. They point to affinities with evolutionary psychology — to the idea that our responses to the environment are hard-wired because of how we evolved as a species. They also point to biophilia, a hypothesis put forward by the eminent Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, in 1984, that human beings have an “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” Though Wilson’s idea has been criticized as both deterministic and so broad as to be untestable, the notion that evolution endowed humans with a craving for nature struck a lasting chord in many sectors of the scientific community. Over the past quarter-century, Wilson’s hypothesis has inspired a steady flow of articles, books, conferences and, last year, the E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center in northwest Florida.

But unlike Wilson and his followers, ecopsychologists tend to focus on the pathological aspect of the mind-nature relationship: its brokenness. In this respect, their project finds echoes in the culture at large. Recently, a number of psychiatrically inflected coinages have sprung up to represent people’s growing unease over the state of the planet — “nature-deficit disorder,” “ecoanxiety,” “ecoparalysis.” The terms have multiplied so quickly that Albrecht has proposed instituting an entire class of “psycho­terratic syndromes”: mental-health issues attributable to the degraded state of one’s physical surroundings. Ecopsychologists, many of whom are licensed clinicians, remain wary of attributing specific illnesses to environmental decline or of arguing that more-established disorders have exclusively environmental causes. Rather, they propose a new clinical approach based on the idea that treating patients in an age of ecological crisis requires more than current therapeutic approaches offer. It requires tapping into what Roszak called our “ecological unconscious.”

LAST JUNE, I PAID a visit to Doherty, who works in a stone-fronted building in northeast Portland, in an office decorated with a sweeping topographical map of Oregon and a fountain that trickles water onto a pile of stones. He has receding red hair and a red mustache and beard; a small silver hoop dangles from the cartilage of his left ear. Doherty was raised in a working-class neighborhood in Buffalo and then went to Columbia University, where he majored in English. Afterward, he worked in a variety of jobs that reflected his interest in the environment: fisherman, wilderness counselor, river-rafting guide, door-to-door fund-raiser for Greenpeace.

As a therapist with activist credentials in a “green” city on the West Coast, Doherty is fairly representative of ecopsychologists today. He is also typical in that he was inspired to enter the field by Roszak’s “Voice of the Earth.” To some extent Doherty remains under Roszak’s spell. When we met, he talked about “an appropriate distrust of science,” and the “dualistic” character of empiricism — the mind/body split — which gives society “free rein to destroy the world.” But he recognizes that ecopsychology endorses a few dualisms of its own. “A more simplistic, first-generation ecopsychology position simplifies the world,” he said. “Either you’re green or you’re not. Either you’re sane or you’re not. It conflates mental health and/or lack of mental health with values and choices and the culture.” His mission, he said, is to spearhead a “second-generation ecopsychology” that leaves these binaries behind.

The bulk of his work is therapeutic. Like any therapist, Doherty, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, sees patients and discusses routine concerns like sex and family dynamics. Unlike most therapists, he asks about patients’ relationships with the natural world — how often they get outdoors, their anxieties about the state of the environment. He recently developed a “sustainability inventory,” a questionnaire that measures, among typical therapeutic concerns like mood, attitudes and the health of intimate relationships, “comfort with your level of consumption and ecological footprint.”

The ways in which clinicians perform ecotherapy vary widely. Patricia Hasbach often conducts sessions outdoors; she finds that a natural setting helps to broaden a client’s perspective, has restorative benefits and can serve as a source of powerful metaphors. “Ecotherapy stretches the boundaries of the traditional urban, indoor setting,” she told me. “Nature provides a live and dynamic environment not under the control of the therapist or client.” Often this leads to revelatory sensory experiences, as in the case of one client who struggled with a sense of emotional numbness. The feeling dissipated after he put his feet in an icy mountain stream.

Doherty, who teaches a class on ecotherapy with Hasbach at Lewis & Clark, places less emphasis on the outdoors — not only because his office is located in an especially urban section of Portland but also because he worries about perpetuating a false dichotomy between the wilderness and the city. His Sustainable Self practice attracts a clientele that is typically self-selecting and eager to inject an ecological perspective into their sessions. Usually, his clients don’t come to him with symptoms or complaints that are directly attributable to environmental concerns, but every so often he has to engage in what he calls “grief and despair work.” For example, one client, Richard Brenne, a climate-change activist and an avid outdoorsman, came to Doherty because he was so despondent about the state of the planet and so dedicated to doing something to help that it was damaging his relationship with his family. In an e-mail message to me, Brenne praised Doherty for helping him face the magnitude of the problem without becoming despairing or overwrought. Some would argue that treating Brenne’s anxiety about the environment and the negative effect it had on his family life is no different from treating a patient whose anxieties about work cause problems at home. But for Doherty, treating an obsession with ecological decline requires understanding how the bond between the patient and the natural world may have been disrupted or pathologized. Doherty is currently working on a theoretical model in which a person’s stance toward environmental concerns can be categorized as “complicated or acute,” “inhibited or conflicted” or “healthy and normative.”

Doherty is eager to test his therapeutic ideas in a broader arena by urging the field to back up its claims with empirical data. Many subfields of clinical psychology have had to make this transformation in the past decade as calls have grown louder and louder for therapeutic systems to prove their efficacy in quantifiable ways. This shift is arguably harder on ecopsychology than it is on others: in the past, the field hasn’t just sidestepped science; it has denigrated it as a system of inquiry that objectifies the natural world.

