Ecopsychology necessary to engage people’s commitment to the environment
Tremendous efforts have been done towards engaging the public – especially the youth – to practice environmentally friendly lifestyles and yet environmental problems still persist to this day: More lands are being bulldozed for development, waste dumping sites are becoming more critical, water is being wasted, haze issues persist despite clampdowns on open burnings.
What has become obvious is that the more knowledge and the higher awareness a person has about the environment is not a guarantee that it will be translated into action.
Research done by experts in ecopsychology find that human-related destruction on the environment is caused by the relationship gap between humans and nature. This gap rises due to the separation of the individual and their spiritual link to the environment as a result of a dualistic lifestyle practice.
The practice of dualism leads people to perceive that their actions are separate from the environment. This practice has also caused humans to feel absolute ownership over nature. Indirectly, their actions lead them to satisfy their own needs without thinking of other entities sharing this world.
The conventional environmental education model that focuses solely on knowledge is no longer relevant. It is crucial to find an alternative to increase the youth’s commitment towards environmental conservation, by injecting an understanding of what constitutes a healthy human-nature relationship.
Important elements in ecopsychology
The field of ecopsychology which combines ecology and psychology began in response to the tense relationship between human beings and their environment.
Ecopsychology stresses three important elements in the implementation of environmental education:
1) Restoring the relationship between humans and nature.
One example where ecopsychology attempts to restore the human-nature relationship dynamic is through transpersonal psyschology training which includes spiritual self-development where participants are encouraged to learn how to empathise with entities outside of themselves.
This component of environmental education focuses on inculcating the idea that human beings regard environment as family or as a significant part of their lives.
Through the ‘One day in a pond’ activity, participants are given directed imagination instruction to imagine the life of a fish in a pond. This exercise is for participants to feel a sense of empathy for something other than themselves.
Besides the directed imagination activity, direct experience or role-play activities among others can be applied but the use of transpersonal psychology is the most appropriate to trigger one’s emotions.
2) Awareness that the destruction of either means the destruction of both.
The second component is designed to impress the symbiotic relationship between humans and their environment, that if one entity is destroyed, both will be destroyed.
Again, the ‘One day in a pond’ exercise emphasises the impact on human beings if nature is destroyed. Apart from using transpersonal psychology training, direct experience could also be used in planning activities to achieve the aim of this component.
The participants should be given an opportunity to experience the impact of destructive human behaviour on the environment. By the end of the training, participants should perform an action alternative pledge to overcome the local issue at a personal level.
3) The inclusion of spiritual, soul and environment elements
The third component includes spiritual elements in the environmental education activity where youths should discard their dichotomous relationship with nature and instead become more aligned with it. An activity which encourages participants to communicate directly with the environment should give them a sense of responsibility to care and nurture their environment.
It is hoped that the ecopsychology method will increase youth’s commitment towards taking care of environment and taking up more environmentally-friendly lifestyles and practices.
Even though everybody has a different approach in ecopsychology, care for the environment should start from each individual. If each individual plays their role, a more nurturing environment for the next generation is ensured.
The Youth Green X-Change (YGXC) outreach programme was launched in April 2014. A Youth Seminar followed by an environmental-based photography, short film, essay and feature writing competition has been completed.