Psychoanalysis and Climate Change: The Doctors take over the Asylum

Laurie Taylor’s Radio4 “Thinking Allowed” programme, in which he interviews psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe and professor of social policy Paul Hoggett on the subject of climate change, has already been the subject of articles at

and at

A transcription of the programme can be found at

Quite a lot has been said about these silly people, but not enough, yet, I think. PeterS, in a comment on the Climate Resistance article, points us to the Amazon page about Weintrobe’s book:

There are glowing reviews by Chris Rapley, Naomi Klein, and Stefano Bolognini, President Elect of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Dr Bolognini calls this collection of essays “more shocking than a fantasy novel”. Professor Rapley observes that “we are all much less rational than we care to think” and Naomi Klein talks of “how… the psychology of denial, compassion and cruelty can help break the climate deadlock”.

These are influential people, who clearly share Weintrobe’s views on climate change, a subject which Weintrobe admits she knows nothing about .

On what she calls “climate weirding”, she says:

“This has very different implications for people and for animals, depending on where they are geographically… For some farmers in Bangladesh it has meant that seawater from flooding exacerbated by global warming has rendered their arable land salt-logged and not usable for growing crops. I heard one Bangladeshi woman, paid for by an NGO to come to the United Kingdom to represent the plight of her community, describe what this meant for her family. She said they were forced to sell cheaply the land owned by her family for generations in order to survive in the short term. It is now being prepared by new commercial owners for cultivation for pasture for sheep farming, as grass for sheep can better tolerate the salty soil. A tiger ate her husband…”

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh. Not at the tragic death of her husband, of course, but at the idea of an NGO, flush with funds intended to help the poor, using the money to fly a poor widow to Britain, instead of giving it to her so she can buy her land back, just so that the likes of Weintrobe can put a face on the suffering they believe is caused by global warming. And that face belongs to someone who’s just put several unnecessary tons of CO2  into the atmosphere flying uselessly half way across the globe, and whose husband has been tragically eaten by a beast threatened by extinction due to… oh, never mind.

(Bangladesh is the Narnia, the Middle Earth, the NeverNeverLand of warmists. Fairyland is a very authoritarian place, where bad things happen if you don’t listen to the lions or the wizards, and where fairies die if you don’t believe in them.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, is a place which, despite its disastrous geography, is actually getting bigger, and where life is getting better for its inhabitants.)

The papers contained in the book were read at a 2010 conference, which you can see at

which is rather long (two days) and boring.

I started listening to psychoanalyst Rosemary Randall, but switched off when she said: “For each tonne of carbion dioxide I’m responsible for, someone else, somewhere loses a year of their lives”. a rather neat rewording of Peter Pan’s “Every time a child says ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”

*        *        *

At the same site, there’s also a kind of “best-of” compilation press  conference from last November at which contributors each give a potted version of their articles.

The conference is introduced by Chris Rapley, climate scientist, who also wrote the introduction to the book, and one of the reviews of the book on Amazon. He says: “If you extend the trend line (of summer Arctic ice extent) the ice will disappear by 2015”, which is quite Peter Pannish too, in its way, and the kind of daft thing even the most extreme warmist would hesitate to say in a blog comment. But he’s talking to psychoanalysts, so perhaps a little free association is in order.

Then there’s a video clip in which Martin Kirk of Oxfam warns us of “the hurdle of bureaucratic anti-intellectualism”, and says he has “no silver bullet” to deal with it. (A pity. The idea of Oxfam executives firing silver bullets at a hurdle appeals to me). Kirk is filmed in his New York office to which he’s just been promoted. He quotes the West Wing, and says: “I’m working on a global campaign and so I’m very conscious of this. We’re seeing consumerism 2.0 exploding around the world right now. If you look at the average growth rate of chainstores in China right now, the top 20 chainstores in China right now are growing at about 20% a year. And we’re just at the beginning of the curve. So it is difficult to put into words how big the challenge we face is.”

That’s the challenge of people in China getting richer and buying stuff. KIrk’s move to New York seems to mirror a shift in Oxfam’s prioroties, from worrying about people dying of starvation to worrying about them consuming too much.

Another contributor obsessed with Chinese consumerism is Jon Alexander of the National Trust. I’ve just caught up with him on Twitter, where he’s upset by a contestant on a Chinese dating show who said: “I would rather cry in the back of a BMW than laugh on the back of a bicycle.”

and has this to say about us: “A thought on climate change deniers: hope they all live long lives so they can see and feel the pain they have caused their children” which strikes me as being a reworking of the 10:10 Splattergate fantasy.

Paul Hoggett, Professor of Social Policy, but also a practising psychotherapist, says:

“I believe denial is so significant because it’s a key dimension of a perverse culture in developed societies. Psychoanalysis since Freud has linked denial to perversion”.

I didn’t know that. But I do know that Freud said that, contrary to popular opinion, he saw very few perverts in his practice. This is because your average pervert is quite happy in his perversion. It’s what helps him get through the day, like coffee and Radio4.

Freud believed that, however far-reaching his theory of human behaviour might be, his day job was to treat the patients who came to him asking for help. His theorising about society was done in his free time. Hoggett has it precisely backwards. His day job is lecturing on public policy, he treats people in his spare time, and he still finds time to tell all the people who aren’t having nervous breakdowns about climate change why they should be.

Hoggett quotes just one sceptic – Sarah Palin, and one expert on climate change – George Monbiot.

It’s easy to poke fun at psychoanalysts, particularly when they’re talking among themselves for two days, as in these videos. They’re an élite subgroup of the educated middle classes who have foisted global warming hysteria upon the world, and offer in a concentrated verson all the tics which I’ve got to know from transcribing so much of this crap.

