The Kernel: Doom is the hangover from having experienced the loss of vulnerability. As such, Doom is often an euphemism that points to an empty psychological reservoir of this loss. Consequentially, when we abandon ourselves from the abandonment of what we need (core needs), we also vacate the planet from what it needs. Only then can we see Climate Crisis is an allegory for we cannot give to the world when (and what) we haven’t given to ourselves.
The Details: In this blog, we will look at Doom as the next type of social inertia barrier to Climate Crisis. We will look at doom specifically as a way to manage a sense of an Eco-impotence behind it. We will also look at Psychological Doom from the framing of how our unmet Core Needs makes it difficult for us to connect with an unmet place within, a place that ironically contains the keys to solving Climate Crisis.
Doom is a stage where the legitimacy of Climate Crisis has survived the defenses of Close, Real, and Immediate (see the previous blog). Doom is commonly characterized as a sense of futility no matter what options are pursued. In this blog, we will look at the various conditions for doom and also the different ways doom are enacted.
There are two major paths to create a sustainable world: 1) Reduce carbon-based dependency, and 2) remove the carbon stockpile in the atmosphere (Sequestration). These pathways have led us to see how doom shows up as social inertia.
Reduction: The task behind this is simply breaking our energy dependency on fossil fuel that is embedded in the running of our daily lives. Aside from green sources like wind, geothermal, hydro dams et al, our current composition of energy dominated by fossil fuel makes it imperative we must lower our energy consumption. This is especially true when the mode of consumption contributes inordinately to climate destruction (read most driving and all flying).
Two paper suggests that we presuppose Climate Crisis as already doomed given there is no concrete antidote steps forward (Pike, 2010; Swim 2009). Swim (2009) suggests we easily reach for doom when there is uncertainty over what actions to take and/or which actions bring most impact. As a result, people get overwhelmed with either too many paths or when faced with not enough specificity or priority when approaching solutions (Pike, 2010). Barring any silver bullet pathways and because Climate Crisis has a lot at stake, we can experience such overwhelming tension that can lead us to feel a sense of doom. Since we cannot hold this tension in perpetuity, we eventually abandon Climate Crisis.
However, another paper pointed out we are not as doomed as we think (Gifford, 2014). It suggests our perception of control on Climate Crisis can be increased as follows:
- Benign Ignorance: Most average Americans don’t realize 1/2 of their carbon footprint can be reduced with simple fixes (e.g. washing with cold water).
- Awareness of Electric Charging Infrastructure: Transportation is one of the biggest sources of US greenhouse gases. Yet, most people are not aware of the nature of charging electric cars, nor the infrastructure already in place for that.
- Low Institutional Investment of Electric car battery: An injection of research investment into lowering the cost of a car battery can greatly push electric car usage into the mainstream.
Sequestration: Doom in this context is the sense of helplessness from the feeling one cannot change the outcome given the carbon that is already in the atmosphere. It is the sense that anything we do is too little, too late, especially when the carbon amount in the atmosphere has pushed us past a critical tipping point where the planet will heat itself without any human activity. This doom naturally follows when the science points to a lack of enough carbon capture facilities. One paper points to this inadequacy with the grim data we only have 18 in 2018 when we would need at least 200 of these facilities by 2025 to hit zero emissions (Gifford, 2014).
As of this time I am writing this blog, the Arctic has just lost enough ice that our latest Climate Crisis model predicted wasn’t supposed to happen until 2070 (Snowden, 2019). And that this prediction is from using a worst-case scenario calculation for Climate Crisis.
Doom is an absolutely legitimate and understandable response given the grim nature behind the news. However, later in this blog, I will address that we experience doom psychologically as if its a doom from facts, a confusion that often causes the latter to worsen. Inaction or psychological paralysis to Climate Crisis, especially when our internal psychological state cannot shield itself against the growing Climate Crisis, will simply amount to collapse on all levels. As a result, I would like to think we can build resiliency to doom so as to inoculate ourselves to secure a robust psychological place to take on the needed task of a) mitigating any further Climate Crisis effects, and b) managing our adaptation to climate change worse effects.
