Climate Grief

This morning NBC News has an article by Avichai Scher titled ‘Climate grief: The growing emotional toll of climate change’ under Mental Health.

When the U.N. released its latest climate report in October, it warned that without “unprecedented” action, catastrophic conditions could arrive by 2040.
For Amy Jordan, 40, of Salt Lake City, a mother of three teenage children, the report caused a “crisis.”
“The emotional reaction of my kids was severe,” she told NBC News. “There was a lot of crying. They told me, ‘We know what’s coming, and it’s going to be really rough.’ “
She struggled too, because there wasn’t much she could do for them. “I want to have hope, but the reports are showing that this isn’t going to stop, so all we can do is cope,” she said.
The increasing visibility of climate change, combined with bleak scientific reports and rising carbon dioxide emissions, is taking a toll on mental health, especially among young people, who are increasingly losing hope for their future. Experts call it “climate grief,” depression, anxiety and mourning over climate change

This may be a relatively new phenomena for most people, those who have been able to at least consciously avoid thinking about the damage to our environment. But as the article says, it is becoming harder to hide from the increasingly visible signs of environmental chaos.

For those of us who have been worried about climate change for most of our lives, I wonder if we have an advanced stage of climate grief, or if we’ve found ways to partially cope, or both.

According to Bill McKibbon, a climate activist for over 30 years, “we can’t just be individuals, we need to join together and be a movement. It makes you less grief-stricken. The best antidote to feeling powerless is activism. It doesn’t make you less sad, but adds hope, solidarity and love.”
Even though the latest U.N. report was a “kick in the stomach” for him, he cautioned that those experiencing existential grief over climate change are not its main victims. “It’s poor communities with flimsy homes that are washing away,” he said.

This was what I was trying to say in the blog post yesterday, Movements and Relationships. It was being engaged with others that helped me cope with my knowledge of the dire consequences of fossil fuel use over these past 50 years. The success of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance was the creation of a nation-wide network of people who kept in contact with monthly conference calls. And taught us how to create our own local networks of people who came together multiple times for public awareness events. Other communities that helped me were the Kheprw Institute (KI), White Pine Academy and the #NoDAPL groups, Indiana Moral Mondays, and Quaker meetings. Building community was the purpose of the First-Nation Farmer Climate Unity March, which also led to getting involved with Bold Iowa.

I think this sense of both belonging to a new community as well as being able to actually do something about our endangered planet is why the Sunrise Movement has spread so quickly, and why the kids in it are so passionate, as well as hopeful. (see the passionate video below)

One of the Principles of the Sunrise Movement is: (11) We shine bright. There are hard and sad days, to be sure. This isn’t easy work. But we strive to bring a spirit of positivity and hope to everything we do. Changing the world is a fulfilling and joyful process, and we let that show.

This is yet another reason I urge you, and especially children you know, to get involved with the Sunrise Movement.

Jeremy Ornstein, Sunrise Fellow – Teenager and Grandson of Holocaust Survivors Demands Climate Action in this video. He says “I have no choice but to hope.”

This entry was posted in climate change, Green New Deal, Sunrise Movement, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Climate Grief

  1. Miriam Kashia says:

    It’s thrilling to see the young people rising up with action and hope. And, yes, Bill McKibbon is right: my motto is “Action is the antidote to despair.” It takes only a small percentage of the public to flip public opinion and and make dramatic changes. We’re about there. The main thing for us activists is not to give up. Everything we do matters. It all adds up. It all counts. Hooray to the Sunrise Movement. Hooray to 350 and moveon! Hooray to the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and all the other big NGOs who are in this. Hooray to the progressive media for reporting the good news and telling us the truth about the bad stuff. Hooray to all the hundreds (maybe thousands) of local movements for a more just and livable future for all. ONWARD – TOGETHER !!!

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