When you think about climate change, what happens for you?
Do you feel panicked? Powerless? Angry? Guilty? Grief-stricken? Something else? Do you feel a need to do something, but feel like nothing you can do really matters?
I have felt all of those things for a long time. I have despaired. I have felt alone with it.
And then, due to some chance events a couple of years ago, I started looking at climate change full on. I dug around for information, watched TED talks, looked at dozens of websites, and generally tried to take in as much information as possible—everything scary I hadn’t wanted to see, and some things that were encouraging, surprising, even fascinating.
Climate change started to come alive for me. It stopped being this paralyzing blob of doom that I often couldn’t bear to fully consider, and it started being something that stirred me in deep ways. It started speaking to me in very textured, specific ways as a nature lover, a woman, a human being, and a psychotherapist.
And from that place—THIS place—I can feel why it matters to me so much. I can feel the threads in it that specifically resonate for me. I’m not paralyzed, and I’m not as compelled to react out of blind terror (or blind anger or blind anything); instead, I’m focusing (and refocusing as needed) on following the threads and intuitions that move me.
It’s kind of like the difference between exercising by rote, automatically, because you should and you feel terror that you’re going to die if you don’t, and exercising by tuning into what your body is telling you that you need. Maybe you feel you should run because it feels like that will most effectively keep death at bay, but your knees are clearly saying, nope, that isn’t happening. You have to find what feels right for your body, and trust that those things are the most life-nurturing for you.
And the most important thread for me—my tuned-in “exercise” for climate change—that I keep tugging on and studying and trying to express and share is connection.
Connection with our deeper selves. Connection with each other. Connection to these animals and plants that are here with us. Connection to the water, the rocks, the wind, the dirt. And being willing to let into our inner world the undeniable truth of all these connections.
Some people might say, “We don’t have time for that kind of squishy emotional stuff. We’ve got to get carbon emissions down.”
But do we want to live in a world where that’s how we define environmental health? Where we miss or dismiss the beautifully intricate interconnections that contribute to true health for all of nature, including us?
I don’t want a world like that. And I know there are many others of you out there who don’t want that either. (That includes Charles Eisenstein, who thoroughly, eloquently, and passionately makes the case for disconnection as what ails us in his book, Climate: A New Story.)
I feel deep gratitude for the people working so hard on reducing carbon emissions and being willing to throw themselves again and again into that hard, hard fight. Truly. I’m finding that isn’t my work, but I’m damn appreciative that legions of folks are working so earnestly and wholeheartedly to do it. Because we absolutely need it. Deep bows to all of them. (And to be clear, I know they aren’t all absolutely saying that emissions are all that matters. I feel like many of them have simply found that work is their tuned-in “exercise” for climate change.)
I have found that my work with climate change is to foster connection: to help people feel more connected (and less alone) around climate change, and to notice how feeling more connected changes things. Because once we are back in connection, the innate self-righting mechanism that is at our core and the core of nature kicks in. I have profound faith in this because I have experienced it personally and in others so many times. Connection not only comforts—it reveals what is and what is needed, and it organically forges something new.
Is this sacred self-righting mechanism fast enough to prevent negative impacts of climate change? I’d love to be able to say yes, but no, it probably isn’t. Does that trouble me? Yes, it does.
But just like I know I might die sooner or have other health struggles because I can’t run because my knees say no, I have to surrender to the truth that is being given me. And disconnection is the truth underlying climate change that compels me. And as a psychotherapist, I know I can trust in what fostering connection does.
More to come…
Until then, I ask you to consider: do you feel connected to nature or climate change, or do you feel disconnected? Do you feel connected or disconnected with others around this topic? I encourage you to bring it up to just one person today, someone you feel safe approaching about it who will respond with respect and care. And notice what happens for you.