I haven’t been coping very well with climate grief this week. I have curled up in front of the fire for the past three days, crying about things that I don’t have the power to change.
I want to cast a spell on all the people cutting down the rainforest, freezing them into cold hard stone.
I want the trees to grow back. I want the pulsating jungle to spill over into towns and cities, as once endangered species skitter through the canopy in abundance.
But people don’t cut down the rainforest because they want to destroy it. They do it because they want to feed their families. So I guess I want to lace up my boots and march to the office of the man that ordered the cutting of the trees. I want to tell him to put a stop to this at once or he’ll wish he was never born.
But the problem is – he is just trying to feed his family too.
Perhaps he’s trying to feed them rather a lot more than they really need, but the human instinct to accumulate resources and provide for our loved ones runs deep. It can be found in all of us. The world is not divided into goodies and baddies. It sure would be much easier to know how to feel about everything if it was.
Maybe I want to cast my spell on the whole world. To turn every single one of us dark grey slate for a couple hundred years. Just enough time to let the planet recover, then we can shake off the dust and hug our families again.
But unfortunately, I don’t have the power to turn 8 billion people into statues. I just have the power to buy second hand clothes, avoid taking flights, and plant lots of flowers for the bees. Normally, that is enough for me. But these last days, I have felt heartcrushingly powerless to protect the earth that I love so much.
Here in France, there is a fable about a little bird.
He lives in an ancient forest that is raging with wildfire. So, he flies down to the stream and gathers a few drops of water in his little beak. He rushes back to the center of the forest, and releases his droplets over the flames. They sizzle and evaporate before they even reach the ground, but he turns around and heads straight back to the stream. He gathers another few droplets in his mouth, and heads back into the fray.
The other forest animals are running through the trees below.
‘What are you doing you crazy bird?’ shouts a stag as he leaps over the river to escape the burning trees.
‘I’m doing what I can.’ Replies the little bird. ‘It’s not much, but I’m doing my part.’
My mother in law told me this story when she found me in a nest of blankets by the fire last night. As I thought about the last scraps of wild places, I felt a physical manifestation of pain in my chest and throat.
‘I just want to save the world from all this mother-loving poop.’ I said through tears.
(Actually I said something a big ruder than mother-loving poop, insert appropriate swear word to your taste.)
‘I understand that.’ Replied the superhero/mother-in-law also known as Bernadette. ‘I used to want that too. But all you can do is your part, and honor the time you have on this earth by seeking joy as you do it.’
She squeezed my slipper. (We used to do hugs, but since she’s working with COVID positive people in her social work role, this is the first time we have touched in 9 months.)
COVID sure doesn’t help maintain a stable base to process our climate grief from.
You can practically feel and taste the uncertainty in the air. And whilst so many people have gone above and beyond to help other people throughout this weird time, the local village mayor reported getting 5 – 10 calls a day of people denouncing their neighbours for going for more than one walk in the countryside a day.
That’s the thing about fear. It has the power to turn us against one another, or the power to build unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. It’s down to us to make the choice that we want to see in the world.
I know a lot of people are going through the same feelings of worry, grief and anger at the moment. So this week, I just want to tell you that it’s OK to feel how you feel.
Feel the pain, and the grief, and the anger. There is no shame in feeling climate grief. It is a rational and reasonable reaction to what’s going on in the world, especially with all the other political and social challenges being thrown at us these days.
Feel as awful as you need to feel, then dust yourself off and continue to do your part. Just like the little bird in the forest, we can make peace by sprinkling drops of kindness on our world, as much as it might feel pointless from time to time.
Because when enough of us head down to the river and start gathering water, together we can subdue the flames.
If this article resonated, you might like to check out The Highly Sensitive Nomad book.
You might also like to read:
- The Inseparable Health Of People And The Earth
- Moving Away From Capitalism With Gratitude
- The Inconvenient Truth About A Life Of Travel
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