The second keynote of the 2022 CERN LIVIANA conference was delivered by Associate Professor Stephen Healy, Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, who focused on ways of responding to climate change in an urban context such as Sydney.
Healy’s presentation “Psyche and survival in times of climate breakdown” is now available online through the CEI YouTube channel.
In the presentation, Healy brought together the concepts of surviving well, as introduced in Take Back the Economy, to reflect on how living with climate chaos involves linking changes in material culture to changes in desire, habits of thought and action, and ultimately the development of a new self-conception.
Healy says, “This way of thinking about responding to climate crisis is an extension of that central insight from A Postcapitalist Politics that there is a reciprocal process of changing the world and changing ourselves, and what I’m particularly interested in is how the experience of climate change involves us in an experience of loss and how we attend to that loss.”
“The body of work that I draw on points us in the direction of recognising our togetherness, and how this is a starting point for considering the forms of social life that might be compatible with flourishing; the forms of economies that will enable us to respond to the climate collapse that we are currently living through; and the forms of politics involving the building institutions, rules, laws, social movements and social revolutions that will enable us to ‘do the altering’.”
“This might seem ambitious, but as climate collapse deepens, and as urban dwellers such as those in the urban context of Sydney confront the loss of an idealised dream of urban living there are openings to consider new forms of urban life and economy, including those that take into account crucial differentials in terms of things such as people’s access to resources.”
Healy illustrated this way of thinking and acting through the collaborative and action-based research project Cooling the Commons (which also involves CERN members, Katherine Gibson and Abby Mellick Lopes).
“One of the features of this project is that we explore strategies for living in a hotter world that can bring urban dwellers outside and in relation to each other instead of being shut away in individualising ways.”
“To help do this, our design colleagues have drawn our attention to not just isolated knowledges, practices and spaces the promise cool respite but the patterns of interaction between them that might provide the basis for commoning urban spaces in ways that bring people together to figure out how to do this in practice.”
“Here we find for example, diverse faith communities in the suburbs of western Sydney that are considering ways of repurposing their buildings so they can serve as cooling spaces for the surrounding neighbours to access during heat waves.”
“At the same time too, we find improvisations or hacks, for example, residents in London who during a recent heatwave turned to strategies for cooking, eating, entertaining and sleeping outdoors in ways that reminded those from the Philippines of childhoods spent communally cooking, eating, entertaining and sleeping outdoors."
“These types of examples show us ways of being together in a climate crisis that might destabilise our notions of progress, development and riches, and help us question forms of living that no longer serve people or the planet. In so doing we might be encouraged to consider our capacities to survive well together.”