Feel Something, Learn Something, Do Something: A Care Package for Climate Grief
Mary Annaïse Heglar
Oct 22, 2018
About two weeks ago, I wrote about my personal journey through climate grief and mourning. The response to that piece, including its subsequent publication in Vox, has been overwhelming to say the very least. Humbling in all truth. I’ve heard from more people than I can count that my words resonated with them and liberated them.
Several folks have reached out to ask “what do I do now?” And while I’m honored to be asked, the truth is that I don’t have the answer. I know what I did. I know what I still do when I fall back into the throes of climate grief and have to work my way back up to anger (because it’s a cycle, y’all).
I do believe that we should do everything we can to get to a place where we can take action, collective action, against the forces that put us in this trick bag. However, I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to get to that place. So, I posed the question to Green Twitter, and here are some of the best ideas I heard back. The Twitter threads are linked in the headers.
First and foremost, please honor your feelings. Climate change is terrifying and heartbreaking and it is perfectly normal, and human, to have a million emotions about it. Be kind to yourself and cultivate that kindness so that it radiates into your interactions with those around you. Here’s a few more tips from Green Twitter:
1. Move Your Body: Yoga, running, solo dance parties
2. Feed Your Body: eat local (join a CSA, visit the farmers market), chocolate, wine
3. Feed Your Spirit: practice daily exercises of gratitude, meditation, moments of awe, prayer, church/temple/mosque/etc.
4. Get Creative: make art (write, sing, paint, cook) or consume art (movies, books, museums)
5. Build Community: invest in your family or friend groups, seek out other climate-concerned souls either IRL or on social media
7. Enjoy nature: go to the beach, take a hike, pet a puppy
8. Tend Your Mental Health: therapy, anxiety medications, depression medications—whatever you need
When you’re ready to scrape yourself off the floor, it helps to get better informed. Here’s some books and podcasts that can help.
Books that Address Climate Change Directly
1. What We’re Fighting For Now is Each Other by Wen Stephenson
2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
3. The End of Imagination by Arundhati Roy
4. The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
5. Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
6. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
7. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
8. Great Tide Rising by Kathleen Deen Moore
9. Learning to Die the in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton
10. Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth
11. New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
12. Six Degrees by Mark Lynas
13. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
Books that Offer Lessons for the Climate Change Era
1. I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
2. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
3. Start Where You Are by Pema Chrodron
4. The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
5. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron
1. No Place Like Home
2. Mothers of Invention
3. Connect the Dots from CPR
4. Climate Workshop
5. No Ordinary Lawsuit
6. America Adapts
7. Podship Earth
8. Halfway to the Moon
9. How to Survive the End of the World
10. Warm Regards
So, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? First of all, I strongly recommend this essay from Samuel Miller-McDonald. But here’s some more ideas:
1. Bear Witness: talk about the climate crisis with those in your community and those outside of it. As Beyonce would say, “ring the alarm.” spread the word so that we all learn to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves. Since the “climate” is literally the atmosphere, it’s simultaneously everywhere and nowhere at the same time. How often do you ignore the air around you? So, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.
2. Root the Conversation: climate change didn’t happen in a vacuum. Its roots share soil with slavery, imperialism, and colonialism. It, therefore, cannot be discussed in totality without an equally robust discussion of the race, class, gender, and economic dynamics with which it interacts. And, always, remember who the real culprits are: the fossil fuel industry.
3. Listen: Here, I especially mean to Indigenous People and to our youth. Indigenous Peoples have been living sustainably for millennia, even in spite of dogged attempts to rob them of their cultures, so they deserve a seat at the head of the table. And our youth will be stuck with this planet much longer than any of us. They have a bigger stake, so they should have a louder voice. Listen, donate, and do what they tell you.
4. Force the Issue: Here, I especially mean the media and politicians. They don’t get to talk about “extreme weather” and “weird storms” without connecting the dots that are damn near bleeding together. They don’t get to ask for your vote without even acknowledging an existential threat to all life on earth. Nope, they have to do better. Genevieve Gunther and her initiative, End Climate Silence, provide stellar examples on how to do this.
5. Show Up: Find your local climate justice organizations and show up for their events and actions. Show up for climate marches the way you would for any other cause you’re passionate about. There’s power in numbers.
6. Make Your Money Talk: If you are able, use your wallet to channel your anger to deserving causes. This can include supporting nonprofit organizations hard at work on climate-related issues or politicians who are dedicated to climate action. It could also mean donating to recovery efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Disclaimer: This list is not exhaustive, linear, or prescriptive. You can feel, learn, and act all at the same time.
Take what works. Leave what doesn’t.