Rampant inequality may define our world, but I hold firm to my belief about privilege. Let’s not mistake narcissism, entitlement, consumption, distraction, and arrogance for privilege; or self-pity, victim consciousness, manipulation, despair, and desire for a lack of privilege. These are all illnesses of the soul.
The reality is that we’re long past the feel-good “change your lightbulbs, bring your own bags, shorter showers, ride your bike and recycle” mindset. Most people can’t even bring themselves to do these simple actions anyways. We’re long past the point of a spontaneous awakening. If everyone on the planet chose to go vegan, live off-grid, grow their own food, and never buy a single plastic item again, it still wouldn’t be enough (but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still choose to live this way). The runaway momentum from our destructive behaviour is well underway. In most cases, the damage is irreversible. The lag time between our past and our present actions, and the subsequent repercussions of these actions will likely play out for several millennia to come. There’s no escaping the consequences of our willful ignorance, and contrary to our conditioned arrogance, we are not invincible, infallible or immortal. Let’s get real here, we’ve screwed the planet and ourselves. Surely I’m not the only one who gets t
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.
In this culture we display a compulsive avoidance of difficult matters and an obsession with distraction. Because we cannot acknowledge our grief, we’re forced to stay on the surface of life.
Never in the history of our species have we so desperately needed to engage in conscious grieving. Not only are we carrying decades of our own grief, but we almost certainly are carrying the grief of past generations and the grief of other species. In fact, I believe that other species are asking us—perhaps even begging us to grieve their losses. When he is able to grieve, says Weller, his ability to feel this planetary pain “puts me back in a profound state of relatedness to where I live, to the watershed, to my home.” (143-144) Some may assume that given the state of the planet, grieving is pointless. Yet The Wild Edge of Sorrow asserts that, “…we have to keep some sense of our deep soul obligation to the planet alive, no matter if we are leaving. I feel it is an imperative that I do whatever I can to register the sorrows of the planet. We have to remember that much of the grief that we are feeling isn’t ours. It isn’t personal. We are literally feeling the sorrows of the watershed.” (143-144) In fact, the entire Earth community has a right to our bearing witness to their losses.
I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals. On a nearly daily basis, I’ve sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in. This work has emotional consequences: I’ve struggled with depression, anger, and fear. I’ve watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance I’ve grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today. I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims – fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150-200 species we are already driving extinct. Can you relate to this grieving process?