Letter from the President - Natural Disasters

Posted by Guest on Sep 10, 2021 11:53:52 AM

Dear Pacifica Community,

For the past several weeks we have witnessed with growing alarm and deep sadness the impact of another major hurricane (Ida) with its ancillary storms, tornadoes, and flooding in a large swath from New Orleans through the Mid-Atlantic States, into the Northeast with tremendous damage and loss of life. Pacifica has staff, faculty, students, and alumni who the storms have, in some cases, severely affected. We are most grateful to our Alumni Association for offering psychological assistance and support through its Care Line. The Care Line is open 24/7 and can be reached by phone at 805-679-6163 or by email: AlumniRelations@pacifica.edu. But even with this compassionate offering, communications have been rendered much more difficult by the storms with power outages.

At the same time, we in the west, especially in northern California and Oregon, have experienced severe droughts, followed by horrendous fires. There is a collective, felt sense of being out of balance in/with nature. Though natural disasters recur on a regular basis, the frequency and intensity of these events in the 21st century seem to be escalating well beyond the “normal” of previous years.

Stepping back from the powerful feelings of distress engendered by the images of devastation from these events, we are brought back to again consider questions of climate change and more generally employing a systemic approach to our depth psychological reflections. It is now quite difficult to avoid recognizing the complex, cumulative effect of a number of seemingly disparate phenomena: global warming, pandemics, social injustice, and persistent racism. One of the features of systemic issues is their nonlinearity – that is, small changes in condition tend to be amplified into much larger events. For example, raising the global temperature by one degree might seem like a mild warming in the short term, but cumulatively such rises can create escalating environmental problems with enormous negative consequences to humanity. Unfortunately, our “common sense” operates linearly, i.e., in equal proportion, and from that view a small temperature increase is not a harbinger of a greater environmental problems, just a mild discomfort. We can no longer afford the "luxury" of such approaches.

We have learned over the past 30 years that a depth approach requires a systemic, non-linear perspective. We must learn to face our fears and assess them. Driving non-linearity back into the unconscious tends to create insoluble problems, whether for the individual or the society. Let us consciously face our most pressing challenges and concerns, to learn how to live in a world that is in fact more complex than we have traditionally allowed into consciousness. Let us optimize and be accountable for our co-creative participation with one another and the planet, not living simply as objectifying observers.

In Communitas,

Joseph Cambray
Pacifica Graduate Institute