Doherty’s journal, Ecopsychology, sometimes feels like an awkward marriage of Orion Magazine and The American Journal of Psychology, combining personal essays about communing with nature with more theoretical articles. In the first issue, Martin Jordan, a psychologist at the University of Brighton in Britain, evoked Kleinian attachment theory to warn against the “naïve” mind-set that sees the natural world as some “perfect . . . benevolent parent.” Such an outlook, he argues, isn’t just untruthful — nature is as harsh and inhospitable as it is salubrious and inviting — it’s a form of escapism, a sign that someone is less in love with nature than out of love with society.

It is not that Doherty is unfriendly to the spiritual thrust of ecopsychology; the shelves in his office are filled with volumes of nature poetry and mythology. But he hopes to press his colleagues to realize that “tending data sets and tending souls are not mutually exclusive,” as he writes in his inaugural editorial. “The idea that personal health and planetary health are connected, that’s not just an idea,” Doherty told me. It is a proposition, he said, and that proposition can and should be tested.

SUPPORT FOR ecopsychology’s premise that an imperiled environment creates an imperiled mind can be found in more established branches of psychology. In a recent study, Marc Berman, a researcher in cognitive psychology and industrial engineering at the University of Michigan, assigned 38 students to take a nearly three-mile walk — half in the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor and half along a busy street. His purpose was to validate attention-restoration theory (A.R.T.), a 20-year-old idea that posits a stark difference in the ability of natural and urban settings to improve cognition. Nature, A.R.T. holds, increases focus and memory because it is filled with “soft fascinations” (rustling trees, bubbling water) that give those high-level functions the leisure to replenish, whereas urban life is filled with harsh stimuli (car horns, billboards) that can cause a kind of cognitive overload. In Berman’s study, the nature-walkers showed a dramatic improvement while the city-walkers did not, demonstrating nature’s significant restorative effects on cognition.

Peter Kahn, the developmental psychologist and a member of Ecopsychology’s editorial board, has been more explicitly testing some of ecopsychology’s underlying principles. “If you look at psychology today,” Kahn told me recently, “it still often focuses on behavior” — understanding and changing how people act toward their environments. This is an explicit aim of a branch of psychology known as conservation psychology, and it has obvious practical value. Ecopsychology, Kahn said, asks a different question: how does nature optimize the mind?

Recently, Kahn set out to study how we respond to real versus digital representations of nature. In an experiment reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, Kahn and his colleagues subjected 90 adults to mild stress and monitored their heart rates while they were exposed to one of three views: a glass window overlooking an expanse of grass and a stand of trees; a 50-inch plasma television screen showing the same scene in real time; and a blank wall. Kahn found that the heart rates of those exposed to the sight of real nature decreased more quickly than those of subjects looking at the TV image. The subjects exposed to a TV screen fared just the same as those facing drywall.

In themselves, these findings may seem merely to support what many already hold to be true: the authentic is better than the artificial. Nature is more healthful than television. But for Kahn, the plasma-screen study speaks to two powerful historical trends: the degradation of large parts of the environment and the increasingly common use of technology (TV, video games, the Internet, etc.) to experience nature secondhand. “More and more,” Kahn writes, “the human experience of nature will be mediated by technological systems.” We will, as a matter of mere survival, adapt to these changes. The question is whether our new, nature-reduced lives will be “impoverished from the standpoint of human functioning and flourishing.”

Like Doherty, Kahn is aware that many scientists in the profession are apt to disapprove of concepts as seemingly unquantifiable as “human flourishing.” Several months ago, I called Alan Kazdin, a former president of the American Psychological Association and a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale, to ask his opinion of ecopsychology. Kazdin mentioned the discipline in a 2008 column, but when we spoke he was hazy and had to look it up. “Modern psychology is about what can be studied scientifically and verified,” he finally said. “There’s a real spiritual looseness to what I’m seeing here.”

Second-generation ecopsychologists would not necessarily disagree with this judgment. But they would dispute that “spiritual looseness” has no place in modern psychology. “Have you ever heard of rewilding?” Kahn asked me. Rewilding is a popular concept in conservation biology that was developed in the mid-1990s by Michael Soulé, an emeritus professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The idea is that the best way to restore and maximize the resilience of ecosystems is from the top down, by reintroducing and nourishing predatory “keystone” species like bears, wolves and otters. “We want to do the same thing,” Kahn said, “but from the psychological side — from the inside out. We want to rewild the psyche.”

As with much of second-generation ecopsychology, Kahn’s research into rewilding the psyche is still in its early stages; he has been exploring the idea on a blog he writes for the Web site of Psychology Today. But it rubs up against a fundamental problem of ecopsychology: even if we can establish that as we move further into an urban, technological future, we move further away from the elemental forces that shaped our minds, how do we get back in touch with them?

That question preoccupied Gregory Bateson, a major influence on eco­psychologists and something of a lost giant of 20th-century intellectual history. Bateson, an anthropologist by training, conducted fieldwork in Bali with Margaret Mead, his wife of 14 years, in the 1930s, but in midcareer he moved away from conventional ethnology and began conducting studies in areas like animal communication, social psychology, comparative anatomy, aesthetics and psychiatry. But what most interested Bateson, as the title of his 1972 book “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” suggests, were complex systems.

It was Bateson’s belief that the tendency to think of mind and nature as separate indicated a flaw at the core of human consciousness. Writing several years after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” at a time when the budding environmental movement was focused on the practical work of curbing DDT and other chemical pollutants, Bateson argued that the essential environmental crisis of the modern age lay in the realm of ideas. Humankind suffered from an “epistemological fallacy”: we believed, wrongly, that mind and nature operated independently of each other. In fact, nature was a recursive, mindlike system; its unit of exchange wasn’t energy, as most ecologists argued, but information. The way we thought about the world could change that world, and the world could in turn change us.