Transcribing is a bit like slow motion psychoanalysis, in that you have to forget everything and pay close attention to each word that’s uttered. Sir Paul Nurse, Brian Cox, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger – I’ve had them all on my couch. And believe me, there’s nothing to choose between them and the gentle souls at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, or the earnest questioner at Sir Martin Rees’s Reith Lectures who began her question by announcing that she felt guilty about driving an Aston Martin, so she kept bees…

Under the bonnet, no doubt.

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at
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7 Responses to Psychoanalysis and Climate Change: The Doctors take over the Asylum

  1. Perhaps for fuel for her Aston Martin she uses BP.

  2. TonyN says:

    I wonder how all those jolly trick cyclists would slot the following into their world view?

    4000 children die of preventable deceases each day (~ 1.5 million pa)

    600,000 children pa die of malaria, an entirely preventable disease.

    The first claim was made by Mark Pritchard MP on BBC R4 World at One, 01/02/2013.

    The second comes from an interview with filmmaker Richard Curtis, who apparently is a great doer of good works, on BBC R4 Saturday Live 02/02/2013.

    Back in 2005 the UN’s World Health Organisation commissioned research from the University of Wisconsin (published in Nature) which estimated that global warming was contributing to 150,000 deaths pa, and that figure would double by 2030. A few years later, Kofi Annan fronted research from the Global Humanitarian Forum that purported to show that there were already 300,000 deaths a year caused by AGW.

    I suspect that all four of these figures may be spurious and tainted by activism.

    Given the vast amounts of money that are now being thrown at AGW, which may or may not be a problem, and may or may not be preventable, we seem to living in a very confusing – and confused – world that the kind of psychologists who Geoff is writing about seem to have no interest whatsoever in trying to straighten out.

  3. Mooloo says:

    They’re an élite subgroup of the educated middle classes who have foisted global warming hysteria upon the world,

    I’m not sure “middle class” is correct. I think there’s a heavy element of posh going on (though no doubt quite well hidden).

    Martin Kirk went to Bryanston School followed by Kingston University. Nice. Chris Rapley was educated at King Edward’s School, Bath followed by Jesus College, Oxford, which is not a traditional middle class route.

    (It was hard to trace the lesser name psychologists, but once you get into the more famous people you mention toward the end, the “middle class” is decidedly wrong: Brian Cox’s parents were bankers, and he went to Hulme Grammar School. Alan Rusbridger went to Cranleigh School then Magdalene College, Cambridge, Paul Nurse appears to be at the other end of the spectrum, in a nice contrast.)

    I did find this endearing little description of Paul Hoggett. “A Trot in the 1970s; New Urban Leftist in the 1980s; pronounced anarchistic leanings in the 1990s; Group Relations Consultant; lifelong worshipper of the unconscious; Professor of Politics at the University of the West of England.” I don’t think he would care to be called middle class, regardless of his upbringing.

  4. Mooloo says:

    I was thinking a bit more about this Mr Hoggett. He has tracked an impressive lineage of dying causes: Trotskyism, Anarchism, Freudian Psychoanalysis*, radical environmentalism and is employed doing something most people would think has so far failed to produce very much of value to the world (academic “Politics”).

    I find myself a little incredulous, then, that he thinks that the climate sceptics are in denial about how the world works.

    (* I don’t really want to get into an argument about whether Freud was right, wrong, or whatever. For the purposes of Mr Hoggett’s addiction to lost-cause radicalism, I just note that Freudian psychoanalysis is a minor discipline, and likely to remain that way.)

  5. Tony N
    The stats you mention tend to get thrown around at the hard, policy-making end of the social sciences. They’ve been refuted often enough, by Roger Pielke and Ben Pile at Climate Resistance, but they won’t die.
    It’s important to note the difference between these psychoanalysts, whose job is entirely with treating private patients, and the academic psychologists who have a legitimate role in analysing social behaviour. They’re quite distinct, and many psychologists (Adam Corner, for example) have no time for psychoanalysts.

    I use “middle class” in the British sense of educated professional white collar workers. Americans , and possibly other colonials (there I go again) tend to use it to cover all “decent, working people” with a political connotation of ordinary folk being squeezed between the layabouts at the bottom of society and the plutocrats at the top.
    I should be more specific, but I get fed up with my own formulations “the chattering classes”, the university educated élite” etc.
    I agree we don’t have to get into an argument about Freud. it’s enough to note that their tendency to use snippets of Freudian jargon to tell us what’s wrong with our scientific or political opinions is antihumanist, antiscientific, and antiFreudian.

  6. TonyN says:

    The point that I was trying to make, rather badly, is that warmists probably do not have a monopoly on dodgy stats that are convenient for activists and should remember that. Whether you are saving the planet or attempting to direct resources towards curing preventable disease the need to exaggerate in order to attract attention exists. As you say, the criticisms of the two ‘death by climate change’ memes I quoted are well known, but has anyone taken a sceptical look at the preventable disease claims?

    I am among those who are very concerned that people are suffering and dying because the current obsession with climate change is diverting resources from effective means of relieving misery.

    Yet if I use the findings quoted by Parkin and Curtis in support of my argument, I am probably on no firmer ground rhetorically than the warmists who quote the Wisconsin and Kofi Annan findings.

    It’s a little like the climate sceptics who are celebrating the Met Office’s downgrading of their warming estimate through to 2017 while forgetting all their criticisms of that organisation’s ability to predict future climate in any time-scale.

  7. Pingback: 2071: It’s the End of the World Again | Geoffchambers's Blog

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