Dear fellow climate activists,

With this letter I would like to start a conversation about where we all find ourselves in our reactions to the imminent climate crisis. Climate grief, eco-anxiety, and solastalgia (the distress caused by environmental change) are real and with us just like the climate crisis itself. 

My wish to talk about our emotional responses to the crisis comes out of extended reading, listening, watching webinars and zoom conferences during Earth Week and beyond. My Earth Day became an Earth Month with so much excellent food for thought on the web.

Overwhelmingly, there was a sense of we-can-do-it, although nobody said it would be easy or fast. That’s what I needed to hear because recently, by chance?, by Zeitgeist?, I had also come across numerous admonitions from authors I respect (Dahr Jamail, The Last Ice; Jonathan Franzen, What If We Stopped Pretending?) to finally accept that we are doomed and therefore need to start the grieving process. No, no, no my inner voice kept screaming back, I have beautiful grandchildren, I cannot give in to that attitude. On the other hand, I have to admit that I find myself crying a lot… 

“I’m concerned about the people who aren’t feeling climate grief right now, because I think they’re not paying attention,” says Laura Schmidt, a former environmental organizer who founded the Good Grief Network, which provides a framework for working through overwhelming climate loss (quoted by Heather Hansmann in Outside in November 2018). I think my objection to the statement comes from the term “grief.” It is too closely related to death and finality for me; I am not ready for that. 

Then I stumbled upon the website of this super creative group Nocturnal Medicine in New York (of course) who arranged an Elegy for Insects, a combination dance party/meditation, with a big altar beautifully lit and decorated in honor of all the insects we have killed already. The artists wanted to make the participants feel something about climate change. What is it that I feel, I asked myself, again. 

“Eco anxiety” describes my feelings quite accurately. Also, from fear to nightmares, rage, panic and frenzy, I have felt them. But all these emotions allow for hope in my interpretation, for a way out of an admittedly very dire situation. So far, these feelings have pushed me to more activism as the antidote to depression, to doing as much as I can to help Planet Earth and the human race living on it to heal — rather than administering palliative care.

Did those New Yorkers go a bit far by having a dance party at the wake? Not according to Rebecca Solnit: “Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” (from Hope in the Dark)

That brings me full circle to one of my heroes, the eternally upbeat Paul Hawken. Five years ago he announced his new project Draw Down at the annual Bioneers conference. His point is that not only do we have the know-how to stop putting CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we can draw them back down and sequester them in the ground. What a revelation! “People say Project Drawdown is optimistic. We think of it as a reality project,” says Hawken. Having solutions brings true joy.

The full circle truly describes my reactions to the challenges ahead–around and around, meeting joy, meeting anger, meeting despair.

Where do you find yourselves on the spectrum of emotional responses to the climate emergency? Write us a note; we would love to hear from you. Send your notes to Thanks!

Yours in solidarity and activism, Elisabeth G

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