Interviewing Groundhog Phil and the Tu BiShvat Tree


Imagine an interview with these 2 talking entities…




Climate and other environmental news, like the disastrous earthquake in Turkey and Syria that was also felt in Israel, has grabbed the news headlines in the United States over these last few days. Due to the lunar calendar, we just had a rare confluence of Groundhog Day and Tu BiShvat, which is celebrated today, so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity and interview representatives of both.

Moffic: Groundhog Phil, nice to see you come out of your hole in the ground into our polluted atmosphere again. Looks like you brought some support this time, the Tu BiShvat Tree. I thought you might be depressed, especially after your last prediction. I recall that last year, as discussed in our column on February 3, 2022, “What Groundhog Phil Really Wanted to Say About the Climate,” you criticized us humans as being so stupid about the weather. And yet, you have only made the correct prediction 40% of the time about whether there will be an extra 6 weeks of winter. I mean, that is less than the 50% that you would get by chance over time!

Groundhog Phil: Who are you to claim to be an expert about the climate? I mean, I have been doing this since 1887! And you? What, like 15 years? And the giant Sequoia trees; they can live 3000 years, so what a perspective they have! But we are starting to lose some of them to wildfires, too.

Moffic: Well, I still would think you would have learned more over almost 150 years, Groundhog Phil.

Groundhog Phil: I have, but all you humans seem to have the tendency to be most interested in the short term, like the next 6 weeks. That is why I am trying an alternative paradoxical psychotherapy technique you should know, Dr Moffic. You humans, even you psychiatrists, do not all seem to believe the climate truth, so maybe you will believe some cultish alternative facts! Maybe your climate inaction is a form of collective human suicide?

Moffic: I am confused, Phil. You just predicted 6 more weeks of winter weather by seeing your Jungian shadow, and then these last few days has sure been wintry, even an epic arctic outbreak in New England. Where is the contradiction?

Groundhog Phil: Well, it is summer down under in the Southern hemisphere! And I am sure you know, Dr Moffic, that this is a global challenge. Over the weekend, record heat occurred in Chile, with wildfires raging though over 35,000 acres of trees by Friday. And now Sierra Leone, once renowned for being greener and cooler, has Africa’s first Heat Officer.

Moffic: But we are in the Northern hemisphere! You must be unstable. Do you have a bipolar disorder?

Groundhog Phil: Hey, that is a violation of the Goldwater Rule about analyzing a public figure.

Moffic: Oh, sorry. I thought that just applied to human beings.

Groundhog Phil: Well, just watch out when you interview my underground comrade, sometimes called a tree of life, Tu BiShvat Tree. They will not stand for it.

Moffic: OK, ok. A talking tree, huh? I can accept another animal talking, like a groundhog. Now I have heard everything. Maybe I am going crazy! Let’s start with something easy. Just so the readership can try to understand, what is Tu BiShvat Day and why is it on a different date every year?

Tu BiShvat Tree (looking sad): First, let us have a moment of silence for the premature loss of all my fellow trees from the climate-stimulated wildfires in Chile. I can smell their ashes in the air. Mourn, then action. Prevention and resilience. That is the life of the climate activist. It takes its psychological toll, like the secondary posttraumatic stress disorder you discussed last week.

OK. Now, back to your question. The Jewish holidays go by the Lunar calendar and this holiday is the New Year of the Trees, at a time when the almond trees began to bloom in Israel. Led by Jewish National Fund, the tradition is to plant new trees, often in honor of a loved one.

Moffic: That is a sound environmental practice, but the calendar seems unstable to me.

Tu BiShvat Tree: Get used to it, Doc. You do have medication for mood swings, don’t you?

Moffic: Of course, but how do you give that to the climate? Put it in the water?

Tu BiShvat Tree: You got it this time, Doc. Lithium is already in the water, isn’t it? We just need to concentrate it some more. The drought out West has been helping that.

Moffic: Any other advice?

Tu BiShvat Tree: Well, as you already know from writing a chapter in an upcoming book on Nature Therapy, all you got to do is walk among us and take a forest bath to feel better.

Moffic: Ah, that is why I just like to cool down by sitting on my porch and look at my birch tree friends who have grown so magnificently tall and strong over the last 33 years. I understand, too, that trees connect where we do not see: in your roots.

Tu BiShvat Tree: That is our secret! We all cooperate, not like you humans.

Moffic: Actually, we are all in this together. The climate instability is threatening all life on earth.

Tu BiShvat Tree: Let’s talk about that, then.

Moffic: I have an idea. Let’s have that be our rhyming theme: Earth Day 2023, in honor of the Tu BiShvat Tree!

All together: Just imagine! We will join the moon and the sun! The scorpion and the lamb! The Republicans and the Democrats! The worms and the locusts! The Jews and the Muslims! The eagle and the sharks! And, even, the Scientologists and the Psychiatrists!

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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