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Mega-fires, mega-denial

By Chris James - posted Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Victoria is counting the cost of the worst bushfire season on record; a terrible catastrophe, 189 people (at the time of writing) have died - a figure that is expected to rise - and almost 2,000 homes and businesses have been lost. The landscape is devastated and a thick cloud of smoke hangs over Melbourne.

The Premier John Brumby has stated the communities will rebuild; he has promised a Royal Commission to investigate the fires and there are likely to be a host of new strategies for fire management and new infrastructure; but will it change anything?

The Premier has completely avoided the issue of climate change and the prospect of future mega-fires that could be far worse than the one we have just witnessed. Climate change and mega-fires are a reality, especially in drought ridden, hot climate environments. Is it wise then to continue along the same old paradigm of rebuild and start again?


Old conflicts will surface over the management of the forests - conserve or cut and burn. And the same anger and vitriol between interest groups will find its continuum - shouldn’t we instead try something new? Maybe now is the time to attempt a mass change in human consciousness?

Former US Vice President Al Gore, in his book Earth in the Balance, has likened society’s failure to tackle the ecological crisis to the crisis of a dysfunctional family. Each displays symptoms of denial and a failure to take responsibility. When someone presents to the therapist with a sense of inertia; and/or when someone is in denial or cannot take responsibility there is clearly a problem - a depression leading to a psychosis - and the need for radical mind altering therapy if there is to be a recovery. The therapist and client begin the long task towards personal growth and restoring well being.

However, nothing seems to initiate meaningful growth and well being in our society. The planet is facing a deep ecological crisis that is also a crisis in consciousness. But our leaders are in denial; they will not take responsibility. They will not initiate the necessary changes for human survival. We will have to bring about a change soon or - according to the laws of evolution - humans will become extinct. Change is never easy but maybe we have been looking in the wrong direction.

The psychotherapist listens to peoples’ tragic stories and helps them to rewrite those stories in a more positive and meaningful way. For well being to occur we must be able to live harmoniously with ourselves and our environment. There are a number of theories now that tell us all behaviour stems from internal narratives. We digest information from the external world and play it back in our heads. These are our thoughts from which all action extends.

With this in mind Theodore Roszak, in The Voice of the Earth, calls for a new synthesis of psychology, cosmology, and ecology to save humans from the crisis in consciousness and the planet from a final catastrophe.

We need a new discipline that sees the needs of the planet and the person as a continuum and that can help us reconnect with the truth that lies in our communion with the rest of creation.


Theodore Roszak has called the merging of the three disciplines (psychology, cosmology and ecology) “ecopsychology”.

The core of the mind is the ecological unconscious. For ecopsychology, repression of the ecological unconscious is the deepest root of collusive madness in industrial society; open access to the ecological unconscious is the path to sanity.

In his book he explains “ecopsychology” as a system of principles. The first is the acceptance that the evolution of the mind is not unlike the evolution of the earth and there is a deep relationship between mind and nature. Roszak calls it the “ecological unconscious”. The repression of nature, Roszak believes, is the cause of modern industrial madness.

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About the Author

Dr Chris James is an artist, writer, researcher and psychotherapist. She lives on a property in regional Victoria and lectures on psychotherapeutic communities and eco-development. Her web site is

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