“When you narrow down your epistemology and act on the premise ‘what interests me is me or my organization or my species,’ you chop off consideration of other loops of the loop structure,” Bateson wrote. “You decide that you want to get rid of the byproducts of human life and that Lake Erie will be a good place to put them. You forget that the ecomental system called Lake Erie is a part of your wider ecomental system — and that if Lake Erie is driven insane, its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of your thought and experience.” Our inability to see this truth, Bateson maintained, was becoming monstrously apparent. Human consciousness evolved to privilege “purposiveness” — to get us what we want, whether what we want is a steak dinner or sex. Expand that tendency on a mass scale, and it is inevitable that you’re going to see some disturbing effects: red tides, vanishing forests, smog, global warming. “There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds,” Bateson wrote, “and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself.”

So what to do? How do you go about rebooting human consciousness? Bateson’s prescription for action was vague. We needed to correct our errors of thought by achieving clarity in ourselves and encouraging it in others — reinforcing “whatever is sane in them.” In other words, to be ecological, we needed to feel ecological. It isn’t hard to see why Bateson’s ideas might appeal to ecopsychologists. His emphasis on the interdependence of the mind and nature is the foundation of ecotherapy. It is also at the root of Kahn’s notion that “rewilding” the mind could have significant psychological benefits. But it also isn’t hard to see how the seeming circularity of Bateson’s solution — in order to be more ecological, feel more ecological — continues to bedevil the field and those who share its interests.

Last year, Glenn Albrecht, the Australian philosopher and an admirer of Bateson, began an investigation into what psychological elements might protect a given environment from degradation. In popularizing “solastalgia,” he drew widespread attention to the mental-health costs of environmental destruction; but like scientists who document the melting of the polar ice caps or mass extinction, Albrecht was studying decline. He wanted to study environmental success.

Albrecht began interviewing residents of the Cape to Cape region, a 60-mile-long stretch of land in southwestern Australia — a wine-country Eden, lush and bucolic and rife with sustainable industries, from organic agriculture to ecotourism. Numerous factors — geographic, political, historical, economic — most likely allowed the Cape to Cape region to remain relatively unsullied. But Albrecht proposes that the main factor is psychological. The people of the region, he told me, display an unusually strong “sense of interconnectedness” — an awareness of the myriad interacting components that make up a healthy environment. True to form, Albrecht has come up with a concept to encapsulate this idea. He has begun describing the Cape to Cape region as a study in “soliphilia”: “the love of and responsibility for a place, bioregion, planet and the unity of interrelated interests within it.” He says he hopes that, like “solastalgia,” this neologism will spread and that it will change how people think about their relationship to the environment.

Will “soliphilia” have the broad appeal of “solastalgia”? It seems unlikely. “Solastalgia” described an emotional response to environmental degradation that, in the age of global climate change — not to mention in the age of such cultural touchstones as “Wall-E,” “The Road” and “Avatar” — feels universal. “Soliphilia” describes a psychological foundation for sustainability that seems to depend on already having the values that make sustainability possible: the residents of the Cape to Cape might have a “sense of interconnectedness,” but how do the rest of us gain, or regain, that sense?

At present, ecopsychology seems to be struggling with this question. Philosophically, the field depends on an ideal of ecological awareness or communion against which deficits can then be measured. And so it often seems to rest on assuming as true what it is trying to prove to be true: being mentally healthy requires being ecologically attuned, but being ecologically attuned requires being mentally healthy. And yet, in its ongoing effort to gain legitimacy, ecopsychology is at least looking for ways to establish standards. Recently, The American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association, invited the members of the organization’s climate-change task force to submit individual papers; Thomas Doherty is taking the opportunity to develop his categorization of responses to environmental problems. His model, which he showed me an early draft of, makes distinctions that are bound to be controversial: at the pathological end of the spectrum, for example, after psychotic delusions, he places “frank denial” of environmental issues. The most telling feature of the model, however, may be how strongly it equates mental health with the impulse to “promote connection with nature” — in other words, with a deeply ingrained ecological outlook. Critics would likely point out that ecopsychologists smuggle a worldview into what should be the value-neutral realm of therapy. Supporters would likely reply that, like Bateson, ecopsychologists are not sneaking in values but correcting a fundamental error in how we conceive of the mind: to understand what it is to be whole, we must first explain what is broken.

Daniel B. Smith, who now knows about polar cities and wanted to include the idea in his article but he had already submitted the article to the Times before deadline, holds the Critchlow Chair in English at the College of New Rochelle. His last article for the magazine was on the writer Lewis Hyde.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A word or two from Steven Earl Salmony on the fate of the Earth

Steven Earl Salmony writes today in a brief email to this blog:

Dear Danny,
Allow me to belatedly express my thanks to you for all you are doing. The NorthwardHo website is as wonderful as it is useful. Your efforts are bound to make a difference. Keep going.

I will be one of the participants in the second "Global Population Speak Out" forum, The 2010 GPSO effort involves more than 200 speakers worldwide who have made a "pledge" to help break down the barrier to open discussion of the threat that is posed to human wellbeing and environmental health by the 2+ billion people who are projected to be added to the human community during the coming 40 years. Here is an essay I wrote on the topic:

text Steven Earl Salmony

Thanks to everyone in global climate awareness and activist community for being there and for all you are doing to protect life as we know it on Earth from huge human-induced threats. You have probably been correct in your identification of formidable global challenges that are likely the result of human activities borne of foolishness, arrogance and greed. To be a species with such remarkable self-consciousness, intelligence and other splendid gifts and to do no better than we are doing now is a source of deep sadness and occasional outbreaks of passionate intensity (like this essay).

