Climate change: how mindset is at the root of both problem and solution

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On January 10th 2021, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and climate activist Greta Thunberg, together with scientists Susan Natali and William Moomaw, met online for a conversation on climate change (video available below). They discussed the urgency of the ongoing climate crisis and the need to take action. A special focus was dedicated to feedback loops. These indicate that when we go beyond certain critical levels, the devastating effects are reinforced and accelerated in a vicious circle. We cannot foresee where the feedback loops are going to take us – and the effects might be irreversible.

His Holiness is known to have said that what surprises him most about humanity is man, since “he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived”. I ignore the date of the quote, but it remains as accurate today as it ever was.

Excess is the common denominator of all crises

This brings to mind another quote from environmental activist and former Minister for the Ecological Transition in the French government, Nicolas Hulot. The quote is published in journalist Nelly Pons’ book “Choisir de ralentir – Je passe à l’acte= “Choose to slow down – I take action” (my translation) from 2017. It says:

L’excès est le plus petit dénominateur commun aux crises que traverse l’humanité. = “Excess is the smallest common denominator of all crises that humanity goes through” (my translation).

It’s no coincidence that excess generates crises. History of mankind is full of examples, and the most serious crisis might still lay ahead of us. After all, as His Holiness pointed out during the conversation, we only have one home: the Earth.

At the end of the conversation, Greta Thunberg transmitted a very clear call to action to viewers: Educate yourself! She pointed out that awareness is key. My intention for this article, therefore, is to help raise awareness about the underlying causes of the excess that generates crises.

Mindset of lack versus mindset of abundance

With my academic background in psychology and Lacanian psychoanalysis, I understand the psychological nature of this phenomenon. Excess is the manifestation in the physical reality; the “symptom” if you will. However, in order to go to the root of the manifestation/ symptom/ problem so that we can eradicate it, we need to understand that excess actually is a compensatory mechanism. A compensatory mechanism for what? For a sense of lack experienced within.

In my upcoming book, I examine the mindset of lack versus the mindset of abundance in detail. As I discovered during the writing process, the mindset of lack is currently the default setting for most humans.

In order to compensate for the lack we experience within, we look without for ways to counteract this with (apparent) abundance. But we miss one central piece. As long as we experience lack within, we cannot experience true abundance in the outer world. Remember, the world is a mirror of our inner state: As within, so without.

Spiritual leaders have always known this, but the general public still seems reluctant to integrate this profound truth. This reluctance is being fueled by the agendas of those who benefit from our ignorance. We are being distracted by multiple stimuli including social media and ever-renewing technological devices. And there’s this omnipresent imperative to buy, buy, buy – consume, consume, consume.

Consumption is great for the economy, but guess what? The economy is largely based on short-term gains, emphasizing instant gratification rather than deferred gratification. Economic stimuli can therefore easily fuel the illusion of abundance and the reality of lack even further. There needs to be a balance between economic and ecological concerns because once again, the reality is this: There is only one Earth.

A holistic approach to addressing a particularly complex challenge

The online conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Greta Thunberg, and the two scientists, demonstrated the virtues of taking on a holistic approach to address a particularly complex challenge of today’s world. The holistic approach consisted of spirituality, social action, and science working together for a common goal. I’d like to add psychology to that, for the simple reason that psychology is all about the mind. In order to bring about change, the best place to start is the mind.

This is so because untrained minds resist change and cling to what is familiar, even if it’s dysfunctional. This is known as “comfort zone”. Paradoxically, a “comfort zone” is oftentimes anything but comfortable! Humanity has collectively been so resistant to changing its ways that the climate has had to change instead. In the end, the Earth will be fine – but will humanity? We are the ones who depend upon certain conditions to be able to live and thrive on this planet. It’s up to us to change.

Here’s the thing. On a both symbolic and literal level, the mind corresponds to the glasses through which we see the world. Untrained minds – minds that are operating by default – typically see the world through the lenses of lack. Knowing this, we understand that it doesn’t matter how much quantity there is “out there” of any given item, objectively speaking. If looked at through the lenses of lack, it will never be enough.

In addition, the mind is a magnifying glass. This means that whatever we instruct our mind to focus upon, increases. When we focus on lack, lack increases. When we focus on abundance, abundance increases. A trained mind, therefore, is an amazing tool! Imagine the possibilities we have to transform our reality by focusing upon the abundance we ALREADY have, and cultivating gratitude for that. I develop the link between focus and gratitude in this article.


Change focus!

So what can we do on an individual level to help slow down climate change? Greta Thunberg urges us to educate ourselves. It seems clear to me that this includes education on how the mind works. We can improve our relationship with the environment significantly by means of training the mind.

In life, there are things we can control and things we cannot control. Our focus is entirely within our control. As long as we are awake, we get to choose what we give our attention to.

Climate change can feel overwhelming because it’s such a vast topic, and it’s so urgent to take action. Where to start?

I suggest we start with a surprisingly simple exercise: changing focus! This solution might not give visible results right away, but over time it will create a shift in Consciousness. That will indeed create ripple effects – especially as critical mass is reached.

Let’s stay alert throughout the day. Each time we catch ourselves thinking a thought of lack, or focusing upon what we don’t have rather than what we do have, let’s correct ourselves. Let’s shift the focus of our attention to what we do have, and that we might be taking for granted. When we are happy and grateful for what we already have, we are at peace; we are in balance. We no longer feel the urge to look outside of ourselves to find something to cover up for the void inside. Simply put: it can’t be done.

The state of affairs in the environment is more than anything else a reflection of how humanity is doing. We are all responsible for our own well-being. Joy, peace, and sustainability all come from within. As within, so without. 

About the author

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Susanna is a Highly Sensitive Writer, Energy Worker, and Psychologist on a mission to help raise Human Consciousness. She offers 1:1 sessions as a certified Emotion Code, Body Code, and Belief Code Practitioner.