Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Happened to Ecopsychology?

Lupa posts on bioregionalism, animism, and ecopsychology.

When M. was in grad school in psychology in the 1990s, she hoped that ecopsychology would be the Next Big Thing. Articles on the psychological affects of interacting (or not) with the non-human world were popping up in places like McCall's magazine. Addressing "nature-deficit syndrome" would be a component of it--even the Girl Scouts are onto that.

But as an overarching concept--even without acknowledging "spirits of place"--ecopsychology does not seem to have caught fire except in a low-level therapeutic way: "Gardening makes you feel better."

Possibly related is the way in which a certain kind of self-righteous environmentalism may be ripe for mocking. Are we still too leery of assigning spiritual value to non-human nature? Doing so has been a component of American spirituality since around 1800, as Catherine Albanese wrote in Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age. But it has always been a minority position, although a well-established one.

I used to start my nature-writing students with the "Where You At?" quiz. It offers a quick immersion in bioregional thinking and blends both non-human and human cultural material.

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Blogger Lupa said...

First off, thanks for the mention (and also the nifty quiz!)

I started to write a reply, and then it turned into a ramble, and finally it got long enough that I just tacked onto the end of my most recent post over on; your post made a good writing prompt which helped me articulate some thoughts that had been bouncing in my head in half-formed states. The link is at

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Linda Buzzell said...

Hi Lupa,

Funny you should ask this question! Sierra Club Books has just published a new book, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, that answers your query. Ecopsych and applied ecopsych are both alive and well, as the book's contributors attest. There are essays by everyone from Bill McKibben to Joanna Macy to Richard Heinberg, Theodore Roszak, Richard Louv (the nature-deficit disorder guy) and West African healer Malidoma Some. More info at amazon or

Linda Buzzell
International Association for Ecotherapy

12:14 PM  
Blogger Lupa said...

Linda Buzzell--

Just for the record, the question "what happened to ecopsychology" wasn't mine; it came up in response to my initial post on bioregionalism over at That post and my long, rambly response to this one here are the two newest posts.

And, ironically, I am right in the middle of reading Ecotherapy, albeit more slowly than I would like due to other reading obligations. I heard about it from Thomas Doherty, as I've been taking his ecopsych courses through Lewis and Clark where I'm enrolled in the community counseling Master's program; he mentioned it in the ecotherapy class this previous semester. I've only just finished Mary-Jane Rust's essay, but between what I've read so far, and the bits I've flipped forward to peek at, I've really enjoyed it. I really do think that one thing ecopsychology needs is more discussion of practical applications of the theories that have been developing over the past couple of decades (and before).

1:09 PM  

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