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The mysteries of ecopsychology

 Posted: 2:00 AM May 25, 2012

Author Cher Fischer has written a fast-paced mystery with an ecopsychologist main character who risks her life to find out whether two young women committed suicide — or were murdered.

But wait, you say.

What in the world is ecopsychology, and how can it help solve a murder?

Fischer is used to fielding those questions about her new book "Falling Into Green," which was released this month by local publisher Ashland Creek Press.

She is an ecopsychologist herself with a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Ecopsychology, or green psychology, posits that nature has an important role in the formation of the human psyche, influencing people's perceptions and responses to the world.

"When I learned about it, it made so much sense to me on an intellectual level and on an emotional and spiritual level," Fischer said. "It includes the environment in the human equation."

In "Falling Into Green," Fischer shows how her spunky heroine, Dr. Esmeralda Green, practices ecopsychology. Instead of meeting in an office with a client who has survived cancer, Dr. Green strolls with her client along a beach, where they talk and pick up garbage. The client can share her thoughts, while also getting a psychological lift from cleaning the beach and the feel-good endorphins that are released during exercise.

"It's not psychology on the couch. It's active," Fischer explained about her profession.

Fischer lives in a coastal area in Los Angeles that is similar to the setting in the book.

She weaves in references to eco-friendly practices throughout the book. Dr. Green is a hybrid car-driving vegan who buys Forest Stewardship Council certified wood for a home repair project, purchases stock in green companies and deflects the attentions of a suitor because he drives a Hummer.

Fischer is at work on a second novel with the same characters and said she is always trying to integrate the environmental references smoothly into her writing. She said she recognizes that some people might be put off by the green messages.

But Fischer noted that other mystery writers often use their personal and professional views and expertise in their writing. She pointed to one mystery writer who is also a coroner and sprinkles in medical references. Another mystery author incorporates expertise about insurance fraud.

Fischer said she finds it ironic and a little sad that some people dislike the green messages in her book, especially when the environment is all around us. But as ecological awareness spreads, she said the environmental references in her book will stand out less and less.

"I'm hoping it becomes more natural for people to think about these things," Fischer said.

Fischer will be reading from "Falling Into Green" at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at the Ashland library.

She also will be participating in the mystery panel at the Ashland Book and Author Festival.

The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library.

A schedule for the day's panels will be available at the festival. For more information about the festival, visit

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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