Therapeutic Communities and Climate Change

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Do TCs have a role to play in climate change? It seems so. In particular through education and partnerships

1.5 degrees

By limiting the earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° F.) by 2100, the hope is to stave off dramatic disruptions that could exacerbate conflict, mass migration, and hunger worldwide – Fridays For Future, Sept. 2019, Bonn (Germany) – Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

During the 28th World Conference of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities, a good practice on the role that Therapeutic Communities can play in relation to climate change was presented, which we found quite interesting. To elaborate on this issue and contribute to raising awareness of the need for action on climate change, we are pleased to publish the following opinion piece by Rod Mulen, co-founder of the Amity Foundation.

The greatest challenge to human life on earth faces us all now


By Rod Mullen Already the effects of global warming have precipitated dramatic and unprecedented climate change which has caused immense human suffering, extinction of many species of plants and animals, and both economic and political seismic shifts.[1]

And despite promises made repeatedly by governments around the world, we are on course to significantly exceed the stated goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As we reach and cross that threshold various ‘tipping points’ are likely to be triggered which could rapidly move the world toward uninhabitability for many, if not most of us as well as all other living things.

Key issues

For the most part, the consequences of global warming that we face are still obscured, often deliberately. Far too few of us know the science about how humans have precipitated this crisis, moving us from the ‘holocene’ to the ‘anthropocene’. Scientists are constrained by their institutions in reporting what they are learning.[2] Large polluting corporations are actively engaged in ensuring that the consequences of their actions are not recognized. Many politicians are heavily subsidized by “climate criminal” corporations to not sound the alarm nor demand appropriate actions to protect the public and our future.

The way we live must change rapidly, and radically throughout the world. To avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming almost every aspect of our lives must change. But often older citizens are loath to confront these issues, and the need for a radical change in how we live to address them. Younger citizens, more aware that their future on the planet is at stake, have little economic or political power to influence policies. Change is always met with resistance; rapid and radical change is met with greater resistance. Inertia is stability, but inertia now guarantees disaster.

One of the major consequences of climate change is the reality of migration from the increasingly hotter equatorial regions towards the cooler poles. People whose own lives and the lives of their families are at stake will not (nor should be expected to) respect arbitrarily drawn political boundaries. They will move north or south to survive. Mass migration, rapid migration unprecedented in human history, will have equally unprecedented consequences for political, economic, and social structures.

Faced with an unprecedented global crisis, there are several possible responses: a) denial; b) paralysis; c) despair and nihilism; d) adopting and promoting cosmetic changes which are far less than what the situation requires; e) collaboration and effective problem solving. Unfortunately, most of our responses fit in the first four categories; it’s past time for that to change.

TCs can do their part in addressing climate change

Therapeutic Communities (TCs) have proven over the past six decades to be extremely adaptable in meeting new challenges around the world, and unparalleled in preparing those who come for help to not only survive but thrive in their societies post-treatment. And TCs have built their credibility by addressing the poor and marginalized in society—exactly those who will suffer most as the consequences of global warming continue to disrupt societies around the world, requiring rapid change and adaptations.

We in TCs around the world have a moral and ethical obligation to face this challenge, to prepare our participants for this new reality, and to participate in solutions.

This can be done by: 1) making education about the causes and effects of climate change, and ways of combatting it, an essential part of the curriculum we teach our participants; 2) to take practical steps in every TC and implement effective approaches to dealing with climate change at each campus or facility; 3) to collaborate with local, regional, national and international organizations combatting climate change; and 4) to adopt policies to purchase from organizations that are environmentally and socially responsible in terms of their products. In other words, to ‘reward’ organizations and corporations that are socially and environmentally responsible, and to ‘punish’ climate criminals by refusing to buy from them.

Despite the fact that therapeutic communities are a relatively small segment of organizations around the world, we cannot become climate nihilists – just because we cannot control the behavior of others, we can control our own behaviors, we can do our part, and in doing our part we can “role model” environmentally responsible behaviors for others and can collaborate with them. We can form cooperative alliances in purchasing that increase our influence substantially, while simultaneously giving all the participants and employees in our organizations an even greater incentive to live up to their potential.