Happy Valentine’s Day?

Ubiquitous photo on Google search, but see an amazing story about Hoplobatrachus tigerinus here by another Frog Lady.

This Article Has a Happy Ending

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is sunny and bright here in Rochester, but many are scratching the soil for shiny bits of cheer. If that includes you, after being inspired by the story above, scroll right down to the good news that continues in the section below, entitled Good Out of Bad. Otherwise, dive into the muddy waters and search for the gold.

Valentine’s Day theoretically is set aside to express love, but also historically originated from “long-lost legends soaked in blood to hidden histories of crass commercialization to the odd origins of festive formalities”. (Medium, 2023.2.13)

As a little girl of 8, I was thrilled to get a Valentine from AB, the love of my life at the time. I hardly thought of the environmental impacts of Valentine’s Day, such as deforestation and additional waste management issues, or that flowers imported from other countries result in carbon emissions as high as 3 kg of CO2 per flower. So, if we are mindful, we might express our love in more sustainable ways.

My Tho, Vietnam, Private First Class Raymond Rumpa, Photo credit U.S. Army Audiovisual Center

The Environmental Impact of War

The environmental impact of Valentine’s Day, however, is small in comparison to the devastation of war on all, not just human, life. In 10 days, February 24 looms large as the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One of the most comprehensive articles on the subject of war and the environment was written by the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, (FAWCO) (June 27, 2022). The piece has charts of the most important natural resources, the top richest countries in terms of resources (yes, Russia is not only the largest but the wealthiest in the world).

The FAWCO analysis also provides definitions of environmental terrorism and eco-terrorism, the damage inflicted by wars starting with World War I through the Ukraine conflict, how this affects human minds and bodies, and most pertinent for A Frog House followers, this list of how exactly war impacts our Mother Earth:

  • Militaries consume enormous amounts of fossil fuels.
  • Bombing and other methods of modern warfare directly harm wildlife and biodiversity.
  • Pollution from war contaminates bodies of water, soil, and air.
  • Warfare releases greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Even in peacetime, militaries consume extreme amounts of dirty energy.
  • Training facilities, dormitories and manufacturing plants in many countries necessitate energy.
  • Biodiversity destruction, deforestation, degradation of natural landscapes.
  • Depleting the planet of its natural resources, affecting ecosystems worldwide.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is WhatsApp-Image-2022-03-03-at-12.33.41-1280-wide-1024x682.jpg
Environmental impacts of wars: The irreversible damage: Article by Rupa Kumari, March 3, 2022

Diyora Shadijanova, in The Face (March 21, 2022), pointed out that it is often the hunt for natural resources that drives conflict. According to the United Nations Environment Programs, at least 40% of all intrastate conflicts in the last 60 years are related to this competition. Hence a vicious cycle begins, because wars deplete natural resources, and thus cause more wars.

Even worse, according to an article in Earth (April 25, 2022) the Paris Climate Agreement does not oblige armaments and the military (the worst climate polluters) to report to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Photo-Credit-Greta-Thunberg-on-Twitter-700-wide.jpg
Photo Credit, Greta Thunberg on Twitter, February 23, 2022

It is no surprise that Greta Thunberg was one of the first to protest the war in Ukraine, as shown on her twitter account with this group outside the Russian embassy.

How ironic and impotent the Paris Climate Agreement really is, when Russia’s leaders just don’t seem to have enough and still want more, and there seemingly is nothing we can do about it.

And it is sad that, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), since signing of the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement in 2014, Ukraine had just started the green transformation of its economic development.

Russia wasn’t going to let that happen. How predictable for autocrats to not want good for others. Progress in Ukraine and hundreds of other countries has had to stop and/or has been severely set back since the invasion.

Cover of Karl Menninger’s book, Love against Hate

Bad or Good?

