Eco-Grief: Our Greatest Ally?

By Jennifer Atkinson

If you suffer from climate grief, you know what it’s like to feel hopeless, alone, or bewildered by society’s business-as-usual response to our existential threat. Wanting those feelings to go away is normal, but grief can lead to awareness and compassion in ways that actually advance political action and climate solutions. Paradoxically, grief can also provide a kind of strength and clarity when conventional hopes are shaken. As climate activist Tim DeChristopher once said, “In happy times the weight of despair is oppressive, but in stormy times that weight is an anchor that can get you through.” This episode explores the value of grief as a way to overcome collective denial as we move into an uncertain climate future. While most environmentalists are urging us to focus on hope, I point out that grief and hope aren’t mutually exclusive, and for many, grief may even be our best ally in an age of climate crisis.

(Top image by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona via Unsplash.)

Facing It is a podcast about climate grief and eco anxiety. It explores the psychological toll of climate change, and why our emotional responses are key to addressing this existential threat. In each episode of Facing It, I explore a different way we can harness despair to activate meaningful solutions.

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Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is an Associate Professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her seminars on Eco-Grief & Climate Anxiety have been featured in the New York TimesWashington Post Magazine, the Los Angeles TimesNBC News, the Seattle Times, Grist, the Washington PostKUOW and many other outlets. Jennifer is currently working on a book titled An Existential Toolkit for the Climate Crisis (co-edited with Sarah Jaquette Ray) that offers strategies to help young people navigate the emotional toll of climate breakdown.

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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