While Americans feel “an increasing alarm” about climate change, according to a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, scientists have been coping with this troubling data for decades—and the grinding emotional effects from that research are another cost of global warming that the public has yet to fully confront. Before you ask, there is no scientific consensus regarding the impact of climate research on the scientists performing it. It hasn’t been studied in a systematic way
Can we let go of the cherished belief that we are here to stay, rejoice in our existence, and live our final days with grace?
I am writing to those who are searching for a place from which to understand the disruption at hand and what is behind it, and also to those who want to respond in a way that provides a soft landing as systems collapse, while growing us into the human beings that we rightly are. Perhaps that “place” is under the wing of an elder who might offer shelter and inspiration, who has direct relationship with the spiritual reality that sits behind the concrete world, who is steadily available as a source of sanity and guidance
Maybe some of the answers you’ve come up with are things like: terrible people, moral weaklings, disgraces, and so on. Moral answers, in other words. That’s a start — and yet there’s a much simpler and more straightforward answer, that some part of you is still defending against, preventing you from saying or thinking. That answer is this. What kinds of people build camps and commit torture and genocide? Fascists do.
We are not here to save the world
Only to belong to it more fully.”
At this critical planetary moment, the two of us are each considering what it means to deeply accept that our planetary home is in crisis — and how to move forward. Here are some of our individual reflections.
You, dear reader, who are paying such close attention to the unraveling of all that we know, must share in many of these feelings. When you see another of these grotesque, pasty-white iterations of humanity stuffed into a glossy suit, acting as nothing more than a fossil-fueled ventriloquist’s puppet, do you, like me, burn inside with rage, a rage that threatens to incinerate you? Do you fantasize of their demise? Of somehow bringing them, at least, a taste of the pain their soulless and heartless actions are bringing to the fish searching for food atop the bleached-out coral reefs? To show them the starving polar bears swimming for hundreds of miles to find no ice to rest upon? At these times, I wonder if any of these so-called humans can feel a goddamn thing anymore.
Do you see a little bit by what I mean when I say democracy needs to be nourished by sanity? If Americans had cared about each others’ psychological wounds — if they’d turned to one another and said: “we’re all being hurt by predatory systems and institutions, and yet we’re all asked to be part of them too — this has to change!” — then maybe enough people wouldn’t have been so psychically fragile as to be such easy prey for the world’s dumbest demagogue. But they were — and that Americans fell for Donald Trump, of all people, tells us just how badly psychologically shattered they must have been. You must be genuinely and totally broken inside by your insecurities if you believe what a Donald Trump is selling you.
The optimistic position is simply naïve. The pessimistic predicts the precise design of the future and doesn’t acknowledge that we can do a lot in the name of compassion to make life easier on ourselves, one another, and other species—our triangle of resilience relationships. Many don’t seem to be able to hang out in the 8–9.5 range, and I am certainly practicing this myself. If our fear is great and especially if we have little tolerance for fear, we might even try to deny climate change altogether.
We easily associate empathy, compassion, an open heart, support, cooperation, honesty, integrity, and gratitude with love, but how about boundaries, limits, grief, anger, discernment, comfort with not knowing, and a commitment to working on our personal and cultural shadow?