Threats facing the Great Lakes and all of our water resources are formidable and supremely challenging. For many organizations working to protect and restore these resources, issues of public apathy and political will remain significant. Why aren’t communities doing more to take care of these beloved, cherished resources? How can we communicate and engage more effectively? What will it take to galvanize political action and regulations, when we all benefit from healthy and thriving ecosystems?
Between 2007-2009, I explored these questions in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Using psychosocial research methods, I conducted in-depth interviews with people in the region. I developed an interview method, Dialogic Relational Interviewing, using free association and the use of unstructured interviews, along with visual prompts. The stories, accounts and insights gathered during this time led to this book, Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement.
“Environmental melancholia,” put most simply, describes a pervasive state many residents in industrialized regions experience when it comes to our predicaments. It is not a lack of care or concern that is the problem. It is the way we can feel overwhelmed and conflicted. Melancholia is a clinical term used to describe mourning that has not been “fully processed” — that is, remains unspoken and internalized. It is what happens with ambiguous loss, where the exact sources and nature of the loss are not always clear, and may bring up conflicts. For example, many people expressed longing, nostalgia and wistfulness about the days when the water was cleaner, fresher, and more accessible. However, a sense of resignation – “what can I do about it?” – would often be present, and they’d often mention all of the benefits from industry that has served the region.
This book, written for a primarily academic research audience, presents an account of how we can more effectively engage communities and individuals, by acknowledging and recognizing the profound dilemmas and complexities of acting on behalf of our resources, while still wishing to remain loyal to industry and ‘progress.’ By listening more deeply and focusing on invitation, versus persuasion and fear-based appeals, we can build deeper coalitions and collaborations that cross political and ideological boundaries. You can access the book as an eBook or paperback on amazon. Read a sample chapter.
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