Lorraine Shannon, Wild Mountain Collective Seminars Coordinator
Many authors write powerfully and insightfully on climate change and grief. Sally Gillespie’s recently published Climate Crisis and Consciousness: Re-imagining our world and ourselves is the one I have chosen for this month’s quotes. Among the range of vital issues this book addresses, it holds out to us ways of holding our grief as well as re-imagining creative ways to be on this earth.
This fire season is far from over and while areas remain under threat, others attempt to rebuild shattered lives as the scale of loss of homes, farm properties and farm animals becomes more and more apparent. Those of us who found ourselves packing, unpacking and repacking ready to evacuate, but have so far survived impending threats, might breathe a sigh of relief, but along with so many people here and overseas, grief at the loss of wildlife, forests and unique plants pervades our daily lives. At the same time drought ravishes the land with disappearing waterways and towns losing their water supply. Australians are slowly realising they face a new climate reality.
Sally Gillespie is a guest speaker at the next Wild Mountain Collective seminar
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Saturday 14 April 2pm – 3.30pm
New Shoots: Climate Crisis and Culture
One of my favourite writers, Rebecca Solnit, has observed that there are two disparate meanings of ‘lost’: one involves ‘the familiar falling away’ while the other ‘is about the unfamiliar appearing in which case … the world has become larger than your knowledge of it.’ Many climate discussions focus on the first meaning of lost, the one in which we risk being stripped of everything we have come to take for granted, from reliable rainfall to aeroplane travel. However, I believe it is the second meaning of lost that more fundamentally addresses the challenge of living on a rapidly heating planet. This definition highlights the awareness that we can never fully know or control our infinitely complex and unpredictable world. This is the feeling of lost we must learn to consciously live within (p. 4).
The emotional process of familiarising ourselves with news of climate destructions is ongoing. Time and repeated exposure can help us to integrate the realities of climate disruption. When this happens, climate anxiety does not so much disappear as become part of the landscape of our lives and our relationship to the world, which we can reflect upon and integrate over time. This process of normalizing and integrating climate anxiety is the antidote for pervasive feelings of numbness or apathy in response to the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse (p.40).
A profound quandary arises when we encounter the unknown and unpredictable in life. We feel stripped of expertise and beliefs just when we feel most in need of something steady to hold on to. Unforeseen events and complexities test prevailing myths and worldviews. When they fail the test, many flail. But for those who can consciously accept that we are in a time of great uncertainty riven with many unknowns, this can be a favourable time for learning, opportunity and creativity (p. 45).
As climate disruption intensifies, there is an urgent need to grow psychological resilience through establishing strong social support networks, climate action groups and accessible community practices that help to regulate emotions, such as mindfulness practice, yoga and gardening, as is happening in many schools. Communities that can acknowledge and support people through their trauma, grief and depression increase their ability to use adversity as a catalyst for evolving new directions and meanings (157).