a11 – Book review – Environmental melancholia

Psychoanalytic Demensions of Engagement

by Renee Lertzmen 

Review by Hayley

For those of us working hard to protect the environment, it is easy to become frustrated at the people who aren’t engaged. Don’t they realize what’s at stake? Why don’t they care more? In her book, Environmental Melancholia, environmental psychologist Renee Lertzman argues that many of these people do care, but their ability to act has been stifled by a deep, inchoate sense of loss and mourning. These people have become psychologically frozen when it comes to environmental action, and Lertzman argues that this frozenness is a completely natural human psychological phenomenon. As activists, it is important for us to see it as such, and avoid moralizing and judging people for it. If we are to help these people unlock their creative potential for action and become environmentally engaged, we have to get better at acknowledging the unconscious processes that prevent people from engaging—denial, projection, splitting, disavowal, and apathy. Only by helping these individuals name their loss and make public sense of their personal experiences of environmental degradation can we create a resilient environmental movement that harnesses the deep level of care that is already felt by a lot more people than we realize.