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Is the Environment News getting you down? Do you have the Eco -Blues? -Here are some things you can do about them

Hardly a blossom left and it isn't even spring yet


I’m feeling a bit glum this week because I went out to photograph the spring blossom, but it had already been and gone, blown away by the savage winds we’ve had. Given the events in the northern summer this year with its heatwaves, floods and fires, I am not looking forward to ours, with or without El Nino. 

Canada has had more than 5000 fires this year and is still burning with no end in sight. South America even had a heatwave in the middle of winter and then there was Maui

However, well beyond my personal experience and beyond the concern for those affected by bigger and more frequent disasters, there is a deeper grief - the recognition that our world is changing irrevocably and unpredictably and many things which we knew and took for granted are coming to an end.

It’s true that I often suffer from seasonal affective disorder brought on by too many dark winter days and very possibly -like most Tasmanians, from a lack of Vitamin D, but now my usual remedies such as chasing wild waterfalls or flitting off to somewhere new, exciting and different, increasingly come with a big serve of guilt, despite offsets.

It makes me wish I lived in a place like Europe where you could travel by train, cycle or even walk from place to place, instead of being stuck on an island out in the Southern Ocean. Our settlements are much too far apart to do any of those things and their populations are generally too sparse to support public transport. You’d think that with all that sunshine we’d be the first to have electric vehicles, rather than lagging far behind, but it will be decades before I and most other people here will be able to afford them. 

Eco – anxiety, eco grief and environmental guilt have become so common that they are now formally recognised by the Mental Health profession. Eco -grief is more or less about mourning for lost species, landscapes, neighbourhoods and ways of life. Eco – anxiety is concern about what the future holds, living with uncertainty and powerlessness about things which we’ve not been able to change, while enviro – guilt is about the things we have done or must still do, even though they aren't good for the planet.

What can we do?

Don’t Despair

The first thing to do according to Canadian environmental campaigner, David Suzuki, is not to despair. “Despair is a luxury we can no longer afford.” He urges us to keep on doing the things we are doing however small, because collectively they do add up.

Take Action

The best cure for ecological grief, according to adjunct professor of environmental theology at the University of Helsinki, Panu Pihkala, PhD, is to do things which accord with your values and beliefs, starting with those things which are available to you and in your control such as community gardens.

Spend time in Nature

Connecting with nature definitely helps. Even though I’d missed the blossom, the resident blackbird came to show off his new girlfriend and greeted me with a superb song. Any kind of physical activity – dance, walking, gardening, even cleaning up the nature strip or the kitchen will get those ‘feel good’ endorphins going. Singing, making or listening to music will do it too. I guarantee you will sleep well afterwards and that is one of the first prerequisites for being able to help others and appreciating what we have.

Look after Yourself

You know how airlines always tell you to put your own mask on first? Getting enough rest and peace and solitude is like that. It’s hard to fill someone else’s cup if you are always running on empty yourself. That includes getting enough fresh food and doing a few things which bring you pleasure.

Connect with others

 Bing Chat suggests getting together with others experiencing the same thing via online groups, meet -ups or “climate caf├ęs” which are springing up all over the world. Read more here.

The University of Calgary in Canada, lists a number of other possibilities including various Facebook groups – contact them to find out if there’s one near you, or the Good Grief Network's 10 step program, based in the USA but operating around the world, which provides low -cost peer -to -peer support to lead people out of inertia and despair to action. 

Spiritual and Creative Connection

For those seeking more spiritual connection or creative expression, Bing offers other avenues. There is Work that Reconnects for example, which has lots of free resources such as  prompts to guide creative writing, rituals and artwork or which uses breathing, yoga and meditation to release stress.

If the Pain Persists…..

If none of the above work for you, it might be time to seek professional help. The Climate Psychology Alliance is an international community of health professionals concerned with the emotional impact of climate and the ecological crisis. As well as some links to support groups and services, it has articles on a number of topics such helping young people to navigate these difficult times

Me? I’m taking lessons from my littlest granddaughters. I am going to make myself a hot steamy jungle bath like theirs -with pot plants and candles all around – even the dreaded spider plant, then I’ll light up the scented candles and put on some jungle sounds and Voila! – almost a tropical island, though I might forego the face paint and stripper nails. 

There are also other forms of good old -fashioned escapism. Just because these issues are serious and life itself is becoming more so, we shouldn't stop having fun. Indeed, I think we need more fun to carry us through. I might also skip the news for a night or two and watch a movie instead, even though I have an awful feeling those infernal devices are part of the problem as well.

Perhaps while I'm doing those things I might be ale to think of some way to help the people of Maui, like that UK dentist who's getting people to donate toothbrushes. It isn't so much about the object itself, but about letting people know that they haven't been forgotten and abandoned by the rest of the world.