I have felt hopelessness over climate change. Here is how we move past the immense grief

(The Guardian, 9 May 2019) My intellectual and rational understanding of it has shifted to much more of an emotional and personal one.

Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life.’ ‘The planet has seen sudden warming before, it wiped out almost everything.’

These are some of the headlines that bombard us at ever-increasing rates.

Each day new reports and household names such as David Attenborough warn of “irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”. The United Nations says we have 12 years to avoid climate catastrophe. We are also amidst the world’s sixth mass extinction, the worst since the time of the dinosaurs.

This reality is taking its toll on our mental health, especially among younger people who are understandably losing hope for their futures on a hotter planet. We are seeing the rise of what is known as climate or ecological grief. This grief summarises feelings of loss, anger, hopelessness, despair and distress caused by climate change and ecological decline.

We are facing a state of continual unfolding loss, compounding impacts on our psyches. It could be loss of animals and plants we hold dear or lifestyles we have grown accustomed to such as eating whatever we want whenever we want. As the time length between loss and impacts shorten, personal recovery times reduce. At the same time there is anxiety about what is still to come.

Yet there is no way to do justice to the threats we face without it being scary and provoking anxiety. How do we face up to these warnings without falling into apathy, denial or being evangelically optimistic? How do we find a way to confront our climate and ecological reality and yet respond in a meaningful, purposeful way?

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The Guardian, 9 May 2019: I have felt hopelessness over climate change. Here is how we move past the immense grief