After taking LSD, Bill stood in his kitchen in Merseyside, England, staring at a large tree. When the tree started to speak to him, Bill only found it strange that the tree didn’t formally introduce itself, he told VICE in 2017.
During the rest of their 15 minute chat, the tree clued Bill into the profound fact that all life on earth—plant, animal, and human—was intimately connected. “It was as if someone was inside my head judging my feelings, my thoughts, and my emotions,” Bill said. “It was also a two-way street, though: I could feel how old he was—he’s obviously been through a lot with the way the earth is and how the town I live in was built up around him.”
Anyone who has tripped—especially outdoors—knows that psychedelics, like LSD, mushrooms, DMT, or mescaline, can provoke sensations of awe and wonder at the natural world. This has been replicated in more formal settings too—in January 2018, scientists from Imperial College London found that psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, led to a significant increase in feelings of connection to nature after just one dose. Seven to 12 months later, that increase persisted.
“Before I enjoyed nature, now I feel part of it. Before I was looking at it as a thing, like TV or a painting…” one person in the study said. “[But now I see] there’s no separation or distinction, you are it.”
Psychedelics have been shown to help with addiction, anxiety, and depression. But outside the scope of mental illness, researchers are also asking how they can change personality traits and beliefs. An increase in nature-relatedness has been shown to be a unique predictor of happiness. But it is also associated with the planet’s well-being: There’s a demonstrated link between having a relationship to nature and pro-environmental behavior.
A psychedelically-imposed connection with nature could do more than make for a Alice-in-Wonderland-esque story later. In the face of an impending climate crisis, there’s a need to know why some people are motivated to act environmentally and others not.
The United Nations recently said that there are only 11 years left to prevent “irreversible damage” from a warming Earth. And yet a Pew Research survey from 2017 found that while three-quarters of Americans were concerned about personally helping the environment, only one in five actually make an effort in their daily lives. Meanwhile, the 100 companies responsible for 71 percent of global emissions take no decisive action to curb their impact, nor do governments hold them accountable.
In the face of an impending climate crisis, there’s a need to know why some people are motivated to act environmentally and others not.
Researchers find that bombarding people with facts about climate isn’t the best tactic. Dissecting the psychedelic experience could help policy makers, scientists, and journalists attempt to recreate the core feeling of relatedness that the drugs bring about: the sense that nature is a part of us, our bodies, our lives, and that we are a part of it. Capturing that might lead people to act to protect the planet, since the planet is an extension of themselves.
Ecologist Aldo Leopold wrote back in 1949, that “we abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Since then, many other ecologists and social psychologists have proposed that a disconnection from nature is partly to blame for our inertia in responding to the climate crisis.
“The ecological devastation we are experiencing now is a side effect of a nature disconnection,” said Sam Gandy, an ecologist and scientific assistant at the Beckley Foundation, a psychedelic research group in the U.K. “Reconnecting us to nature is something I see as one of the most important things we can be working towards right now as a species.”
Of all the factors that predict for pro-environmental behavior, nature-relatedness and connectedness are the most important, Gandy said. And people who use psychedelics not only report more connectedness, but are also more concerned about the environment than those who use other types of drugs.
We’ve seen this before: In the 1960s and 1970s, frequent use of psychedelic drugs coincided with widespread environmental movements. Some propose that it’s not a coincidence that these things came about together. But proving that the drugs cause environmentalism is a tough claim to make, since perhaps the type of people who take psychedelics also happen to care about the environment.
Psychedelics promote pro-environmental activity via a much-discussed phenomenon in the drug research world called ego dissolution.
“This is a fundamental component of where the ego is thought to reside, your sense of self,” Gandy said. “When that’s relaxed, it essentially dissolves your sense of self as being something separate from the universe. So perceived boundaries between self and other break down and result in a self-nature overlap.”
Once a person starts to humanize nature, or anthropomorphize it, they may start to feel empathy. “If I feel close to nature or feel one with nature, I start to ascribe human-like attributes to nature,” Forstmann said. “Like the capacity to feel pain or to be sad. If I feel that nature is suffering, then maybe I want to treat it better.”
Forstmann is now working on a placebo-controlled trial that will look at the effect on nature-relatedness and ego dissolution from psychedelics. This stricter study design could help rule out some other confounding factors, one being that people often trip in nature, making it difficult to differentiate the impact of the outdoors on the drug experience.
Still, taking a psychedelic and dwelling on previously held ideas could simply reinforce them. To turn someone environmentally unmotivated into an activist, they should be introduced to the concepts of nature-relatedness and the importance of climate action during the trip, Dolen said. If that’s done during a re-opened window of plasticity, then those effects can last well beyond the duration of the drugs’.
“Then, you could teach them that new relationship to the earth,” she said.
To turn someone who is environmentally unmotivated into an activist, they should trip while being introduced to the importance of climate action.
So should we give everyone psychedelics in the woods in order to save the planet? In a GQ interview, Michael Pollan, the author of the recent exploration of the life-changing nature of psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind, acknowledged that psychedelic experiences could possibly address the “environmental crisis, born of our sense of distance from nature: our willingness to objectify nature and see it merely as a resource.”
But he followed up with a dose of reality: “Then you need to stand back and say, ‘Wait, is it possible to prescribe a drug for an entire country?’”
Psychedelics are still illegal, and not suitable for everyone—some people with a family history of psychosis could be at risk with these compounds. But figuring out how to promote, as Aldo Leopold called it, a sense of “we-ness” without the drugs could help protect the planet from future harm.
End excerpt. Full Vice article here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/j5w49p/if-everyone-tripped-on-psychedelics-wed-do-more-about-climate-change?utm_source=stylizedembed_vice.com&utm_campaign=j5w374&site=vice
Here are Climate Depot’s small sampling of wacky mental health climate articles below.
Warmist Meteorologist: ‘Climate Change’ and Trump Have Driven Me to Therapy –Meteorologist Eric Holthaus: ‘I know many people feel deep despair about climate, especially post-election.” And it’s because of this, “There are days where I literally can’t work,” and “We don’t deserve this planet.’
Aussie Study: ‘Climate Change’ Is Taking ‘A Toll On Farmers’ Mental Health’ (Based on survey of 22 farmers in one town)– “Increasingly variable weather was having a negative impact on many farmers’ wellbeing.”