A question on Earth Day: who is protecting the people who are protecting us?
Bringing collective care into the climate professions
Hello and happy Earth Day!
At Gen Dread, we talk a lot about the painful emotions that come with being awake to the environmental crisis. But the truth is that these emotions wouldn’t be so potent - or motivating - if they weren’t undergirded by fierce love for this planet, all its magnificent creatures, and our nearest and dearest humans. Grief and love are two sides of the same coin, anxiety marks our concern for things we care about, and rage is a mama bear’s roar that bellows when the line between right and wrong has been crossed. All of these feelings, and many more, stem from a celebration of the Earth and the wacky 3.5-4 billion years over which life on this planet has evolved.
We know these times are dysfunctional. They’re also arresting, ingenious, and awe-inspiring. We’re moving through them together, and can help each other as we do. How beautiful is that? Happy Earth Day. This day, and every day, is about so much more than we typically give it credit for.
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Who is protecting the people who are protecting us?
Photo by Fateme Alaie on Unsplash
As has become clear in the COVID pandemic, frontline health workers continue to burn out hard from failures in health infrastructure and overwhelming demand for their services. As the climate and wider eco crisis ramps up, the demands on sustainability and adaptation professionals, climate scientists, activists, and green politicians will also soar. We need to get ahead of the ball now if we are to avoid the damage to frontline climate workers in the same way we saw with COVID.
This week I want to shine a light on the critical efforts of adaptation consultant Dr Susanne Moser because she has jumped ahead of the ball with her work that focuses on psychosocial resilience in the face of transformative change. In the spirit of Earth Day, Moser is fighting not only to protect the planet, but nourish and support the professionals who carry a heavy psychological toll from working so hard to prevent and adapt to climate disruption.
Moser surveyed frontline climate professionals in 2018/19. Her findings showed that “long before the worst impacts have unfolded - sadness, fear, worry, and burn-out, albeit rarely spoken about in public, have significant consequences for the ability of adaptation professionals to serve their stakeholders effectively over the long haul.” This is why she now works to provide experts with trainings, programs, peer support networks and new aspects of organizational culture that focus on psychosocial support as a part of professional development. To Moser, this is just as important as technical skill-building.
She urges us to imagine what would happen if all of a sudden, all the teachers we depend on to cultivate our kids’ education just disappeared? If the already immense burnout that frontline climate workers experience ramps up as our environmental challenges worsen, we may be in no better position. We have a huge opportunity to think through this problem now, and prevent it from happening at field-wide scale.
Moser’s project The Adaptive Mind is a collective care leadership program that equips adaptation professionals with the capacity to remain agile, creative, resolved, and resilient in the face of constant trauma, synchronous crises, rapid shifts, and pervasive uncertainty. It does all of this through the lens of systemic and transformative change. If you’d like to find out more about this project, this interview with Susanne Moser provides a nice overview (beginning at the 13 minute mark…alarmingly, she discusses how 4/5 people in the frontline climate adaptation workforce are already burnt out, and what can be done to solve this problem). She also wrote a chapter about it in the wonderful feminist climate anthology All We Can Save.
How are we all going to fare if those with the most expertise in sustainability science and climate adaptation need to check out at an increasing rate due to the mental exhaustion of their work? This dangerously under-explored issue needs attention, and The Adaptive Mind is an embodiment of that kind of foresight. As a personal plea to any funders out there who might be reading this, I urge you to give The Adaptive Mind, and similar programs that take a holistic inside-out approach to transformative change, your most serious attention. We all depend on climate professionals, and so much can be done to better support them. The Adaptive Mind has a team, body of research, and materials ready to deploy. Their next step is to standardize their program and make it freely available to those who need it. I’m not at all involved in the project, I just believe in it.
