HEALING POWER—By Johanne Thingnes Leira
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
A first year art student at the Academy of Art & Design in Bergen, Johanne Thingnes Leira comes to the Art & Science Research Group with a background in nursing, having worked for the past three years in cancer treatment. Here she reflects on our recent seminar and discussion on Geoengineering.
One of our weekly themes for this course has been regarding Geoengineering, which can be described as large-scale interventions in the earth’s natural systems with the aim to fix the global climate crisis. In this text I will reflect on Naomi Klein’s thoughts on Geoengineering from her book “This changes everything”, where she is critical of the view of the planet needing to be fixed, and argues that instead, it is us that need fixing. Klein’s radical suggestion is that we have to do less. We need to expect lesser growth, exploit less of natural resources, and effectively expand less energy.
Klein argues that the focus on Geoengineering has got too narrow, because these solutions do nothing to change the underlying cause of climate change, but instead only threatens the most obvious symptom, that is warmer temperatures. An example is the theory of imitating the volcanic effect by spraying aerosols of sulphate particles into the stratosphere, leading to a short-term cooling effect by preventing the sun from heating the earth.
Still, the haze coming from this will prevent us from seeing the sky as a clear blue, and it will ironically reduce the capacity of solar power. Dimming the sun will also have a huge impact on the earth’s natural weather systems, risking a complete shutdown of the Asian monsoon.
As a nurse I have experienced how easy it is to make a patient take a pill, compared to helping a patient to change their habits. The truth is that if the patient does not feel motivated to self-care, we lose a lot of potentially healing mechanisms. A diabetic patient needs insulin, but the best outcome would be a change of diet, not having to rely on the insulin on its own. Maybe finding solutions outside of ourselves for fixing the climate crisis, seems more tempting than making personal changes? It seems that we want a pill, but not responsibility.
The last few years I have been working with cancer patients and seen how important it is to get rid of the primary tumor, hopefully before the cancer has spread to other organs. If we were to just treat the symptoms, it could seem like the patient is healthy for a while, but in the end, it will have deadly consequences. In most cases of cancer, we do not know why the patient has gotten sick. In the climate crisis we know the reason, and we know what needs to be done. From a medical perspective, knowing both the cause and having a treatment, is good news.
The last session in our course, we were discussing climate psychology. The psychologists that guested our meeting spoke about how the different defence mechanisms can work regarding the climate crisis. Some feel grief and a huge amount of shame. Other people simply feel numb, ending up with doing nothing. Not feeling anything about the climate crisis, can come from a place of defence. Facing the reality can be quite painful, in this case it can be easier to blame the politicians, the industries or the big companies, and we have every right to do so. Still, we are the ones buying the products, we are the ones choosing the politicians, and we are the ones that decide how we live our lives.
In the busy western lives many people are experiencing exhaustion, depression, fatigue, or stress related pain. If you find yourself in constant stress but are ignoring your own body’s signals to slow down, eventually it will slow down for you, but leaving you with a much less functional body. If we were to listen to Klein and do less, could it have positive effects on our own health as well as the climate? If we did less, maybe we would have more energy to emphasize with the global situation that is outside of ourselves. But can we expect to make changes without any kind of side effect? Do we think we can keep on like we always have, and still fix the climate crisis, hoping someone else someday will find a solution that frees us from having to act?
Objects by Johanne Thingnes Leira:
Fix, lemon, bandaid, 2020
Self-defence, smashed toy-car, potato, 2020
Reference: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein, Simon & Schuster, 2014
Read more about the Climate Psychology session: