Spencer Tunick photographing the Dead Sea.

A Psychological View on the Disappearance of Nature and Global Health

Ecology studies the interaction between living beings and their environment. The primary focus of ecology is on humans and their effect on their environment, and in turn, the effect that the environment has on human society. In the past decade, the environmental movement has succeeded in turning the health of the planet into a societal issue. To further understand humans and global health, ecopsychology has emerged as an interdisciplinary field. Ecopsychology focuses on the connection between ecology and psychology and therefore the emotional bond humans have with the planet. This emerging field assumes that ecology needs psychology and that humans are directly connected to nature-through spirit and soul. There have been many different approaches to addressing climate change; ecopsychology places human existence in a universal perspective that cannot be ignored. The interconnectedness of human life and all life is undeniable and is necessary to understand for universal, environmental change. The disappearance of the Dead Sea is a current example of the dramatic results that human disturbances have caused ecologically and in turn, affected society.

The Disappearance of the Dead Sea

A Depiction of the salt in the Dead Sea
Salt crystals and a beautiful turquoise color are two prominent features of the Dead Sea. Credit:https://d1v9pyzt136u2g.cloudfront.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/04123852/f90salt.jpg

The Dead Sea is a historic, iconic salt lake, bordered by Israel and Jordan, known for having the lowest elevation and the lowest body of water on the surface of Earth. The lake sits more than 400 meters below sea level. The Jordan River flows into the sea from small nearby springs, but nothing flows out. The stationary water within the desert has accumulated minerals and a  high concentration of sea salt. The buildup of salt makes it around ten times saltier than the oceans. While inhabitable by any living creature, its waters are treasured as one of the natural wonders of the world, known for the healing minerals within. The sea is famous for the qualities these minerals and salt have created, including the turquoise color and white salt crystal formations.

The Historical Significance of the Dead Sea

The sea is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament of the Bible, giving it high historical significance and cultural relevance in the Jewish and Christian traditions. The area near the Dead Sea is believed to be where David hid from King Saul, who was hunting him to prevent him from taking over as king. The sea is also mentioned in a story about Lot’s wife who lived next to the Dead Sea. In that account, God sent angels to destroy the sinful kingdom of Sodom, north of the Dead Sea. As Lot and his wife fled the city, they were forbidden to look back on the city. However, she looked back on the city and was turned into a pillar of salt. A salt structure located at the corner of the Dead Sea is acknowledged as Lot’s wife, a symbol of the biblical significance of that area.

The area surrounding the Dead Sea is thus a historically sacred area. As natural resources disappear, so does history. In recent times, the water levels have risen and fallen dramatically, in many cases due to human activity. The man-made changes happening at present threaten the very existence of this world treasure and highlight the kind of destruction that is a core theme of today’s environmentalism.

The Creation of Sinkholes

Sinholes are appearing in the Dead Sea region.
The region around the Dead Sea has been destroyed by sinkholes. Credit: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-10/the-disappearing-dead-sea-sinkhole-science-en-gedi/100123858

Over the long history of the lake, the water levels have had a series of dramatic levels of rising and falling. A lot of these shifts have been due to human activity. In the past four decades, major sink holes have appeared near the Dead Sea. The serious water shortage has been a major contributor to these sink holes. Historically, the lake has been rich in incoming water. However, industrial-scale mineral extraction and farming has removed this natural process. As the sea water level drops, sections of the land are exposed and salt from the lake falls below the surface.

When the salt is absorbed into the ground, the salt layer forms an underground cavity or hole in the soil.The cavity eventually collapses from pressure and creates a sinkhole. Sinkholes change the entire geography of an area. The dramatic collection of sinkholes near the Dead Sea has created a rocky landscape and an unsafe area for visitors. Geologists studying the area were surprised by the rate of existing sinkholes. Dr. Gavrieli, a geologist, predicted that “over time we envision that the entire area will be a huge sinkhole”.

The Power of Man

The loss of access to the sea and the complete change in landscape is a man-made ecological disaster, resulting from limited resources in the region. Hydrogeologist-Dr Ish-Shalmon has been studying the loss of the Dead Sea for a decade. She has monitored the sinkholes that alter the topography of the area and observed the water reach dramatically low levels. The ancient water and minerals are very clearly slipping away. “This is a symbol of what man can do to nature without even knowing that he’s doing it” states Dr Ish-Shalom. The purpose of highlighting a phenomenon like this, is to demonstrate the shifting global landscapes and the effects it has on their communities.

A Mass Nude Photoshoot in the Dead Sea

Spencer Tunick photo shoot in the Dead Sea.
Spencer Tunick held a mass photoshoot to raise awareness about the Dead Sea. Credit: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/spencer-tunick-dead-sea-nude-photographs/index.html

On Sunday October 17th, about three hundred volunteers gingerly walked into the desert near the Dead Sea, wearing nothing but white paint. Participants of various ages and nationalities lined up to be photographed by artist Spencer Tunick. Tunick is known for staging mass photos around the world to connect environmental issues to the human body. He aims to depict the human fragility in nature to represent the vulnerability that humans have caused to our planet.  Tunick stated in an interview with CNN, “I’m here to raise awareness of the receding waters of the Dead Sea and to bring attention to the ecological disaster that is happening”. The white paint was the symbolism of a pillar of salt, and a reference to the mineral formations in the Dead Sea and to Lots’ wife.

An Artistic Approach to Environmentalism

Tunick is both an environmentalist and a photographer. His artistic platform reaches for the emotion of the viewers and their vulnerability. His emphasis on the nude and landscape are significant features in his work. In an interview with artnet, Turnick states “For me, the nude body is like a raw material. Another artist might use oil or clay. I love the fact that, en masse, it can be turned into an infinite number of shapes or abstractions, while the setting I choose—rural, urban, indoors, or out—is like a canvas.” The development of environmental recognition through expressionism has developed radical design in the last decade. Tunick is amongst many contemporary artists to stress the vulnerability of  man and nature-relying on the emotional imagination of their audiences to make beneficial changes.

Environmental advocates have engaged communities using various methods of approach. Environmentalists are found among any and all expressions, including writers, philosophers, and artists.The environmentalist revolution primarily engages the larger population using pathos with persuasion; attempting to relate human emotions and nature. One of the most prominent and current examples of this involved the Dead Sea.

The Newest Revolution, the Environmental Revolution

A picture from the March for Science.
The March for Science emphasized scientists and the increasing warning of climate change. Credit: https://www.science.org/content/article/marches-science-one-global-interactive-map

In the past forty years, the environmental movement has grown and become better organized and has engaged the  public by turning the state of  the planet into a major political issue. The industrial society that currently controls modern life is under threat as natural resources disappear and cannot sustain industrial development. In the past decade, the magnitude of global warming has emerged as a major challenge for individuals and humanity as a whole.

Every area of our planet has been affected by global warming in one aspect or another. This alone, causes a sense of urgency, because the changing planet is a universal hazard.  Earlier revolutions were driven by technological advances. Each revolution up until now, relied on natural resources to advance production. The environmental revolution, while still using new technologies, is motivated to restructure the global economy to where it does not need to destroy natural systems to be supported.

Support for Science

The March for Science is an international community of advocates, supporting science and a more sustainable world. Mass rallies are  held yearly on April 22nd, “Earth Day”. The first rally was held April 22, 2017 as an impromptu meeting for anyone wanting to march to support science. Cities across the world celebrated in unison. The first march was supported by more than 600 cities across the world. The movement acknowledged scientist’s and public concerns about the climate-it signifies both a social and political agenda. In the last decade, the large acceptance of environmental science with evidence-based research has fueled a mass movement for change. The March for Science emphasizes the acceptance of climate change and a universal urgency for a better future.

Ecopsychology, the Study of the Soul and Nature

The current-day perspective of our ecological systems, as stated by ecologist, Lester R. Brown, “is that we currently live on a planet that is “deteriorating ecologically and inhabited by people who are psychologically troubled”.  Researchers in ecology have emphasized that if our planet continues to lose plant and animal species at the same rate as in the past decades, there will inevitably be a collapse of the ecosystem. This understanding of our universal situation has created new avenues of sociological, anthropological, and political thought.  Ecopsychology has thus established itself as a new perceptive approach to the environmental revolution.The psychology behind emerging ecological change is concerned with the foundations of human nature and behavior.

Ecopsychology believes that the deepest level of the psyche remains bonded to the Earth. This theory thus explains the circular problem that humankind has created. As humans acquired the power to extract resources and energy from the environment, in turn, it has created a toxic climate for advancing generations. As humans destroy the planet, the planet makes it harder for humans to live on. James Hillman an American psychologist claimed that “toxic waste, the depletion of resources, the annihilation of our fellow species, all speak to us, if we would hear, of our deep self”. Therefore, the underlying anxiety that humans have acquired towards our planet, is deeply rooted in the inner conflict between self and the soul.

The Social and Political Dimensions of Environmental Change

The March for Science
In April 2017, scientists and science enthusiasts held the first March for Science. The march was a significant and universal event. Credit: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/march-science-held-cities-world-calls-respect-funding/story?id=46956888

 

To meet the psychological dimension of a social movement, ecopsychology attempts to understand the connection between nature and the human soul. Historically, there has been a noticeable and observable connection between humans and the planet. However, psychologists and environmentalists continue to question this relationship and how it can influence our future. Ecospychology combines the awareness of emotional therapists, the knowledge of ecologists, and the urgency of environmental activism.

Every political movement has psychological emphasis. Revolutions begin when a similar passion of interest is vocalized and an intention is established. Great movements of change have been established due to the motivation of one or many individuals. The environmental movement has stressed the psychological bond between humans and the Earth, relying on emotion as a motivator for change. Research examining psychology and the environment will consider human identity and unconsciousness as a rational demonstration between humans and the world of nature.

The Voice of the Earth

Theodore Roszak in “The Voices of the Earth” stresses the importance of the human soul and nature. He concludes that individual harmony requires peace within oneself but also harmony with the environmental world. The psychology of studying our planet and its changing systems encourages everyone to combine human emotions with a larger worldly view. The suffering of our planet brings universal grievances through natural disasters and restricted resources. This destruction will eventually touch everyone.

The understanding that humans are connected to the Earth is not a new philosophy. The emotional connectiveness of the human soul and nature’s spirit has found its basis in all forms of ancient and modern philosophy. Hippocrates, a philosopher writing in ancient Greece’s classical era, called to attention the importance of studying the environment. He wrote in his treatise “Airs, Waters, and Places” that “the greater part of the soul lives outside the body”. This philosophy has continued to be a prominent theory as environmentalism has developed as a political revolution, combining complex economic and social issues on a large scale.

The March for Science, Tunick’s photoshoot, and the development of ecopsychology are all examples of modern environmental advocacy. To appeal to the greater population, environmentalism has incorporated all parts of anthropological thought. Strategically combining the study of human biology, social behavior and connectiveness. In recent decades, scientists and ecologists have established an understanding that human health is directly correlated to global health. And to further address this issue, psychologists have established the importance of emotion to understand global change. These interconnecting studies have created a global emphasis on restoring global health and finally, human quality of life.

 

 

 

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