Still I believe in remaining engaged with you and others in the necessary struggle to preserve the future of life as we know it, a sacred struggle in which so many human beings with feet of clay have been involved for a lifetime. The first fifty years of my life were lived as if in a dream world, the profane one devised by the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us. I had no awareness a single generation would elect sponsors of powerful, greed-mongering economic powerbrokers who would formulate policies and implement business plans that irreversibly degrade Earth's environs, recklessly dissipate its limited resources, relentlessly diminish its biodiversity, destabilize its climate and threaten the very future of children everywhere. My failures include not realizing that I and my selfish generation were ravaging the Earth and effectively behaving in a way that could lead to the destruction of our planetary home as a fit place for habitation by the children (let alone coming generations). Even though it is discomforting and difficult to responsibly perform our duties to science and humanity, at least we can speak out loudly, clearly and often about these unfortunate circumstances and in the process educate one another as best we can. Like you, I do not have answers to forbidding questions related to the patently unsustainable 'trajectory' of human civilization in its present, colossally expansive form. Much more problematic, however, is the ruinous determination of many too many experts who have colluded to consciously obstruct open discussion of the best available scientific evidence of "what could somehow be real". If what could be real about the human condition and the Earth we inhabit is not confronted with intellectual honesty, the best available science, moral courage and faith in God, how is it possible for the family of humanity to adapt to the practical requirements of "reality" in reasonable, sensible, sustainable and timely ways?

An ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort is likely to be the end result of experts choosing to remain willfully blind, hysterically deaf and electively mute rather than skillfully examining and objectively reporting on extant science of human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth ( please see the presentations and peer-reviewed articles of recent research at ). The refusal to respond ably by acknowledging evidence and accepting responsibility for the distinctly human-driven global challenges that have emerged robustly and converged rapidly just now could be one of the greatest mistakes in human history. After all, what mistake in history could be greater than the ones made in our time that lead humanity inadvertently to precipitate the demise of life as we know it and to put at risk a good enough future for the children?

We have entered not only a new year -- 2010 -- but a new decade as well, 2010 - 2019. Hopefully, the deceit, denial, dishonesty and disastrous decision-making that marked the first decade pf the 21st Century have ended.

Steven Earl Salmony

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Producer/Line Producer Needed (FOR "POLAR CITIES ONE" movie aka "The Exodus Stratagem" movie)

Producer/Line Producer Needed (FOR "POLAR CITIES ONE" movie aka "The
Exodus Stratagem" movie))

Date: asap


Writer-Director team needs a down-to-earth, motivated Producer. In
search for solid sales people who can be passionate about this
climate-future dystopian but ultimately optimistic film project. But
who can also handle dealing with location owners, vendors, and
festival paperwork.

If all goes well this would lead to many future projects. No one is
over or under qualified, this is an expansive search for the right
candidate. Not sure on the terms of payment, as of yet, but this
position will be paid.

Will gladly send a script out immediately to all those interested.

We plan to be shooting a full length film and currently seeking a line
producer to begin immediately working on the budget of the
film/screenplay. Our desired line producer will have experience
according to all the duties of a line producer including an ability to
sufficiently break down and accurately budget a full length
screenplay. More details available upon inquiry. Please submit past
work history and references as well as desired wages in order to work
with us. Thank you.

We are seeking a producer, a line producer, and an entertainment
attorney for this feature film. Must have experience in
pre-production through development. Please send copy of resume.

We are seeking an experienced Line Producer to develop a budget for a
90 minute feature to be shot under SAG's Low-Budget agreement. Yes
this is a paid gig. If you have never prepared a budget, please do not
respond. If you are trying to break into film, please do not respond.
This budget will be apart of a greater investment package so
professionalism is key. I apologize if this sounds harsh but film is a
business and must be treated as such.




Diane Bell, writer/director, ''Obselidia'', interviewed by Jeremy Kay about James Lovelock character in movie

Jeremy Kay: The character of Lewis talks about climate change and the end of the world. How grave is the threat?

Diane Bell: "If it’s even half as urgent as it is right now it’s pretty urgent. I’m not a scientist – all I can do is read what all the different experts say. The scientist that I based the character of Lewis on is called James Lovelock. He came up with the Gaia Theory while he was working for NASA that said the world is a self-regulating organism. They thought he was crazy and now everybody thinks he’s right. He says we’re going to go through a period of extreme weather, then the polar caps will melt and then global warming will really start. What he’s talking about is certainly something that can happen within our children’s lifetime and maybe ours. We really should be listening. Unlike James Lovelock, I think there are things we can do; there is window of opportunity. But it’s up to us to take action now."

Scottish writer/director Diane Bell talked to Jeremy Kay about her first feature Obselidia, which screens in the US dramatic competition at Sundance. James Lovelock plays major role!


Scottish writer/director Diane Bell talks to Jeremy Kay about her first feature Obselidia, which screens in the US dramatic competition at Sundance.

Bell was born in Scotland, grew up in Japan, Australia and Germany, and currently resides in Santa Monica. After getting her masters degree in mental philosophy from Edinburgh University she co-wrote two screenplays with the director Bernard Rudden. She optioned her first solo effort in 2006, a comedy about Mickey Rourke and a Mexican voice-over actor. Obselidia is her first film.

What were your expectations for the film?

We had no expectations whatsoever. It’s magical [to get into Sundance.] You always live in hope that these things can happen. For this film I always thought Sundance would be the best place to debut it. I’ve never been to Sundance before, but I just felt it would be the perfect place for an independent, character-driven movie. The film could get lost in the shuffle in a bigger festival.

Obselidia cost less than $500,000. How did you get the money together?

