Ecological grief

“I often see how you sob over what you destroy, how you want to stop and just worship; and you do stop, and then a moment later you are at it again with a knife, like a surgeon. ” ― Anais Nin

Some describe it as Climate Anxiety, but I prefer to think of it as grief.

“grief
noun
– deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. trouble or annoyance.”

I accept that Devon, where I live, is not presently living with the worst effects of climate change but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a deep sense of loss for all those species, lands and oceans being slaughtered with such alacrity.

Being vegan too doesn’t help. I’ve lost track of the number of films and Tweets I’ve forced myself to watch showing the mass slaughter of farmed and wild animals. In particular, the killing of dogs and cats and the mass finning of sharks. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to shedding a few tears.

But it goes much further. Don’t ask me why, but perhaps because of my Buddhist leanings and being in love with all living things, I also feel that the Earth is dying by a thousand cuts — whether that’s strip mining in Australia, the mass extinction of fish by commercial fishing or the near total destruction of the rainforests.

To be clear, it’s not that I lie awake at night thinking about the animals, insects and the biodiversity that’s no longer here. I do though suffer from a low-level anxiety that often leaves me feeling listless and out of sync with life. It doesn’t help that I’ve got no outlet to discuss what’s really going on. Sure, I could just as easily slough it off as more dodgy thinking but it’s more than that. It’s a dark, brooding sense that’s been with me for as long as I can remember.

There is (thankfully) a lighter side to this melancholia; namely, how my heart sings when I’m close and present with nature. It could be watching a bird feeding itself, my dog swimming in the river — his favourite pastime — or the lambs, right now, suckling their mothers. I suppose that’s one reason why I spend so much time walking my dog. It’s a wonderful, restorative counterbalance to my ecological grief.

Truth is, my grief knows no bounds, and I worry about what my children will inherit of this once pristine earth? If we carry on with business as usual, then very little. Does that make me sad? Yes, very. I can’t comprehend it if I’m honest. Even in my lifetime, I’ve seen insect numbers reduce to practically nothing, fewer starlings, fewer bees and a landscape that’s been sacrificed on the altar of property development. And that leaves me feeling very cold.

I know this subject will be one that I’ll return to again and again. At the moment, I’m trying to understand the idea of disenfranchised grief. As far as I understand, it’s not been substantively addressed in the environmental field but I suspect that that will change. Once I’ve understood more I’d like to explore whether there’s a way, besides immersion in nature, to come to terms or understand what’s in play. This isn’t to offer some snake oil template training programme, but to counsel myself and others on what it is they’re feeling.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this subject. How far does the limit of ecological grief actually travel particularly or more especially in a world drunk on its own consumptive ways?

Take care.

Julian

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

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