Mind and Environment:
A Psychological Survey of Perspectives Literal, Wide, and Deep
Expanded from a presentation to students of the
John F. Kennedy University Graduate School of Psychology, October 2006
Craig Chalquist, MS PhD
I had intended to begin this presentation with a parody of how thoroughly psychotherapy previously neglected our relationship with the environment, but when I tried to write an ironic scenario, it kept turning into a real situation.
Picture (I was going to suggest) a city block which the client must negotiate in order to reach the therapy office. After going by a lawn reeking with pesticides, blankets of smoggy air, honking car horns, people shouting at each other, screeching tires, yelling cops, and a car crash, the client makes it to the therapist’s office and relates a brief account of this mini-odyssey, whereupon the therapist asks, “So how are things going with your mother?”
I wish this were a parody, this lapsing of the entire world into a giant Rorschach blot of psychological family values, but it isn’t. It’s how therapists the world over reasoned until rather recently, when it began to dawn on thoughtful practitioners that clients had feelings about the actual, tangible world humming along outside the self.
It’s difficult to say when this awakening began; difficult enough that it’s easier to pin down when it temporarily vanished. Early practitioners of psychotherapy had not worried unduly about the environment, but at least they recognized its psychological impact. Things changed with Freud. To be more specific, they changed when Freud decided that supposing one had been traumatized was more important psychologically than being a genuine victim. From there it was a short step to reinterpreting everything that interested or provoked the therapy patient solely in terms of the inner life, the transference, or the troubled family. Freud’s colleague Karl Abraham largely ignored the combat stress of the soldiers he worked with, attributing their symptoms instead to early problems with oral gratification or toilet training.
Environmental Impacts of Hydroelectric Power
Hydroelectric power includes both massive hydroelectric dams and small run-of-the-river plants. Large-scale hydroelectric dams continue to be built in many parts of the world (including China and Brazil), but it is unlikely that new facilities will be added to the existing U.S. fleet in the future.
Instead, the future of hydroelectric power in the United States will likely involve increased capacity at current dams and new run-of-the-river projects. There are environmental impacts at both types of plants.
The size of the reservoir created by a hydroelectric project can vary widely, depending largely on the size of the hydroelectric generators and the topography of the land. Hydroelectric plants in flat areas tend to require much more land than those in hilly areas or canyons where deeper reservoirs can hold more volume of water in a smaller space.
At one extreme, the large Balbina hydroelectric plant, which was built in a flat area of Brazil, flooded 2,360 square kilometers—an area the size of Delaware—and it only provides 250 MW of power generating capacity (equal to more than 2,000 acres per MW) . In contrast, a small 10 MW run-of-the-rive plant in a hilly location can use as little 2.5 acres (equal to a quarter of an acre per MW) .
Flooding land for a hydroelectric reservoir has an extreme environmental impact: it destroys forest, wildlife habitat, agricultural land, and scenic lands. In many instances, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China, entire communities have also had to be relocated to make way for reservoirs .
How does oil affect the environment?
Crude oil is used to make petroleum products used to fuel airplanes, cars, and trucks; to heat homes; and to make products like medicines and plastics. Although petroleum products make life easier, finding, producing, and moving crude oil may have negative effects on the environment. Technological advances in exploration, production, and transportation of oil and enforcement of safety and environmental laws and regulations help to avoid and reduce these effects.
Technology helps reduce the effects of drilling and producing oil
Exploring and drilling for oil may disturb land and marine ecosystems. Seismic techniques used to explore for oil under the ocean floor may harm fish and marine mammals. Drilling an oil well on land often requires clearing an area of vegetation. These impacts are reduced by technologies that greatly increase the efficiency of exploration and drilling activities. Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies make it possible to discover oil reserves while drilling fewer exploratory wells. Mobile and smaller slimhole drilling rigs reduce the size of the area disturbed by drilling activities. The use of horizontal and directional drilling makes it possible for a single well to produce oil from a much larger area, which reduces the number of wells required to develop an oil field.
An oil production technique known as hydraulic fracturing is used to produce oil from shale and other tight geologic formations. This technique has allowed the United States to increase domestic oil production significantly and reduce the amount of oil that the country imports. There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing rock requires large amounts of water, and it uses potentially hazardous chemicals to release the oil from the rock strata. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for oil production may affect the availability of water for other uses and can potentially affect aquatic habitats. Faulty well construction or improper handling may result in leaks and spills of fracturing fluids.
Oil Production and Environmental Damage
RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER: 15
RESEARCH MNEMONIC: XOILPR14
RESEARCH NAME: Oil Production Cases
- ISSUE BACKGROUND
- RELEVANT TED CASES
- CASE LISTINGS AND BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS
- COMPARISON AND CONTRAST
- POLICY IMPLICATIONS
- OTHER SOURCES
Most countries depend on oil. States will go to great lengths to acquire an oil production capability or to be assured access to the free flow of oil. History has provided several examples in which states were willing to go to war to obtain oil resources or in defense of an oil producing region. States have even become involved in conflicts over areas which may only possibly contain oil resources. This trend is likely to continue in the future until a more economical resource is discovered or until the world's oil wells run dry. One problem associated with this dependence on oil is the extremely damaging effects that production, distribution, and use have on the environment. Furthermore, accidents and conflict can disrupt production or the actual oil resource, which can also result in environmental devastation. One potential solution to this problem is to devise a more environmentally-safe resource to fuel the economies of the world.
