Ecopsychology had been described as a project made up of four tasks:
- the psychological task — “to acknowledge and better understand the human-nature relationship as a relationship”
- the philosophical task — “to place psyche (soul) back into the natural world;”
- the practical task — “to develop therapeutic and recollective practices toward an ecological society,”
- the critical task — “to engage in ecospychologically-based criticism,” i.e., to challenge the widespread and pervasive anthropocentrism in modern western society.”
Ecopsychology studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. The field seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world, thereby assisting individuals with developing sustainable lifestyles and remedying alienation from nature. Theodore Roszak is credited with coining the term in his 1992 book, The Voice of the Earth. He later expanded the idea in the 1995 anthology Ecopsychology with co-editors Mary Gomes and Allen Kanner.
This subfield extends beyond the traditional built environment of psychology in order to examine why people continue environmentally damaging behaviour, and to develop methods of positive motivation for adopting sustainable practices. Evidence suggests that many environmentally damaging behaviours are addictive at some level, and thus are more effectively addressed through positive emotional fulfillment rather than by inflicting shame. Other names used to refer to ecopsychology include, Gaia psychology, psychoecology, ecotherapy, environmental psychology, green psychology, global therapy, green therapy, Earth-centered therapy, reearthing, nature-based psychotherapy, shamanic counselling, ecosophy and sylvan therapy.
The main premise of ecopsychology is that while today the human mind is shaped by the modern social world, it is adapted to the natural environment in which it evolved.According to the biophilia hypothesis of biologist E.O. Wilson, human beings have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature, particularly the aspects of nature that recall what evolutionary psychologists have termed the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, the natural conditions that the human species evolved to inhabit.
There is an active network of ecopsychology practitioners in the UK–see http://www.ecopsychology.org.uk/
and an international site with links to ecopsychology resources, training, practitioners etc around the world – see http://www.ecopsychology.org/
The Perceptual Implications of Gaia an essay by David Abram on his ‘Wild Ethics’ website