Finding Active Hope Through Climate Grief

By Erin Hitchcock –

In late summer I can still smell the wildflowers from my open window, while bees franticly scoop up as much nectar and pollen as they can before the days get colder and winter sings them all to sleep. The life around me is beautiful. I feel so much love for this place.

On the one hand this photo shows how people are destroying our beautiful world but on the other how nature is so resilient. Photo: Oliver Berger

Yet the ecological threads unravel in the distance, and so I can’t help but feel so much pain and despair.

We are running out of time to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees C to avert the most destructive impacts of climate change. I realize this will be the biggest fight we have ever known, and I don’t know how to win it.

I step outside and let that pain flow over me. I clench my heart, and I apologize again and again for my betrayal to the oblivious creatures around me. I wish I didn’t trade pieces of the Earth for what I didn’t need. I wish I hadn’t wasted the planet and the days I could have spent protecting it.

Many people don’t want to face what’s happening to our world, and I don’t blame them. I have been there, too. We talk about the weather but not about the climate. We talk about our kids and grand-kids, but not about the future we are leaving to them. It all starts to feel very, very lonely.

But I am not alone, I know.

I have been fortunate to share my frustrations, anger, sadness, and grief with others who feel the same. Connecting with people in the community has provided the empowerment, solidarity, and hope to keep going.

On October 26 the Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network will hold its Swan Song Festival that will include meditation and grief acknowledgement for our planet (See related article in this issue on page 22).

Grieving can be healing. The truth is painful, but we need to face it in order to transform fear into resilience and activism.

Author, scholar, and eco-philosopher Joanna Macy says to embrace the pain.“Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear war, none is so great as the deadening of our response,” she writes on her website.

In Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy, written by Macy and Chris Johnstone, we are reminded to focus on something we do rather than what we have. “When our responses are guided by the intention to act for the healing of our world, the mess we’re in not only becomes easier to face, our lives also become more meaningful and satisfying,” the book says.

To have active hope is not to be an escapist. Rather, it’s a mindful response to grief and anger, a realization we can choose to shape the future we want.

Philosopher and author Charles Eisenstein explains that by being active you become in service to something greater than yourself.“No matter how complete the despair, no matter how bitter the cynicism, a possibility beckons of a world more beautiful and a life more magnificent than what we know today,” he writes in The Ascent of Humanity.

Looking to history I am reminded of the battles won because people fought for a better world. For example, in 1897 Millicent Fawcett began fighting for the right for women to vote. She and many other suffragettes were successful because they didn’t give up.

In the 1950s and 60s, the civil rights movement worked to gain equal and legal rights for blacks. Due to Martin Luther King and the collective uprising of non-violent civil disobedience, slavery was abolished.

Last year, a 15-year-old girl had enough of the silence and inaction from governments to fight climate change. Greta Thunberg stopped going to school and protested outside the Swedish parliament. She has been an inspiration to thousands, if not millions, of people.

On Friday, September 20 please join Williams Lake activists in the Global Climate Strike. We will meet at the Red Shred’s parking lot on First Avenue before marching through the city demanding climate justice for everyone.

Though there is still much gender, racial, social, and environmental injustice work to be done, it’s important to remind ourselves that change begins with each one of us. We must stand up for what’s right, with the knowledge in our hearts that most people want a world without suffering and without extinction.

Don’t turn off the light. Turn on another and see clearly the world that you need and that needs your active optimism.

Erin Hitchcock is a stay-at-home mom with a journalism diploma and more than 15 years of related experience. She is part of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Pachamama Alliance and is passionate about creating a better future for the Earth. She can be contacted at CCPlanetEarth@gmail.com.

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