“Ecological unconscious” might sound like some psychology mumbo jumbo, but hear me out on this -- it’s actually a fascinating concept. The idea is that we all understand nature and the environment in a certain way -- in a way that we might never define explicitly, but that nonetheless affects the way we interact with the world. Whether we know it or not, our ecological unconscious is always there, hanging out in the background. It's sort of like the environmental landscape in your brain, or your internal map of global ecology.
So how is our ecological unconscious formed? Sure, it comes from obvious channels, like our parents, the culture we grew up in, and the wilderness we explored as kids. But, says literary ecocritic George Handley, it also comes from the stories we read, even when those stories aren’t explicitly nature- or environment-oriented. Stories from children’s books, say, or The Lord of the Rings, or the literature you read (wait, Cliffs-Noted, let’s be real) for high school English class.
“If you really want to know what’s influencing people’s environmental imagination, I would wager that it’s popular literature and sacred literature,” says Handley. And yes, please take a deep, calming breath my friends, because Twilight is definitely in the realm of popular literature. But sacred literature influences people’s ecological unconscious too. And for Handley, a Mormon and a professor of interdisciplinary humanities at Brigham Young University, the intersection of faith and ecological unconscious is of special interest.