October 2013 brought three headlines to my Google news box: "Arctic climate's last bastion succumbing to global warming, researchers say" (The Globe and Mail); "U.S. will see unprecedented heat waves by midcentury" (USA Today); and "Oil firms asked to account for climate change risk" (CBC News).
Admittedly, I am a curiously concerned person about all this. In fact, I think about it everyday...often. I am also a psychotherapist, by temperament introverted and self-reflective, who values the realm of subjectivity. There's what happens "out there", and there's what happens "in here" about what happens "out there". And what happens "in here" will fundamentally determine how we see and relate to what's happening "out there".
So what is happening "in here" about what is happening "out there" in the world of rising ocean and atmospheric carbon levels; and "out there" in the world of increasing scientific evidence about the symptoms ie. ocean and atmospheric change; biodiversity loss; expanding deserts; the current mass extinction event, to mention a few.
Most of those I talk to, beneath a thin veil of disavowal essentially say, "yes, I believe something is really happening...and no, I don't believe it is really happening because it is overwhelming and inconvenient to think about". And yes, we are quite capable of thinking opposite beliefs at the same time...we do it all the time. In these conversations I discover anxiety, overwhelm, and a rush to change the topic; or, a surge of emotion and a rush of words looking for reassurance and confirmation that they aren't crazy for how they feel, and think; and finally, a guilt, a worry, that they aren't doing enough in their lives to turn the climate change, environmental crisis tide.
What about you? How do you relate to and hold the ever-increasing news of climate change and environmental crisis? What do you do with it? What do you really believe about it? These are important and difficult questions.
Knowing more about your answers to these questions may make a difference to how you walk your days, and sleep at night; and it may make a difference to how you respond as a mother or father, a daughter, a grandfather, a friend, a wife, an employee, a citizen in these unprecedented times. Will you allow curiousity to wed concern? Will you brave opening the door to conversations about how you think and feel about the crisis, and the now steady stream of crisis news?
Increasingly the signs of the crisis are entering my psychotherapy session room. Perhaps the "voice of the earth" is speaking through the anxious, overwhelmed narratives and dreams of my patients. Possible? I think so.
"We all know that the Arctic is the miner's canary of the planet...the first to show signs of environmental change, and to the greatest degree...one of the last big refugia seems to have succumbed." John Smol, Queen's paleolimnologist, in "Arctice climate's last bastion...".
"What's shocking is how soon this is going to happen...something we're doing to ourselves, not just future generations...". Camilo Mora, data analyst and geography professor, University of Hawaii, Manoa, in "U.S. will see unprecedented...".
"There is a deep concern that the industry, especially the oil and gas industry, is betting vast amounts of capital contingent on a future of ever-increasing demands for ever-more expensive fossil fuels and the companies I work with are concerned that that future is looking increasingly less likely...". Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas programs at ethical investment company, Ceres, in "Oil firms asked...".
What's in your "in here" about that "out there"?