Personal resilience

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Fully taking on board the implications of climate change can be so challenging to established assumptions and worldviews that it is experienced as a threat to personal integrity or even survival.1 This is true both of its direct consequences and the extent of the social and economic changes that successful adaptation to climate change in a carbon-constrained world will entail.2 From development of practical tools for addressing this, a sophisticated applied psychology of climate change has emerged among groups taking permaculture-based action on climate change.

Permaculture's holistic perspective and orientation towards solutions are equally useful for personal and group work as they are for practical action.3 Viewing the self in ecological perspective implies attention to relationships, both interpersonal and with the material world.4 Numerous tools for personal and group development exist; permaculture provides an integrated framework within which to select and apply these in the most effective way for any particular situation.5

This has been best developed in the Transition movement, whose strong focus on climate change makes the need for attention to personal resilience impossible to ignore.6 Inner Transition addresses the need to cope with environmental and social challenges that are now unavoidable, and the potential for personal empowerment that comes from taking responsibility for addressing these.7 Making climate change a mythic context for understanding the human place in the world provides a source of hope.8 Taking action to adapt in ways that have positive environmental and social consequences makes this hope meaningful and productive.9 With no fixed set of methods in place, individuals employ many different specific philosophies and practices. Joanna Macy's 'Work that Reconnects' aims to heal the sense of separation from the natural world, the Earth, and from each other, acknowledging and expressing the pain of climate change and other forms of environmental damage and transforming them into motivation for positive action.10 Many people active in Transition and permaculture are also involved in Quakerism, whose concept of 'Right Relationship' underpins sophisticated philosophical analysis of the meaning and necessity for constructive responses to climate change.11

Data on the personal resilience of people actively involved in Transition reveal a complex picture: some come to the movement seeking a source of personal resilience, others because their prior resilience gives them strength to act.12 Research on founding members of Transition and other grassroots groups taking action on climate change shows how their work creates what are termed salutogenic environments: settings that allow people to react to current issues in ways that promote their emotional health by making sense of them, supporting constructive and achievable action, and finding shared meaning in this work.13 In this way, climate change becomes less a threat to humanity, but an invitation to global society to step up to a new level of maturity and collective responsibility.