This post is the first in a series on emotional and psychological aspects of climate change that get little to no attention or acknowledgement, yet have a tremendous impact on the ways we are responding to climate change and on what is possible. Some of the posts are factual and literal; some are poetic. For links to all the individual posts in the series, see the end of this post.
For all that we hear about climate change, I’ve been realizing that there are important things that we either don’t hear at all or don’t hear often enough. And that isn’t surprising—any time there is a topic with the intense emotional charge that climate change has, it is inevitable that some aspects will get overlooked or marginalized. This narrowing of perspective happens with individuals in turmoil, and it is the same with societies. So I am launching a series of blog posts to shine light on the unseen and unspoken aspects of climate change that I’m noticing, all of them psychologically- or emotion-related.
My hope in writing and sharing this series of blog posts is that they will help me and you. Anytime we can make space for what has been forgotten or dismissed, more becomes possible. This is a fundamental truth I have seen in my therapy clients again and again and have experienced in my own life. We can’t know what the “more” that emerges will be, but bringing light to what’s hidden or on the fringes always yields something new.
Of course, something new happening is also what so many people are afraid of, which must be acknowledged. Whether you’re right or left, conservative or liberal, or somewhere in between, change is happening—a changing society, a changing environment—and the uncertainty of it can evoke difficult emotions, from feeling slightly unsettled all the way to feeling downright terrified. We are all having a similar experience in this way. Have you thought about that? Please take a moment to think about it, if you haven’t.
And anytime we feel unsettled or terrified, to take time to slow down to see what else might need to be considered, to see what’s been left out, can feel like, Oh my God, we don’t have time for that! We must stop the tree huggers and government from taking over! We must stop the greedy people from destroying the environment! We must flee and go off the grid and reject civilization!
It can be scary to slow down when it feels like your well-being is in jeopardy. I see it all the time with therapy clients, and I certainly have to work to slow myself down when my own fear gets stirred up. We all struggle with it because we’re wired that way.
And we’re also wired such that, when we’re in an agitated state, we lose access to our more robust and complex thought processes.
So I’m inviting us to slow down together here to consider some things that tend to be forgotten or dismissed or just not said. (That doesn’t mean I think carbon emissions are just fine or that I think we should do nothing. I’ve seen that strawman argument made against others, and I find it maddening in its reductionism.)
I’m acknowledging the truth of the difficulty of slowing down while also inviting us to do it anyway, together, to see what can emerge…exactly because what lies ahead of us is new. To meet it well, we need to widen our lens.
Posts in This Series: