Enrolling Winnie-the-Pooh’s Companions in Climate Change Discourse

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 3 Jun 2019

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Key Roles in the Environmental Psychodrama of Hundred Acre Wood

29 May 2019 – Produced in commemoration of the recent destruction of the Hundred Acre Wood — and in anticipation of further environmental challenges.

Introduction

Despite its widely acclaimed urgency, the debate on climate change could well be said to be a shambles. Different groups take radically opposed positions and advocate radically different agendas, with seemingly little prospect of fruitful reconciliation. Separately it is argued that those claiming the greatest expertise are effectively “in denial” — despite their claim that those failing to appreciate their insights are themselves “in denial” (Are Environmentalists and Climate Scientists in Denial? 2019). There it is suggested that there is a strong case for a psychosocial perspective to review the tendency to “care fatigue” in relation to environmental claims and the “psychic numbing” of associated humanitarian appeals.

The following exercise endeavours to draw upon widespread insights underlying popular enthusiasm for Winnie-the-Pooh and his familiar companions, as described in a series of books (A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926) and subsequently in a Disney film (Winnie-the-Pooh, 2011). This is consistent with an approach advocated by Volker Patent (Reading news about animals as modern-day fables alerts us to human beings’ vulnerability to climate change, The Open University, 18 February 2019). Patent argues for restorying news of animals in the context of climate change in order to derive moral lessons about sustainable futures. The exercise here builds on the argument initially developed by Nik Darlington (Winnie the Pooh can Teach the Government A Thing or Two About Environmental Planning, The Huffington Post, 14 July 2011).

A number of studies of relevance are reviewed in a later section in the light of a variety of efforts to elicit governance insights from animal fables. These include: insights from the Winnie-the-Pooh series in the management literature; comparisons with 9-fold team role characteristics; correspondences with the enneagram 9-fold pattern of roles; and analysis by neuropsychologists of the characters inhabiting the Hundred Acre Wood of the tales. The implications of the argument have also been considered with respect to the 9 political groups in the European Parliament, since they are faced with the need to address climate-related issues — in a political ecosystem, a “Hundred Acre Wood”, namely one subject to global warming metaphorically understood.

The question is whether the familiarity with Winnie-the-Pooh’s companions suggests that their traits may variously resonate with roles in the climate change and environmental debates at this time. Is it possible that they may offer a coherently memorable sense of a systemic perspective on the psychodrama in which people are variously embedded — a perspective which otherwise appears to be completely lacking?

Whilst speculatively playful, the following exploration is intended as a means of inviting reflection on how the different factions in the climate change debate play off against each other — each with their merits and limitations. No serious effort is made here to reconcile the nine characters with the Belbin team roles or the enneagram — however suggestive they may be. The proposal is that the characters in the series are indicative of dynamics in the environmental psychodrama — possibly meriting further reflection. Extensive description of each character is available from Wikipedia, where each is separately profiled.

The immediate purpose in what follows is to clarify in systemic terms the main roles (which are otherwise so widely appreciated), together with the psychological disorders from which they may variously suffer (if that is in any way relevant). Only a preliminary indication is given of the factions and exemplars of environmental discourse whom they may effectively caricature. A subsequent section considers how their dynamics in the Hundred Acre Wood may enlighten understanding of the responses to the issues of climate change.

The politics of climate change are one feature of the dynamics between political parties — readily described as dysfunctionally divisive and marked by mutual deprecation. Mutual accusations of stupidity, irresponsibility and irrelevance are matched by variously manifested expressions of dismissal even hatred and demonisation. Since Winnie-the-Pooh’s companions are widely recognized as functioning together reasonably amicably and symbiotically — even delightfully so — a larger purpose is to discover whether the typical array of political parties can be reframed in that light, beyond the specific focus on climate change.

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