Traditionally, our culture and language sets up black and white differences regarding our behavior and conversations, resulting in more division and less understanding. There are conflicts in understanding, such as those who see war as “good” and environmentalism as “bad”, contrary to my own thoughts. Assuming you are on my “team” and share my values, here are a few polarities that come to mind:

  • War vs. peace?
  • Hate vs. love?
  • Self aggrandizement vs. love for others?
  • Greed vs. generosity?

It’s more complicated than that.

Studies of the Mind and the Brain

Scholars in all areas have examined the phenomena of dualism, but being a psychiatrist, I am most interested in what makes the altruist and the sociopath tick. Here are some approaches to the subject:

In 1923, Freud theorized that all of us somehow have to integrate the id (the animal part of the brain) and the superego (the judgmental repressive part of the brain), through the ego (the peacemaking, mediating part of the brain). One might see a dictator as being driven primarily by id, (angry, fearful, territorial, hungry, sexual) with an active superego which judges others (Putin’s “immoral” enemies) as a projection of judgment of self, and very little healthy moderating ego, that at least recognizes the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have [rather than have had] done to yourself.

In 1942, during the throes of World War II, American psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote the above named book, Love Against Hate. He recognized that each one of us has instinctual forces of love and hate within ourselves. He theorizes that the vicious cycle of repressed and overt aggression comes from a society (and individuals within that society) that do not provide the life sustaining force of love. Putin was a poor bullied street kid, and he has made it clear that he is reenacting the days of World War II, where hate prevailed among Nazi leaders. He is acting out identification with the aggressor, and again, projecting that hate on to NATO and the west.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed his theory that earliest needs must be met before others can be realized, and are roughly met in this order: physiological, safety, love and social belonging, esteem, self-actualization. With so many not even rising above base levels, authoritarian regimes that build on want and fear find fertile ground, and the proportion of self actualized people who are in a position to help rather than suppress and exploit others dwindles.

In 1977, local internist George Engels, worked in close association with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester, where he developed his bio-psycho-social [/spiritual] theory of illness. Each of these constructs individually and all of them collectively can be both cause and effect of physical mental, social [/spiritual] disease. Those who are able to function at a relatively healthy level in body, mind and relationships are lucky indeed.

Septum Pellucidum: Photo Credit: Dr. Asim’s Anatomy Café

Grey Areas [sic-pun intended]

Since 1995 or so, brain researchers have been trying to discover neuroanatomical reasons that people lie, cheat, murder, and are ruthless and brutal. Loosely speaking, id is thought to be located in the amygdala (hidden, white inner brain), superego in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ego in the dorsolateral pre-frontial cortex (both in the grey outer area).

A promising area of study, although not definitive, shows a high degree of abnormality in the septum pellucidum (shown above between the two ventricles, also in the inner brain) in both male and female sociopaths.  

Around the same time, geneticists began to revise the meaning of the term epigenetics to signify ways in which heritable traits can be associated not with changes in nucleotide sequence, but with chemical modifications of DNA or of the structural and regulatory proteins bound to it, and thus change behavior. In other words, we can be born with less kind traits, and be brought up by people who are lacking ideal parenting skills, but can, with some effort, change for the better. Or we can be born with good genes into kindness and love with all of our needs met and change for worse.

In 2013 a group of neurologists postulated that Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s Disease after World War I and that this affected some of his most fateful decisions. Coincidentally, (or is it?) since 2022 there have been rumors that Putin also has Parkinson’s disease, as well as possibly cancer (with contradictory reports: is it blood, pancreatic, or prostate or none of the above?)

One could (and many have) analyzed cruel and destructive person’s behavior in terms of any of the constructs outlined above.

Whether we understand Putin’s personality or not may be a moot point, when we have to deal with the enormous effects of it. It takes so little to destroy, and so much to sustain.

So then, those of us who are passionate about the environment have a dilemma to face. We don’t want war. And yet we don’t want to be destroyed, and so the engines of war gear up and businesses that depend on them profit greatly.

