30 Days for Climate Justice Day 22: Responding to Climate Grief

For a couple of months now, I have been dedicating time everyday to do climate justice work. My guideline is that it can be small scale (e.g. working on local food security systems) but needs to be bigger than my own lifestyle (e.g. bringing my own cup and staw to events, yep I do this too). The “30 days” does not mean that I do these actions only for 30 days, but that I commit to writing 30 posts that document of this work. One of the purposes this is to provide potential courses of action during very discouraging times, supporting communities of action. By making the work public, people working toward similar purposes can find and collaborate with each other. 

But today I am discouraged. Yesterday I had a meeting with someone who works in organics certification and the reduction of harmful GMO foods. He has supported regions in banning neonicotinoids and other chemicals linked with bee colony collapse. Our meeting was for me to gain insight into the first steps organizations took who were successful in banning these chemicals. It turns out he is also a climate change denier.

I know there are deniers out there but I was not expecting to encounter it at this meeting. He claimed that we can argue climate change but not colony collapse because we can measure it and stated that 917 scientists don’t agree. For the record, there is 97% agreement amongst scientists that it is not just climate change that is happening but a real and immediate threat of climate catastrophe. I would be very interested in seeing who funded the research of these 917 deniers with advanced degrees. At any rate, climate change is every bit as measurable as colony collapse and is, in fact, related. There are definitely ups and downs in this work but this exchange, in particular, has me feeling more defeated than usual. 

I’m deeply saddened and also afraid for our future. I’m sad that in these

I need to take in what I work to protect.

remaining years where we have the power to turn things around not only are governments denying climate catastrophe in favor of corporate greed but that there are some conservationists who have bought this mythology. It’s a huge problem in and of itself, but part of the problem is what it does to our headspace. My myself, I feel so discouraged in this work sometimes that I lose my momentum and am left open to a very real depression to seep in. I know I’m not alone in this. 

My wife points out that when I’m in this headspace I am less likely to do what helps me personally. Less likely to spend solace time in nature, less likely to do my yoga asana practice that so often helps to move the stuck feelings out and unlock joy. I am more likely to freeze and spend too much time Sad On The Internet (such a trap!). And, of course, this does not lead to concrete actions for climate justice. 

Today I have a simple two part plan: refill and keep going.

Refill: I am going to get down to the water and move my body. I will soak in nourishment from the earth, the ocean, and my breath. I am going to pick blackberries by the ocean path. It’s simple. It’s not easy to start when I’m discouraged. I know “self-care” is an overused adage but (especially with my blend of chronic illnesses) if I don’t care for my body, I really do run out of capacity to do this work. It’s also important for me not to do climate change resistance work from a place of alienation–way too discouraging–but take the time to route my work in relationship to the eco-systems that I seek to protect. And relationships take time and care.

Keep Going: I will attend the local Climate Strike Planning meeting this evening and not allow the discouragement to render me frozen. (Is there a climate strike planning meeting near where you live?) This is critical to keep “self-care” from being an escapist trope and a meaningful way to continue. I do better when the plan is concrete and I am able to put it on my schedule than if I have something vague. So I’m moving through the stuck places today, both figuratively and with actual physical movement.

Do you experience these responses to discouragement? What helps you from this space? Let’s share our strategies.


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