W. Corbett Dabbs (December 1996)
II. Issue Background
Although much of the world depends on the production or the trade of oil to fuel its economies, these activities can cause severe damage to the environment, either knowingly or unintentionally. Oil production, and/or transportation, can disrupt the human population, and the animal and fish life of the region. Oil waste dumping, production pollution, and spills wreak havoc on the surrounding wildlife and habitat. It threatens the extinction of several plants, and has already harmed many land, air, and sea animal and plant species.
The effects of oil on marine life are cause by either the physical nature of the oil (physical contamination and smothering) or by its chemical components (toxic effects and accumulation leading to tainting). Marine life may also be affected by clean-up operations or indirectly through physical damage to the habitats in which plants and animals live. The animals and plants most at risk are those that could come into contact with a contaminated sea surface: marine animals and reptiles; birds that feed by diving or form flocks on the sea; marine life on shorelines; and animals and plants in mariculture facilities.
How to attract PES investment from businesses?
A new study has looked at why and how much private sector companies are prepared to invest in Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes for tropical forests. Understanding companies' motivations and expectations can help develop new sources of funding for PES schemes from the private sector, increasing the area of tropical forest conserved worldwide.
PES schemes can allow companies to pay to help conserve an ecosystem, to ensure that the service they depend on for their business is not at risk of disappearing, to secure access to biological resources, and to demonstrate environmental responsibility. PES schemes to conserve tropical forests are a relatively new concept and little attention has been paid thus far to examine the factors that influence whether or not businesses participate voluntarily.
Using a detailed questionnaire and a complex statistical model, the study compared the hypothetical 'willingness to invest' (WTI) in tropical forest ecosystem services by 60 international and Costa Rican companies. The researchers focused on four ecosystem services: conservation of biodiversity, absorption of atmospheric CO2 (i.e. carbon sequestration), provision of water quality by filtering, flow regulation and prevention of erosion (i.e. watershed protection), and preserving scenic beauty.
Alternative conceptual framework for Payments for Environmental Services on offer
An international group of researchers has proposed a new way of describing Payments for Environmental Services (PES). The new definition supplies a framework, incorporating the social aspects of PES, which can be used by practitioners, such as governments, to design and implement a variety of PES schemes.
Until now, PES schemes have been thought of in terms of Coasean economics which argues that, as long as property rights are clearly defined and transaction costs are low enough, bargaining between the parties will achieve the most efficient economic outcome. Based on this viewpoint, three conditions that PES schemes must meet have been identified: the link between land use and ecosystem service must be clear; the transactions must be voluntary; and there must be a monitoring system to ensure the service is being delivered.
However, in reality, PES schemes do not always meet all these conditions. For instance, when a land manager is paid by the state to improve water quality, consumers may not be aware that their water bills are slightly higher to pay for this; hence the transaction is not voluntary (at least from the buyers' perspective).
Environmental Tips: All Eco Tips
The critical first step of waste prevention has been overshadowed by a focus on recycling. Please help to promote a greater awareness of the importance of the "Reduce" part of the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra. For a great overview of how raw materials and products move around the world, see the video The Story of Stuff.
- Simplify: Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that you use/enjoy on a regular basis. By making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less/create less waste in the future. For information on voluntary simplicity, check out Voluntary Simplicity Websites.
- Reduce Purchases: In general, think before you buy any product - do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)? When you are thinking about buying something, try the 30-Day Rule -- wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want a product to really make your decision. This will eliminate impulse buying.
- The Compact: Join or form a Compact in your area - groups all across the globe committing for 12 months to not buy any new products (see lower right sidebar for groups).
- Replace Disposables: Wherever possible, replace disposable products with reusable ones (i.e., razor, food storage, batteries, ink cartridges (buy refill ink), coffee filters, furnace or air conditioner filters, etc.).
- Buy Used: Buy used products whenever possible. Some sources:
Environmentalism & Altruism
Sharing things and helping other people may damage the economy, but it's a great way to decrease our environmental footprint. Since the earth’s resources are finite, competing to outconsume one another is a self-destructive course of action. This, however, is the natural outcome of capitalism, with its focus on money at the expense of all else.
As technology has increased the impact of human activity on our environment, concerns about environmental matters such as pollution, climate change, resource depletion are being treated increasingly seriously. However, the USA and some other countries still pursue economic gain above all else. Such arrogant short-sightedness would be unthinkable from a less powerful nation, and does at least highlight the problems of highly concentrating power.