A Class on the Environment

I recently led a class on care of the environment. My goals were to learn how to teach this subject and to move each person one step forward. Twelve people attended. They were middle- and working-class folks. Eleven were white, and one was of mixed heritage but raised primarily with a white identity. All but one person were raised and currently living in the northeast of the United States.

I talked about every human being’s inherent connection to the environment and asked people to share an early memory of this connection. Everyone had a memory of a strong connection. After the go-around, people seemed to feel more connected to both themselves and each other.

I talked about how people generally feel powerless, confused, and numb about the environmental crisis. I said that these feelings have deep roots and that working on our early hurts connected to the environment can help us think about the environment in the present. I asked people to share a memory of when they knew something was wrong in humans’ relationship to the environment. Nearly half of the group talked about seeing litter (trash that ends up in the environment instead of in trash containers). They reported feeling sad, confused, and powerless. One woman worked openly on the feeling that people who didn’t litter were better than folks who did and on how society was set up to make it seem like middle-class folks were less likely to litter than working-class or raised-poor people, or people of the global majority.

Then everyone shared a short personal experience involving class, race, and the environment. Most of us could easily connect our relationship to the environment with classism and racism. I suggested that white people are deliberately misinformed and confused about the true causes of the environmental crisis. It was clear that how we experienced the crisis was rooted in our white identities. I pointed this out, not wanting people to assume that their experience was the same as that of people from other backgrounds.

I had a large poster with the new RC goal on care of the environment* written on it, and we took turns reading it out loud. Then someone had a turn discharging about it. Because the goal is long and includes both perspective and action items, I guided her to work on the goal in general, occasionally bringing her attention to key phrases. At one point we focused on “that we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.” The client, a longtime environmental activist, wanted to remember to use the discharge process as she moved forward with her life, and she discharged about that.

I myself am trying to have one conversation per day about the environment. I ask folks I am close with, cashiers at stores, anyone, “What are you thinking about the environment these days?” Doing this keeps my mind focused on the issue.

Chris Austill 
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion 
list for RC Community members 


* A goal adopted by the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities: 

That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment. 

Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions. 

The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.

 


Last modified: 2017-05-07 06:35:41+00