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Searles, H.F. (1972). Unconscious Processes in Relation to the Environmental Crisis. Psychoanal. Rev., 59(3):361-374.

(1972). Psychoanalytic Review, 59(3):361-374

Unconscious Processes in Relation to the Environmental Crisis

Harold F. Searles, M.D.

Even beyond the threat of nuclear warfare, I think, the ecological crisis is the greatest threat mankind collectively has ever faced. The stream of articles and books calling our attention to various aspects of this crisis comes from ecologists, population biologists, physicists, chemists, agriculturists, economists, architects, engineers, city planners, statesmen, historians, and, mainly, concerned laymen some of whom provide valuable insights into the psychological ingredients of the problem. But rarely, indeed, is a behavioral scientist heard from, and to the best of my knowledge very few psychiatric articles have appeared as yet concerning this subject, and but one contribution from a psychoanalyst, Peter A. Martin11 of Detroit, who touched upon it briefly and incidentally in a talk I heard him give in April 1969. (See Note.) This environmental crisis embraces, and with rapidly accelerating intensity threatens, our whole planet. If so staggering a problem is to be met, the efforts of scientists of all clearly relevant disciplines will surely be required. It seems to me that we psychoanalysts, with our interest in the unconscious processes which so powerfully influence man's behavior, should provide our fellow men with some enlightenment in this common struggle.

My hypothesis is that man is hampered in his meeting of this environmental crisis by a severe and pervasive apathy which is based largely upon feelings and attitudes of which he is unconscious. The lack of analytic literature about this subject suggests to me that we analysts are in the grip of this common apathy.

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