I would like to share how I’m feeling and see what we might have in common.
I didn’t glue myself to Oxford Street with Extinction Rebellion this Easter. I was looking after kids, watching cricket and doing jigsaws. But I’m deeply grateful someone did. When I watched Greta Thunberg’s TED talk on Climate Change a few months ago I cried. They were tears of maternal feeling, shame, relief and hope.
For as long as I’ve watched nature documentaries, I’ve been painfully aware of biodiversity collapse, human population growth, the warming of the planet and the destruction of habitats for nature. I’m a long time amateur nature watcher and supporter of environmental charities. The joy of swifts screeching over my home in the summer is accompanied by grief at their decline in numbers.
However I have also, for many years, been living alongside the facts rather than really engaging with them. I read about the mass destruction of European songbirds, over-fishing, the bleaching of coral reefs, the melting of glaciers and the plight of the insect biomass. I might send an extra donation to the charity and then go to work or take the kids to school – carry on.
I think many of us are in this situation, placing psychological distance between ourselves and some horrible truths. Psychological Distance from the impacts of humans on our planet home take many forms:
Time – it won’t be bad for a very long time (maybe not til after I’m gone)
Place – it will be bad elsewhere but not so much where I live
People – it’s going to be worse for others than it is for me
Hypothetical – maybe it’s not as likely as people think
Scale – maybe it won’t be as big or as bad as people think
This list of distancing tactics can be soothing. They relieve discomfort. And they don’t even include the most relieving of all – denial.
And we do have to carry on. We have to raise our kids and go to work and make the costumes for the pantomime and cook and tend to our sick uncle and take the cat to the vet and and and and and… But what can we do if carrying on alongside our eco-anxiety no longer feels good enough? How do we somehow engage differently with the issue? One coach I know has made radical changes to her life, making the transition from full-time coach to more or less full-time activitist within 6 months including being arrested with Extinction Rebellion. I am grateful to her.
Meantime, what am I doing?
1 Talking more: Chatting to friends and colleagues and comparing how we feel
2 Educating myself: Listening, reading, watching and turning towards the facts not away from them
3 Seeking community and support: convening and joining groups of common interest
4 Taking more action in the personal sphere: getting much more disciplined about how I invest, buy and use energy, travel and eat.
5 Taking more action in the professional sphere: writing more, talking to other professionals
6 Taking more action in the political sphere: Writing to my MP, signing petitions and, for the first time in my life, considering marching despite my deep discomfort in crowds.
I am feeling like I’m somewhere on some kind of curved path from stuckness to mobilisation. Where are you?