In 2015 even Marshall B. Rosenberg, author of Non-Violent Communication, recognized that sometimes the protective use of force is necessary to protect life or individual rights when the other party is unwilling to communicate, or imminent danger does not allow it.

For Mahatma Ghandhi, non-cooperation was seen as a protective use of force.

Image by: @ugurgallen

Good out of bad

Our popular culture and major religions all address this phenomena.

Between the 15th and 13th centuries BC (theoretically Moses) wrote in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Lesson: perhaps our suffering is not in vain. Ask Nelson Mandela.

In 500 BC, Lao Tzu wrote a fable that has been repeated in many contexts about the man whose horse was stolen.  

Lesson: We can’t necessarily know if it is good or bad, and it’s not over until it’s over.

In 1916, Reverend Charles Frederic Aked wrote for a speech “for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.

Lesson: we each need to be good and do something.

In 2006, Harold Kushner wrote the best selling When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Lesson: This is the same concept illustrated by the Book of Job.

Politico, Sept 11, 2022, Photo Courtesy of Aranchii Architects/RecreateUA.com

Hope for the Future

Our popular culture and major religions have addressed this phenomena for millennia.

Between the 15th and 13th centuries BC (theoretically Moses) wrote in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Lesson: perhaps our suffering is not in vain. Ask Nelson Mandela.

Around 500 BC, Lao Tzu wrote a fable that has been repeated in many contexts about the man whose horse was stolen.  

Lesson: All is not necessarily as it seems. The story isn’t over until it is over.

In 1916, Reverend Charles Frederic Aked in October, 1916 opined, “for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”

Lesson: We each need to be good and do something.

in 1950, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People, addressing the evidential problem of evil in a universe that is supposedly created and governed by a good and loving God. As in the book of Job, he argues that God is finite, does his best, but is not fully able to prevent it. Nevertheless, he claims that God is with people in their suffering.  

Lesson: The least we can do is to help others with their suffering.

The European Union already is making plans to rebuild the country of Ukraine in a more sustainable fashion (see photo above), “even slash national greenhouse gas emissions” and vastly improve the economy.

Widely reproduced image on twitter and facebook, original source unknown.

It all depends on us as individuals

Ultimately, as I repeat over and over again to every one of my patients, we can not change others. The miracle of F.R.O.G. (Fully Relying on G..) is that as we replace our dominant and warring id and superego with healthy, self respecting ego (not to to be confused with egotism), our own transformation makes room for change within others.  

I need to start with myself, fully admitting that I am far from perfect, and committing myself to becoming a better listener, helper, lover of others. I can only do that by listening to, helping, and loving myself. Recognizing the wars that rage within us and among us, we still can follow the Golden Rule. 

For Valentine’s Day, we can donate to charities that help victims of war and poverty. We can shop locally, purchasing organic and sustainably made or grown goods. We can gift a native plant. We can offer a one on one experience with our friend, or personalize a card we have made. We can offer a scholarship for a course on Non Violent Communication. We can take someone to a service or concert or offer a membership in, a joining fee for and/or give money and/or time to any of the following:

  • Barefoot Permaculture
  • Climate Solutions Accelerator Group
  • Color Your Community Green
  • Eco Restoration Alliance
  • Gandhi Institute
  • Ganondagan Historic Site
  • Garden Club (your local)
  • Genesee Land Trust
  • Healthy Yards Monroe County
  • Impact Earth
  • Pachamama
  • Possible Rochester
  • Progress Rochester
  • Rochester Ecological Partners  
  • Seneca Park Zoo Urban Ecologists
  • Sierra Club
  • Town of Pittsford
  • Village of Pittsford

or even to A Frog House.

Have fun! Be creative!  

Above all, we can smile, and be kind to the next person or frog that we meet. And the next. Share Swampy Smooches forever and ever and ever and ….

Happy Valentines Day!