I had written a horror film for a Scottish producer and I knew he had money to invest. He came up with a percentage of it. Once you have your seed money it’s very useful. I was very adamant to make it for a little money as possible and I wanted to be confident that investors could get their money back. We found another private investor almost by chance. I put an ad on Craigslist for a line producer and I get so many responses and through that I found Ken Morris, this young guy from Texas who really wanted to be involved in some way and he came up with the money.

There’s a nostalgia in the film for the way life used to be. So why did you shoot on digital and not film?

I dreamt of shooting on 16mm but we got hold of a Red camera. We shot tests in the desert and I thought it looked amazing, although we used a lot of old lenses. I didn’t think this film could even have been made five years ago on the budget we shot on. Definitely there’s a harking back to old times in the film, so this is a big irony. A lot of people don’t even know about old films – there a bubble where people are not aware. I wanted to make a film that harked back to older films, in terms of the pacing and rhythm, but at the same time today’s technology is phenomenal and makes it possible to make films for lower budgets and still look good.

The character of Lewis talks about climate change and the end of the world. How grave is the threat?

If it’s even half as urgent as it is right now it’s pretty urgent. I’m not a scientist – all I can do is read what all the different experts say. The scientist that I based the character of Lewis on is called James Lovelock. He came up with the Gaia Theory while he was working for NASA that said the world is a self-regulating organism. They thought he was crazy and now everybody thinks he’s right. He says we’re going to go through a period of extreme weather, then the polar caps will melt and then global warming will really start. What he’s talking about is certainly something that can happen within our children’s lifetime and maybe ours. We really should be listening. Unlike James Lovelock I think there are things we can do; there is window of opportunity. But it’s up to us to take action now.

Is this a good time to be an independent film-maker?

For me it’s an amazing time of opportunity because you can raise a small amount of money and even if you don’t go down the traditional distribution route there are new ones opening up. Right now for artists and film-makers it’s an amazing time because the opportunity to do stuff at a certain level of quality has never been greater.

Publicist: Kim Dixon (, dominion3

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Exodus Theory aka The Exodus Hypothesis aka The Exodus Strategy aka The Exodus Strategem (sic) aka The Exodus Stratagem (sic)

The Exodus Theory aka The Exodus Hypothesis aka The Exodus Strategy aka The Exodus Strategem (sic) aka The Exodus Stratagem (sic)

"The Sontaran Stratagem"
Doctor Who episode

"The Sontaran Stratagem" is the fourth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 26 April 2008. The episode features the return of former companion Martha Jones, as well as the return of the alien Sontarans to the series. It is the first of a two part story, followed by "The Poison Sky". This is the Sontarans' first appearance since the 1985 Colin Baker story The Two Doctors.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"The EXODUS Strategem"

Danny Bloom calls his speculations about the future and the possible need for polar cities in the distant future as THE EXODUS STRATEGEM. It means that in the future, humans MIGHT have to take part in a mass exodus from tropical and temperate zones and migrate north to Alaska and Canada and Russia, to survive in polar cities in the north and in New Zealand and Tasmania, too. Sounds like a sci fi movie, I know.

"Of course, it's not a theory at all, and it's not even a hypothesis," he said. "It's more of an EXODUS speculation, to 1. wake people up and 2. to point the way to a possible adaptation solution that just might work."

Rememer the Exodus story from the Hebrew Scriptures? This might be a new Exodus, with or without the blessings of God. It's up to us humans to make sure this never happens. BUT time is running out. Time may have already run out. And if so, we might really need polar cities some day. God forbid. It won't be a pretty picture!

more here soon

Definitions of stratagem on the Web:

ploy: a maneuver in a game or conversation

contrivance: an elaborate or deceitful scheme contrived to deceive or evade; "his testimony was just a contrivance to throw us off the track"

A confidence trick or confidence game (also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, or swindle) is an attempt to ...

A deceptive tactic designed to gain the upper hand. Typically, involves underhanded dealings and obfuscation

Common misspelling of stratagem.


From Old French stratageme < Latin strategema < Ancient Greek στρατήγεμα (stratēgema), “‘the act of a general, a piece of generalship’”) < strategein (“‘to be a general, command an army’”) < στρατηγός (stratēgos), “‘a general, the leader or commander of an army’”); see strategy.

A deceptive tactic designed to gain the upper hand. Typically, involves underhanded dealings and obfuscation.




Sunday, January 24, 2010

住在嘉義市的美藉人士丹布隆 [DanBloom],憂心全球暖化,提出虛擬極地城市構想,陸續引發氣象科學專家共鳴,台大大氣科學系教授許晃雄表示,減緩全球暖化,需要更多有創意的想法與做法,應從改變產業結構、環境與能源政策等方式著手。

January 25, 2010
〔記者 reporter 余雪蘭/嘉市報導〕

住在嘉義市的美藉人士丹布隆 [DanBloom],憂心全球暖化,提出虛擬極地城市構想,陸續引發氣象科學專家共鳴,台大大氣科學系教授許晃雄表示,減緩全球暖化,需要更多有創意的想法與做法,應從改變產業結構、環境與能源政策等方式著手。

從事寫作及美語教學的丹布隆 (Dan Bloom),一年多前因看到英國氣象科學家 Dr..James Lovelock預言本世紀人類會因地球暖化大量死亡,且逃到北極求生存,於是構想在靠近北極的地區,建造可供人類生存的地下城市﹁極地城市 (Polar Cities)﹂的構想,並請把極地城市的藍圖做成3D影像,在網路傳播,最近並做成﹁ ["Have Polar Cities, Will Suvive Global Warming" = "If we have polar cities in the future, maybe humans can survive global warming problems by living in polar cities to survive ] ﹂的標語,到各地擺放,提醒民眾關注暖化問題。

長期研究氣候變遷的許晃雄表示,Polar Cities 不見得是空泛不實的,誰也不知道地球環境將會如何變化,所以我們需要更多有創意的想法與做法,及早準備因應。



According to Dan Bloom,

the entire world is warming, and he has proposed that future generations build polar cities in the north to serve a climate chaos lifeboats for survivors of global warming. Some people agree with him others disagree. Dr Hsu at NTU who studies meteorological scientific field shows some sympathy for Bloom's ideas even though he is quick to say that we should not dwell in doom and gloom but instead look for opportunities to build green technologoy so polar cities are never needed.

