Climate Action, Ecopsychology, and Resilience -Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dreaming the World into Being

Climate action, ecopsychology, and resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Shamanic wisdom says that we dream our world into being. In each moment we have a choice of how we focus our attention, our feelings, and our behaviors. Over the years I have had a sequence of dreams that speak to my heart and perhaps will touch yours as well. These dreams whisper a powerful theme; one burgeoning in our collective awareness as we wake up to the reality of climate change. Appropriate timing given the Global Day of Climate Action and the People’s Climate Marches that occurred last weekend.

“When we are aware of how our deeply held beliefs, family legacies, and old energetic influences shape us we take responsibility for our actions. Ultimately we become free to choose how we shape our world.The earth is part of us; and we are part of the earth. What world are you dreaming into being?”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The dreamscape

Climate action, ecopsychology, and resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I am standing with my grandmother high up on a cliff. Down below we see the water; on the horizon the full moon is rising. The round moon becomes a mirror of the Earth. On the cliff there is a telescope and my grandmother invites me to look through the lens. What I see transports me; I see the colors of dyed wool on the streets of a marketplace; I see electric cities; I see rainforests and rivers. I feel the totality of the Earth as one. I climb into a car that is taking me to the wilderness but on the way we pass a cemetery with blooming trees. We stop the car;  I get out, drawn to the rich, fertile soil that holds my ancestors. I lie down upon the earth and rest.  Then I rise and walk on a path that leads me towards the ocean. As I get closer to the shore I see the waves are getting larger and unpredictable. People are running away from the beach saying that a Tsunami is coming. I take hold of my children and take refuge behind a large concrete pillar. As people run by us they tell us to climb to higher ground. Before leaving, I turn towards the column and realize that something apparently solid is  made up of small bits of rock and sand that can easily be dispersed.


Climate action, ecopsychology, and resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The recognition that our world is fragile and needs to be protected for our children is not new. In 1968 the first view image of the earthrise from space, taken from the Apollo 8, was shared around the world. Sir Fred Hoyle, British Cosmologist stated that this image, revealed the vulnerability of our small planet. It changed our view of our planet forever. In 1996, a second image emerged, this time of a distant earth shown as a blue dot in vast space. In response, Carl Sagan stated:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of light.”

I’ve spent my whole life acutely aware of the delicate relationship between humans and nature. My father, Stephen Schwartz, is an atmospheric scientist who has devoted his career to understanding climate change and to raising awareness about the impact of our carbon footprint on future generations. A colleague of my father’s, Jeffrey Kiehl, has combined his decades of work as a climate scientist with his training as a Jungian Analyst. He asserts that when we explore the world of the psyche we have an opportunity to experience ourselves as connected to the natural world and, as a result, are less likely to destroy nature. This is the heart of Ecopsychology; the understanding of the inseparable relationship between our personal well-being and the well-being of the Earth. The internal workings of the human psyche cannot stand apart from our connection to the natural world.

Climate action and resilience

Climate action, ecopsychology, and resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

As a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of trauma I use a resilience based approach to psychotherapy. Resilience is about adaptability, flexibility, and having the capacity to respond to life in a manner that creates an effective, or even, optimal outcome. Resilience is not a set of innate traits, rather it is a set of attitudes and behaviors that can be learned and strengthened. Resilience is about helping people and communities to be better prepared to withstand catastrophic events and to bounce back or emerge stronger. In recent years, resilience psychology has entered the arena with climate action with a focus on helping cities and rural communities cope with devastating consequences that are the result of extreme weather, heat-related infectious diseases, and the loss of homes, food, and clean drinking water. A powerful example of resilience in action can be seen in the work of Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, who addressed the UN climate summit and highlighted their investment of more than a half-billion dollars helping cities around the world build climate resilience.

Climate action, ecopsychology, and resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Last weekend we were on an airplane returning to Colorado and my son looked out the window excitedly pointing down at the windmill farm he could see below. It is extraordinary to witness the movement away from fossil fuels based energy and economic systems. When it comes to climate change, we appear to be at a critical tipping point on the planet, a time when we are finally seeing large-scale commitments to climate action among big business. One of the key concepts of we learn from resilience research is that in the face of a crisis a resilient community pulls together and finds its strength.

Insight into action

The giving tree

Our habitual behaviors tend to reflect our deeply held beliefs, family legacies, and old energetic influences. Our dreams, sensations, and emotions provide insights into our inheritances and such inner work helps us clear out that which no longer serves us. We cultivate the capacity to be more conscious about the choices we make in the world. When I completed my degree in somatic psychology at Naropa University, Christine Caldwell, developer of the program, asserted that psychotherapy naturally completes with an “Action Phase,” one that brings the insights from the therapy room back out into the world. In other words, healing does not occur from a shift in perception alone; we must also change how we act.

I have my childhood copy of Shel Silversteins’ The Giving Tree sitting on my bookshelf. I have always felt sad reading this book. The tree gives so much of herself; her leaves for shade, her apples to sell, her branches, her trunk. While the earth still has more to give, I know that my well-being is deeply connected to how I give back. In the face of climate change, I dream of strengthening the fabric of our world, helping people build sustainable communities, and developing a collective awareness of this precious one earth that we share. What world are you dreaming into being?

About Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Meet Dr. Arielle Schwartz


Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole. She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *