Climate Calamity: Spiritual and Psychological Implications

February 17th, 2016Sensei Kritee (Kanko), Ph.D.Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund and Zen Teacher, Boundless in MotionRev. Pete Sawtell, M.Div.Executive Director, Eco-Justice MinistriesBenjamin White, M.S.W.PsychotherapistHost: Stan Adamson, Retired Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. minister

About The Presentation

Scientists have been clear for over a decade that, unless we change our course, we are on the verge of watching catastrophic climate change unfold in our lifetimes.  Their state of knowledge of Earth as a system hasn’t yet transformed our lifestyles. Most revered of faith leaders from different traditions have been publicly and loudly conveying that climate crisis is a unique moral and spiritual crisis. Even those of us who appreciate the urgency of climate crisis and see it’s connection with our spiritual lives, however, often cannot make lifestyle changes, engage in advocacy or feel anything but paralyzing emotions over the seeming inevitability of climate change. What is the source of our paralyzing emotions? Why is it so hard for us in 21st century with its astonishing technological potential to “collectively” meet the greatest challenge of our times? Could it be possible that we need to first become a “collective” before we meet challenges of our times? Please join us in hearing about psycho-therapeutic and spiritual practices that might empower all of us to make necessary adjustments in our behavior and commitments to address the challenge of climate change.

About the Presenters

Sensei Kritee (Kanko), Ph.D., started koan training with Roshi Kurt Spellmeyer 12 years ago, is a Zen teacher (Sensei) in the Rinzai-Obaku lineage of Cold Mountain Zen. She works as a senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), where she is primarily involved with examining the effectiveness of environment-friendly methods of farming with a three-fold goal of poverty alleviation, food security and climate mitigation and adaptation. She is trained as an engineer at Indian Institute of Technology (New Delhi) and as a biogeochemist at Rutgers and Princeton Universities. She speaks regularly about basics of climate science and psychological impacts of environmental change with lay audience. She lives in Boulder with her husband, Imtiaz Rangwala who is a climate researcher. More information about her Zen meditation group and work on climate change can be found on the website:

Rev. Peter Sawtell, M.Div. established Eco-Justice Ministries 15 years ago, to help Christian churches deal pastorally and effectively with climate change and other eco-justice issues. An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, Peter has stressed the need for Christian churches to dig deeply into their faith and ethics in this time of deepening ecological crisis. Those theological and spiritual perspectives offer important alternatives to the dominant culture’s materialist, human-centered worldview. Sawtell has been a keynote speaker and workshop leader at ecumenical and denominational conferences across the United States. He is widely known for his weekly email commentary, Eco-Justice Notes, which addresses current issues of environmental justice from the perspective of Christian theology and pastoral ministry. His agency’s website stresses the importance of transformational ministries:

Benjamin White, M.S.W. is psychotherapist in practice in Boulder and Lafayette, CO where he specializes relational psychodynamic treatment. He facilitates study groups and therapeutic groups for individuals engaged in climate change work. He has presented internationally on the role of various forms of trauma in climate change, both as a factor in it’s cause and our response. His paper “States of Emergency: trauma and climate change” is currently under review for the journal Ecopsychology, and he has authored several other papers on the subject, reminding us of the important contribution that modern clinical theory can make to addressing climate change. “What I see in my consulting room is the same thing I see in our relationship to climate change on a grand scale. What interferes in my clients adaptive functioning is the same thing that interferes with our collective ability to effectively respond to climate change; It’s made of the same stuff .” More information about Benjamin’s psychotherapy practice as well as his work on climate change can be found on his websites and

Additional Resources

Presenter’s Power Point Slides:

Here’s a link to the sign-up for daily emails from the New England Regional Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast Stan Adamson mentioned in his remarks:

More resources:

“Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy”, related to the excellent book by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

The climate psychology alliance is doing some important work within the psychological community, especially within the UK:

A beautiful technical resource that helps dispel myths propagated by climate deniers:,  answers all possible climate related misinformation at three levels: lay (beginner), medium level and absolutely nerdy technical level.

Mindfulness & Climate Action is a simple background paper on climate science and policy. This background paper has many resources listed on the last page, they are not related to any one faith but are general resources.

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