Professor Hsu Huang xiong told a reporter on Saturday that it is important to try do slow down global

warming, and it's important to have creative ideas like Bloom's ideas to wake people up. But it's important to have a positive view of industrial structures, environment and

energy policy, too.

(Dan Bloom) calls himself an accidental student of British

meteorology scientist Dr. James Lovelock and his prediction this

century humanity the Earth will warm the massive deads, and will run

away to the North Pole strives for the survival, therefore devised

will approach North Pole's area, the construction of polar cities created by artist Deng Cheng-hong may supply the human

survival via(Polar Cities. So Bloom held up a sign that reads "Have Polar Cities, Will Suvive Global Warming" = " If we have polar cities in the future,

maybe humans can survive global warming problems by living in polar

cities to survive]﹂ the slogan, places to each region, reminds the

populace to pay attention to the warming question.

Long-term research

climatic change's Dr Hsu Huangxiong indicated that Polar Cities is not

necessarily unspecific is not solid, nobody knew how the terrestrial

environment will change, therefore we will need to have the creativity

idea and the procedure, will prepare early in accordance. Xu

Huangxiong pointed out that Taiwan and the whole world are the same,

the near for 30 year temperature obvious rise, the rainfall date

reduces obviously, take the Taitung success meteorology survey

station's statistics as an example, if the rainfall date reduces the

tendency continues, 100 years later, the rainfall number of days will

reduce for approximately 90 days.

Xu Huangxiong thought that Taiwan

promotes the energy conservation to reduce the carbon at present the

direction to be wrong, for example the environmental protection bureau

said that in accordance to the domestic development petrochemical

industry, must arrive at the overseas afforestation to reduce the

carbon to be balanced, he thought that this is the moron talks

nonsense, he recognizes should from the change source policy and the

industrial structure, changes the humanity to use the energy and the

life state, for example the impetus energy alternative industry, looks

like the solar energy, not only has the opportunity, the energy

conservation reduces the carbon also to have the benefit.



The Global Warming Issue -- We Must Try to Tackle It; We Must Change the Way We Live -- article in the Liberty Times in Taiwan, reported by Irma Yu, Chiayi City bureau reporter

The elephant of global warming - A CLIMATE COMMENTARY By NATIONAL TAIWAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR Hsu Huang-hsiung 許晃雄

The elephant of global warming

By Hsu Huang-hsiung 許晃雄
May 8, 2008 PUBLISHED

The rumored invitation to and possible upcoming arrival of former US vice president Al Gore is certain to set off a new wave of discussion about global warming in Taiwan. [Editor's Note: Mr Gore was not able to visit Taiwan that year due to his busy schedule.] The topic is like an elephant with a fever being cared for by a group of blind people.

Some say the elephant doesn't have a fever and that only the room temperature has increased, while some touch the elephant's tusks and say the temperature hasn't risen at all. Global warming is a multi-faceted issue. Each person has his own observations and attitude, and sometimes it's like the famous Indian legend of the the blind men and the elephant -- each man touches the elephant and all three come to different conclusions as to what it is.

Some people passionately call for humans to protect the earth. Some have a more conservative attitude, saying that the sun is getting stronger and that global warming isn't necessarily related to what humans do. They believe that global warming will actually make the earth's climate milder.

Then there are some people who quote biased reports to refute global warming theories. Some people question why weather bureau data differs from that in media reports. I am a climatology researcher who has also come to feel the elephant and report my observations.

Over the past 100 years, temperatures in Taiwan have risen twice as fast as the global average. Taiwan, northeast Asia, Siberia and the northern Asian and European continents are all experiencing this kind of phenomenon. Other areas in the 20th century experienced a decline in temperature, making temperature increases over the last 100 years less significant. This climatic diversity is clearly influenced by different factors.

Over the last 30 years, the rate of global temperature increase has suddenly escalated to about three times its pace over the last 100 years, or about two degrees per 100 years. Temperatures in Taiwan have increased at about the same rate, with winter temperatures rising more than summer temperatures.

The documented changes over the past three decades reflect global warming in its most obvious form, with almost all regions of the globe becoming hotter.

Climatic diversity seems to be gradually disappearing. Biological diversity is beneficial to ecological and environmental sustainability, while climatic diversity helps to maintain a stable climate.

More importantly, over the past 30 years land temperatures have clearly increased faster than ocean air temperatures -- whereas during the previous 100 years, they warmed at about the same rate. Climatic modeling for future global warming shows a similar trend. By the end of the 1980s, climatologists had predicted that greenhouse gas emissions couldn't be checked and global temperatures would continue to rise.

Greenhouse gas emissions have steadily risen over the last 30 years, while the global warming trend has become more evident. These phenomenons have deeply worried many climatologists.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued its fourth report, stating that it's very possible that the global warming experienced over the past 50 years could have been influenced by humans.

It said that the average global temperature will rise by 1.1oC to 6.4oC by the end of the 21st century, possibly intensifying storms and droughts in some areas.

Some people doubt the reliability of these results because climate modeling has many flaws and climate predictions tend to be inaccurate. These skeptics believe there is much uncertainty about global warming. There is some basis for all of these theories, but modern science doesn't provide firmer predictions, instead emphasizing probabilities and possibilities.