(W)e can build resiliency to doom so as to inoculate ourselves to secure a robust psychological place to take on the needed task
Field Effect: A field is simply a setting in which a person interacts to get their social, capital, and cultural needs met. Fields can be hierarchical containing different power concentrations and class differentiation. Fields also influence each other. Because of this influence, the individual can easily get demotivated when there is no coordination or decisiveness between individual, cultural, and institutional fields (Brulle & Norgaard, 2019). This demotivation can easily delegitimize Climate Crisis, causing an individual to go into doom (one paper calls this a Drop In The Bucket syndrome [Ross et al, 2016]). Similarly, another paper suggests when leaders are not acting on Climate Crisis, it indicates to the public this is not serious or urgent, or solutions are not available (Pike, 2010). However, because field influence is bi-directional, the upside is the public can influence higher fields such as the institutional field. This then affects governmental actors and policies through voting, protesting, advancing balloting issues. However, this bi-directionality of influence may not carry the same power as the other direction, such as the general public encountering entrenched power and inertia as they try to buck against the institutional field.
Psychological Doom: One internal sense of doom is a cornered feeling from knowing that any meaningful actions to Climate Crisis would require a major disruption to the status quo. This disruption is especially true for personal world-views, rules, and patterns (self- states). This threat to self-states comes from enacting disruptive actions that expose the person to the risk of a loss of reputation, ridicule, or inequity from being an early responder to Climate Crisis (Swim, 2009). This is because the current habitus is inadequate to take on low or zero-carbon practices (Brulle & Norgaard, 2019). As a result of this disruption to self-states, people opt for low cost, low disruptions over costlier and more disruptive options (Low-Cost Hypothesis [Swim, 2009]). This explains why a person in the face of doom turns to Avoidance (tragically feeding into more perception ignorance mentioned above), Ritualism (continuing with old patterns and ignoring its implications in the new context), and/or even Comforting Rationalizations (adopting distortions to explain the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and threat) (Brulle & Norgaard, 2019).
In looking at this inner world phenomena, I am reminded of a saying from Brene Brown, a popular vulnerability researcher: “(W)e make everything uncertain certain” (Brown, 2011). This saying points to how we grab onto what we know best even if this act often causes more problems than to solve them. That is why Populism, a current global trend of governance based on the unfettered whims and wants of a Nation, is very appealing in times of uncertainty. It gives legitimacy to the current habits and norms from which we can maintain a sense of self, especially when Climate Crisis is threatening these status quo ways (and thus individual self-state) (Brulle et al, 2019).
An aggravated version of populism is when populism provides a roaring outlet to a deeply pent up tension from an inability to reconcile harder issues with the current cultural and ideological hegemony. As a result, a populist nation buries itself in its current lifestyle to delegitimize those threats. This perhaps explains why the populist President of Brazil is getting away with the Amazon suffering an 87% increase in slash-and-burn deforestation for meat raising purposes than in the previous year from which the ousted presidential era belonged (Jordan & Clarke, 2019).
Sure, the Amazon is the lungs of the planet as it produces 20% of the oxygen as a popular social media factoid (though disputed [Georgiou, 2019]). However, we can also be incensed at this while being psychologically hamstrung at the same time. This comes from not challenging our allegiance to meat consumption, as well as the attendant Climate Crisis effects (Rowland, 2019), when and while that allegiance provides us the psychological balm to soothe us from Climate Crisis uncertainties. There is one simple evidence that points to this two-track place that doesn’t seek to merge: the general public hasn’t shown a widespread interest for a revolutionary conversion from meat to plant-based protein to solve this crisis.
(W)e make everything uncertain certain~Brene Brown
I see doom as a psychological state that reflects a loss of tolerance for vulnerability. I think we often experience psychological doom (before settling on facts) because the price of Modernity is this loss of resilience that precludes vulnerability as a common fixture in our emotional landscape. As a result of this loss, when encountering new moments for vulnerability (read Climate Crisis), we chase out vulnerability for being disruptive and for the perception of being unhealthy. Brene offers a powerful interpretation: Vulnerability is at the core of Fear, Anxiety, Shame, and other difficult emotions (Brown, 2010). She adds we often beat vulnerability to the punch by foreboding joy. We cope by adopting disappointment as a lifestyle. Simply said, she adds, we rather live disappointed than to feel disappointed (Brown, 2010). We lower the bar around us to avoid upholding our surroundings to standards that would otherwise be too disruptive to our self-state.
We rather live disappointed than to feel disappointed~ Brene Brown
I see doom as pointing to this “rather living disappointed than to feel disappointed” place. Doom can act as a psychological outlet so we can avoid the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability.
Incidentally, her research also shows the following coping mechanisms to manage the loss of tolerance for vulnerability (Brown, 2010):
- Low-Grade Disconnection as vulnerability avoidance
- Extremism. She defines extremism as faith minus vulnerability
- Numbing. We are a society in distress with high rates of prescription dependence, obesity, alcoholism, in debt, and busy-ness (so that the truth of our lives can’t catch up). We often numb any openness to threats.
