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Community is Medicine: Using a Public Health Approach to Prevent & Heal Climate Traumas

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Presentation on the Need, Methods, and Many Benefits of Community-Led initiatives that Use a Public Health Approach to Build Population Mental Wellness and Resilience to Prevent and Heal Global Warming Generated—and other—Mental Health, Behavioral Health, and Psychosocial Struggles

By Bob Doppelt, Coordinator, International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC)

During this presentation on September 6, 2023, Bob Doppelt, Coordinator of the International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC), described the urgent need, methods, and many benefits of community-led initiatives that use a public health approach to build population mental wellness and resilience to prevent and heal global warming-generated, and other, mental health, behavioral health, and psychosocial struggles. The information presented is the outcome of an intensive 2+ year international research project that is described in Bob Doppelt’s new book Preventing and Healing Climate Traumas: A Guide to Building Resilience and Hope in Communities (Routledge Publishing).

During the presentation participants learned:

  • How the relentless toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters generated by the climate emergency are producing widespread individual, community, and societal traumas that, left unaddressed, will undermine individual and collective mental health, physical health, safety, security, and wellbeing and block solutions to the climate emergency.

  • Why traditional expert-led mental health services cannot address these problems.

  • The results of the ITRC’s extensive 2+ year research project that determined that, to prevent and heal widespread climate-generated mental health and psychosocial problems, community-led initiatives must be organized that use a public health approach to build population mental wellness and “transformational resilience.” This involves strengthening the capacity of all adults, adolescents, and young children to respond and adapt to adversities in safe, healthy, and just ways, and use them as transformational catalysts to generate new positive sources of meaning, purpose, hope, and courage in life.

  • The 5 core foundational focuses that, in their own unique and culturally appropriate ways, will be essential for community-led initiatives to emphasize to build population mental wellness and transformational resilience for the climate emergency.

  • Examples of community-led initiatives using this approach and the many benefits they have achieved.

  • The key roles mental health, physical health, social service, disaster management, climate mitigation and adaptation, and other professionals can play in the community initiatives.

Watch the Reply

Download the Presentation Slides

Bob Doppelt Presentation NPSC Sept 6, 2023
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Bob Doppelt founded and coordinates the International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC), a network of mental health, social service, climate, faith, and other organizations. He is trained in both counseling psychology and environmental science and has combined the two fields throughout his career. He is also a Graduate of the International Program on the Management of Sustainability, in Ziest, The Netherlands, a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) instructor, and longtime mindfulness teacher.

Early in his career Bob worked at the Lane County, Oregon, Juvenile Department as a delinquency prevention specialist and family therapist. He then founded and operated Oregon River Experiences, a private river outfitting business. Through this work he saw rivers and fisheries deteriorating, which led him to co-found and for 10 years direct the Pacific Rivers Council (PRC).

As director of PRC Bob led the campaign that enacted what at the time was the largest river protection act in U.S. history, the 1988 Oregon Omnibus National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. He also helped create the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation Strategy that the Clinton Administration adopted for federal lands across the Pacific Northwest. In addition, he led the efforts that established the Watershed Council movement that now brings non-profit, public, private landowners, and users together to plan conservation efforts in river basins throughout Oregon and many other states nationwide.

In 1996 Bob established The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), which through 2002 was affiliated with the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, where Bob also taught Systems Thinking. In this role he led the efforts that, for the first time, formally engaged both the state of Washington and state of Oregon in ecological sustainability. He also proposed and managed the development of the first-ever State of the Environment Report for the State of Oregon (Oregon Progress Board), and helped to establish the State of Oregon Sustainability Board. In addition, he consulted with private and non-profit firms in the U.S. and internationally on how to change their systems, products, and services to become more ecologically sustainable.

TRIG moved its affiliation to the University of Oregon in 2003 and remained there until 2018. During most of that period Bob directed the UO Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) in the Institute for a Sustainable Environment. CLI was one of the first programs in the U.S. that helped states, counties, and cities nationwide design climate mitigation and adaptation programs and policies. Under his direction, CLI played a leadership role in creating the U.S. climate adaptation and resilience movement by organizing the SE Florida Climate Resilience Compact, hosting the Climate Access climate communications program, establishing the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP), and helping numerous states, counties, and cities develop their first climate adaptation plans. From 2003 until 2018 Bob also taught Systems Thinking in the UO Department of Planning, Public Policy, and Management.

Through his work on climate adaptation, Bob realized that the mental health and psychosocial impacts of the climate crisis were not being addressed. This led him in 2013 to organize the International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC).

Due to his many years of work, in 2015 Bob was named one the world’s “50 Most Talented Social Innovators” by the World CRS Congress.

The ITRC has organized numerous conferences and Bob offers online and in-person Transformational Resilience webinars and workshops. He also coordinates the ITRC Community of Practice on organizing and operating community initiatives that use a public health approach to build population-level capacity for mental wellness and resilience for the climate crisis.

Bob has authored a number of books on the interface between individual, organizational, community, and social change and ecological regeneration.

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