Global warming is very complicated. It isn't a purely scientific question, but a matter of risk assessment and management. Moreover, it is a question of human choice.

The IPCC employed hundreds of scientists, used the most advanced climatic modeling, analyzed the most complete information in history and cited hundreds of academic papers to finish the most comprehensive climate assessment the world has ever seen.

Its report tells us that different research centers, using different models, all came to a similar conclusion: humans have created global warming, and with the prospect of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will become more and more severe.

These are not simply foregone conclusions, but are the consummation of research by many scientists.

Confronted with this kind of warning, how should wise governments respond? Perhaps decades from now, all of these global warming predictions will be proven false.

But we must deal with these potentially disastrous problems in the present.

The heart of the issue is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced: how to interpret this information and carry out the best counter-strategy to minimize the dangers of global warming.

This is not a question of right or wrong, but a matter of choice. Humanity's common challenge is Taiwan's challenge, and humanity's collective fate is Taiwan's collective fate.

Taiwan will not be able to remain outside the next wave of globalization -- or global warming for that matter. So what should the nation's decision be?

We can choose not to act, then pray that global warming turns out to be the greatest scientific blunder in human history. Or we can take concrete action to solve the problems facing our environment.

This action will not only help lessen the global warming trend, but will also make Taiwan a nation with a sustainable environment and limitless commercial opportunities.

Hsu Huang-hsiung is a professor at the department of atmospheric sciences at National Taiwan University.

[Translated by Marc Langer IN TAIWAN]

This story has been viewed 6.7 BILLION times.

An Afternoon Chat with Dr Hsu in Chiayi City, January 23, 2010

Notes compiled by Dan Bloom after meeting with Dr Hsu at the 85 C cafe on Mintsu Road, from 2 pm to 4 pm, with an interview by Liberty Times reporter Irma Yueh squeezed in as well, her story and photo follow below:

Hsu Huang-hsiung [許晃雄] is a native of Chiayi City, who now teaches atmospheric science at Taiwan's prestigious National Taiwan University (NTU). Dr Hsu received his doctorate at the University of Washington in Seattle and went to do research at major academic institute in Reading, England for two years. When offered a teaching position at NTU, he returned to his native country and has been living in Taipei now for about 25 years.

During a quiet Saturday afternoon, Dr Hsu and I chatted informally about climate change and global warming, and much of our conversation focused on Dr Hsu' oped piece above, which first appeared in both the Liberty Times and Taipei Times in Taiwan in 2008. In fact, it was Dr Hsu's very insightful oped piece that introduced me to his thinking, and I made contact with him by email and phone soon after this piece appeared in transaltion in the Taipei Times.

Dr Hsu is an optimist, and while he knows there's an elephant in the room that many people don't want to admit is there -- global warming! -- he also feels very strongly that it is important to deliver positive messages about how we can fix the situation in the future, rather than dwelling on doom and gloom appeals (which I am rather well-known for).

One of the things Dr Hsu told me is that he feels climate change and global warming problems present humankind with an opportunity to find new technologies to benefit mankind, and that the whole situation opens up many creative and business opportunities for young people to think about as they pursue their education and enter the work world. Not only in Taiwan, but in every country.

Here is a summary, in my own recollection of Dr Hsu's renmarks to me in the coffee shop (they are NOT his words exactly but roughly as I remember him saying, and in very good English, too):

He told me something like this, and I paraphrase here:

"I feel that humans will use their creativity and talent in working with old and new technology to fight climate change and mitigate the problems, so that the future will turn out to be rosy and productive," he told me, as I recollect and paraphrase here. "There's no need to dwell in negative thoughts and bemoan the situation we are in. Instead, we can use this period of history to build up new business opportunities and jobs and technologies that will be victormous over climate change. Just as 20 years ago we could not imagine using a Kindle or a PDA or a nook or twitter or FaceBook or other kinds of modern computer and screen technologies that we take for granted today, the same can happen with technological fixes for climate problems and global warming. So I am a positive thinker on all this, and when I speak to students and high school science teachers, I always try to impart a positive message. I am not interested in doom and gloom. We need to face the future with a positive enegery. But yes, as the same time, there is an elephant in the room. As I wrote in my oped in 2006, this topic of global warming, especially mand-made global warming, which I tend to think is real and needs to be confronted head-on, even though not all the data is in yet, is like 'an elephant with a fever being cared for by a group of blind people'."

Here is what Dr Hsu said in an interview the same afternoon in Chinese with a reporter from the Chinese-language Liberty Times, a sister publication of the Taipei Times (they have the same owner and are part of the Liberty Times Group):


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Polar cities pioneer building world's first model polar city for survivors of global warming

Years of development on the world's first model polar city are still needed. But when it is done, it will offer a solution
to global warming's major impact events in the distant future

By W.G. Funlop

January 32, 3010

A digital image of the world's first model polar city is presented in a handout picture released on May 22, 2007, in Geneva, Switzerland.
(see for 12 images)

Dan Bloom is no conventional environmental activist — he hopes to raise awareness about global warming by building the world's first model polar city in either Alaska or Norway.

“What we want to do is create an opportunity for people today to envision what life might be like in the distant future if we don't solve climate change problems now,” Bloom said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, where he had a booth to promote his venture.

The 61-year-old Aemrican climate activist plans to have volunteer residents living in his model polar city by 2015.

“We believe that a model polar city will be a useful educational tool for better understanding the dire straits we are in,” he said.