Analogously, Doom carries with it a Low Grade Disconnection (necessary when we cannot sit with uncomfortable feelings), Extremism (necessary when we don’t have a radical but deeply supporting purpose and meaning of life, but instead one that resorts to rituals of norms and habits against the full knowledge of its true harm), and Numbing (self protection as a low level defense against threats).
Brene offers the simple act honoring the ordinary things as a way to discover gratitude as an antidote to beat back the images and messages of scarcity. She says when we don’t fill up our reservoir with Joy and Love, we will miss out on filling up with what we need when bad things happen. For when we numb ourselves from threats, we also numb ourselves from the Joy and Love that also contain those very things we would need when bad news arrives (Brown, 2010).
(W)hen we don’t fill up our reservoir with Joy and Love, we will miss out with filling up with what we need when bad things happen~ Brene Brown
As such and in this way, Brene is perhaps saying, under Climate Crisis threats, Doom is the hangover from having experienced the loss of vulnerability, with Doom as a euphemism to this empty psychological reservoir we often fail to recognize.
And as a result, when we abandon ourselves from the abandonment of what we need, we also abandon the planet from what it needs. Only then can we see Climate Crisis is an allegory for we cannot give to the planet when (and what) we haven’t given to ourselves.
Climate Crisis is an allegory for we cannot give to the planet when (and what) we haven’t given to ourselves.
One Tiny Drop recognizes this connection as a powerful insight into moving us from doom to empowerment, using the transformation of the inner states to transform the planet.
In Summary: Doom is the hangover from having experienced the loss of vulnerability, with Doom as a euphemism that points to an empty psychological reservoir containing this loss. And as a result, when we abandon ourselves from the abandonment of what we need, we also abandon the planet from what it needs. Only then can we see Climate Crisis is an allegory for we cannot give to the planet when (and what) we haven’t given to ourselves.
 to counter the paralyzing effect of doom, an immobilization that ironically makes us feel more doom
) Habitus is ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions. It is the way that individuals perceive the social world around them and react to it.
 This points to the Core Needs blog where inaction is simply averting social and institutional trauma (but in reality, it is delaying trauma as Climate Crisis wields its wrath of a stronger punch built up as a result of this aversion)
 Scarcity drives the loss of vulnerability through messages we are not safe enough, good enough, and that ordinary life is synonymous with a meaningless life (Brown, 2010).
Ross, L. et al (2016). The Climate Change Challenge and Barriers to the Exercise of Foresight Intelligence. BioScience 66: 363-370. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw025
Gifford, P. (2014). Environmental Psychology Matters. Annual Review of Psychology 2014. 65: 541-79. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115048
Stoknes, E. (2018). The Five Psychological Barriers to Climate Action. Retrieved from https://www.utne.com/environment/psychological-barriers-to-climate-action-e0z1803zhee
Markman, A. (2018). Why People Aren’t Motivated to Address Climate Change. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/why-people-arent-motivated-to-address-climate-change
Swim, J. (2009). Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/science/about/publications/climate-change
Pike, C. et al (2010). Climate Communications and Behavior Change: A Guide for Practitioners. The Climate Leadership Initiative (2010)
Snowden, S (2019, August 16). Greenland’s Massive Ice Melt Wasn’t Supposed To Happen Until 2070. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottsnowden/2019/08/16/greenlands-massive-ice-melt-wasnt-supposed-to-happen-until-2070/#7b34eb048945
Brulle, R. & Norgaard, K. (2019). Avoiding Cultural Trauma: climate change and social inertia. Environmental Politics, 28:5, 886-908. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2018.1562138
Jordan, L. & Clarke, J.S. (2019, August 21). #PrayforAmazonia: why Brazil’s forest fires turned Sao Paulo’s skies black. Retrieved from https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2019/08/21/amazon-rainforest-wildfires-brazil/
Georgiou, A. (2019, ). How Much Oxygen Does The Amazon Rain Forest Provide? Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/how-much-oxygen-amazon-rain-forest-1456274
Rowland, M. (2019, August 23). You And Meat Can Save The Planet. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpellmanrowland/2019/08/23/you-and-meat-can-save-the-planet/#65e1d3fd4c6d
Brown, B. (2010, October 12). The Price of Invulnerability: Brené Brown at TEDxKC. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_UoMXF73j0c
Brown, B. (2011, January 3). The Power of Vulnerability. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o