A Note On Climate Grief

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. 

Walking through a ski resort of Auvergne. Due to climate change, there was only enough snow for it to open for one single day last ski season. I am torn by the desire to enjoy this beautiful mountain, and the anxiety I feel about the future. Photo by Florian Roquais.

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.  

Spending time in the mountains is an essential part of coping with climate grief. When I hear the birds and feel the wind on my cheeks, I can believe that everything will be OK. Photo by Florian Roquais

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.

A walk in the forest always soothes me. Photo by Florian Roquais.

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.

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4 thoughts on “A Note On Climate Grief

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I have been feeling the same and it has been feeling overwhelming of late but I try not to give up and I go out into the world and try to have helpful conversations with people, to talk them into doing some little things to help like the bird. Me I find time to garden and grow my own food, to go to local farmers markets and buy everything else from local producers. I try to recycle and reuse. I have modified and reduced travel but it is not really enough. I just try to live in such a way as to reduce my impact and to try and spread the word about how important it is that we all care. Thank you for the post. 🌻🌻🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome Sharon, thank you for this lovely comment. You are doing brilliantly, I’m so grateful for the kindness and goodness you are bringing to the world. I think growing our own food is such an important and wonderful way to make a difference to the health of ourselves and the planet!

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  2. Thank you for helping me put a name to what I’ve been feeling – climate grief. And also for reminding me that even if it feels pointless, that every little bit we do can help. Our own small efforts include making our yard a better place for birds (especially blue birds), bees and flowers, trying to shop for locally grown foods, replacing all light bulbs in our house with LED’s and recycling our plastics and glass. I love reading your blog and seeing the beautiful photographs your husband takes. One day, I hope to see all these beautiful places too. If I was younger (I’m 58), I would love to live the life of adventure you have chosen! Thank you for allowing us to share your journey through your blog!

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    1. Thank you for this lovely comment and thank you for all the different contributions that you make to help the world be a slightly kinder place. Wishing you all the best!

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