A prototype design has been created by Taiwanese artist Deng Cheng-hong, Bloom said, and an engineer in Colorado is in charge of fundraising operations in North America and Europe. Bloom said Joey Stanford has been working with for the past two years as they go about building awareness about their project and raising funds.

The aim of the model polar city is to teach future generations what life
on Earth might be like, if current mitigation efforts fail in the next 100 years, Bloom said. "Polar cities are an adaptation strategy, and the model polar city will be useful as an educational tool."

The model city will be located in either Alaska or Norway, as soon as plans are finalized and fundraising efforts bear fruit, Stanford said.

Asked what led him to try this unorthodox method of promoting climate awareness, Bloom pointed to his family history.

“My father was a doctor, and he taught me the value of human life,” he said. “My brother is a river rafting guide in Alaska, and he taught me the value of wilderness."

Bloom said he is sure the first model polar city will be received with both applause and dismissal. The climate change denialists will rip the idea to shreds. People who understand what AGW is all about will get it."

"My earlier work as a newspaper editor and public relations specialist gve me the tools to learn how to carry this thing out, Bloom said, "including finding sponsors, money and support for our current project."

The project, which will cost a total of 70 million euros (US$100 million), has been under way for about three years and still has a way to go. The model city will be ready for testing and occupancy by summer interns around 2012 or 2013, Stanford said. By 2015, the official start date will begin, he said.

For Bloom, the polar city project is a new, positive tack in promoting renewable energy and conservation.

“I folowed what happened in Copenhagen [during the recent climate change conference in late 2009], and I see people are fed up with the alarmists, the catastrophists,” he said. “People need solutions, not problems. So we have to demonstrate the solutions. We have to show that it’s possible to do great things. Polar cities is an idea who time is coming.”

And a model polar city, he said, is “a good vector to push an important message about mankind's future.”

This story has been viewed 6.7 billion times.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Franny Armstrong, Age of Stupid, please reply here!

Billed as a docudrama, The Age of Stupid by Franny Armstrong, who still has not answered my emails, WTF?, frames the story in the year 3055, with veteran British actor Pete Postlethwaite portraying The Archivist, a man who has holed himself up within a tower -- a kind of polar city structure inspired by James Lovelock's ideas and taken to the next level by Dan Bloom with his Polar Cities Proeject -- GOOGLE -- just outside of an arctic region reduced to deep floodwater. From his perch in the polar city tower he has access to a huge digital archive of the history of the world, and from that archive he is compiling a time capsule of sorts to warn any other sentient beings about the foolhardy descent into extinction that claimed humanity. It’s an interesting premise and Postlethwaite handles the role brilliantly, and the concept marries the movie’s dependence on archival footage with a captivating narrative.

Reflections on a hugely changed climate - Richard Black of the BBC

Reflections on a hugely changed climate

Richard Black
22 January 3010

It's hard to overstate how much the events of the last two months have altered the global picture of climate politics.

Picture the scene you'd have found on any day towards the end of last year: more prime ministers and presidents talking publicly about climate change than ever before; the vast majority of the world's governments apparently committed to making some kind of agreement that would restrain the growth in greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to avoid "dangerous" climate change; the world's two biggest emitters - China and the US - announcing targets to take into the maelstrom of Copenhagen; rafts of mayors and business leaders and activists straining every sinew to encourage everyone across the finishing line.

How different things look now.

Out of Copenhagen came a piece of paper agreeing that limiting the global temperature rise to 2C was indicated by the science, but not agreeing to set 2C or any other temperature figure as a firm target, and not containing anything that would commit governments to policy measures that could achieve such a target.

Meanwhile, the prospective US climate legislation encounters new hurdles, the latest being the election of Republican Scott Brown to succeed Democrat Edward Kennedy as Massachusetts Senator.

That pushes the Democrats below the majority they need to prevent long discussions on the healthcare bill that, it's generally assumed, must go through before the climate wrangles begin in earnest.

It also could be interpreted as indicating that Mr Obama's raft of policies is proving less palatable to the electorate - and with campaigning for mid-term elections due to begin in just half a year's time, one possible consequence would be to push Democrats and Republicans alike away from the camp supporting climate legislation.

Other interpretations and other projections of the US scene are possible, of course. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that passage of the American legislation looks less likely than it did two months ago.

Internationally, this is hugely significant. If the big developing countries do not see action from the US, they will be even more reluctant to curb their own emissions - that's abundantly clear.

Perhaps because the Copenhagen summit ended at a time when much of the world was preparing for Christmas and New Year revelries, I'm not sure that news organisations - including ourselves - have adequately reflected how momentous a shift it signalled.

Before Copenhagen, most of the building blocks appeared to be in place for some kind of global, negotiated, and possibly even effective deal - if not in Copenhagen itself, then within a further year.

Would anyone now make that assessment?

The travails of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), too, may be affecting politicians' views - it's impossible to make a broad judgement on that, despite the protestations of many players in Copenhagen that the basics of the IPCC's scientific argument remained sound.

Anyway, we discussed at the tail end of last year some of the reasons why the summit did not produce a solid deal, and the point of this post isn't to re-tread that ground.

It's simply to reflect, with the benefit of a bit of distance, just how far the world of climate politics has shifted.

Without US legislation, without a willing China and India, it is hard to see how anything more significant than the Copenhagen Accord can come later this year or in the next few years - despite continued European protestations of support, despite the demands of small island states, and despite the judgement of many of the accord's architects (from Barack Obama to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) that it falls short.

Depending on your views on man-made global warming, you might find the mood-shift encouraging or disappointing. But it's hard to argue, I think, that it isn't significant - perhaps the most significant change in international environmental governance since the Rio Earth Summit.

And the question that not even the most clued-up observers know how to answer at the moment is: "what happens next?"