To learn more about The Adaptive Mind, please contact the Principal Investigator: Dr. Susanne Moser // firstname.lastname@example.org
Generation Dread - the book
I’ve got a lot of great events lined up around the publication of my new book Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis that I’ll share with you soon. It would be amazing to meet you virtually or in person while I’m touring the book, baring my soul 😅, and sharing what I’ve learned about harnessing tough climate emotions and supporting mental health in a heating world. If you’ve enjoyed the Gen Dread newsletter over the last 2 years, pre-ordering Generation Dread *the book* before it comes out May 3rd is the most meaningful way you can support my work, and would mean the world to me. Thank you so much to readers who have already supported in this way.
Where to pre-order:
In the UK and Australia, it will become available a little after the North America date, so will update when that’s ready (though the e-formats in next bullet is also relevant for folks in either place)
Internationally in most markets, you can use the link here to find a retailer that ships to you. In all countries it is also available in E-book and Audiobook formats, which will come as immediate downloads.
Sending an Earth full of sincere thanks!
Upcoming events and retreats - join me!
Grief, Joy and the Way Forward - Life in a World on Fire
August 10 - 14, 2022 at the beautiful Hollyhock in British Columbia, with Kairn Mahon Carrington, Dr. Britt Wray, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, LaUra Schmidt, and Tzeporah Berman
Our world is teetering on a precipice and we are losing our balance. Every day we are met with new disasters, new disappointments, and warnings that the worst is yet to come. How do we find our way in this time of upheaval, where the old is dying, and the new is yet to take form?
Eco-anxiety is now a recognized phenomenon across the globe. While grief, anxiety, anger, and avoidance are all natural responses to the pain and suffering around us, they can also threaten to overwhelm us and drain the joy from life. How can we stay present to the suffering in the world, do the work that is ours to do, while showing up fully in our own lives, and avoid burning out or turning away?
Now is the time to build our resilience – as individuals and collectively. Most of us have little or no framework to process the challenges of living through this time of interconnected and overlapping crises. Together we will explore a wide range of tools and perspectives including processes for metabolizing grief, tools for dealing with anxiety, continuing to decolonize our worldviews, somatic practices, the conscious cultivation of joy, as well as the latest learnings from climate psychology and neuroscience. We will develop resources to navigate this time of dissonance and disconnection from a place of strength rooted in love.
Sessions will be held outside in the natural healing beauty of the coastal rainforest, gathering outdoors in the forest, garden, and on the beach, as much as is practical. There will be chocolate.
Program elements include:
A guide for processing our eco-anxiety and grief
Deep time connecting with the more-than-human natural world
A view into how some indigenous cultures view the climate crisis and solutions they offer
Somatic practices for alleviating the impact of ongoing stress and trauma
Frameworks for dealing with uncertainty
Ritual and practices to reconnect with joy and inspiration
An exploration of active hope
Join us to learn more about Climate Hope and other resources.
Scholarships Available! See the registration page for more information. We will offer some form of scholarship to everyone that applies!
For more information on program registration, scholarships, logistics, etc., please contact Hollyhock. To inquire about whether this program might be suitable for you, or someone you know, contact Kairn Carrington - email@example.com
Parenting Teens in Uncertain Times
Recent studies report that our teens are facing record levels of depression, suicide, and loneliness. As parents, practitioners, and caregivers, I believe we have the opportunity to:
Open the dialog and learn real tools to help
Create positive transformation
Build a framework for a new, healthier way of being
I’m taking part in a free summit all about Parenting Teens in Uncertain Times. Visit this link to access this 10 day summit with 40 expert speakers for parents seeking to understand and support teens today. I’ll be giving a talk on May 1 about ‘Understanding and Working with Eco Anxiety in Teens’. Get your free ticket here - hope you’ll join us!
New offerings from the Gen Dread community
We need better climate stories! If you’re a screenwriter looking to write climate narratives, the amazing new Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change just launched and is now freely available, thanks to Anna Jane Joyner and her team at the Good Energy Project. This is some of the boldest and best work I have seen to supportively shape culture at scale in a long time.
Yoga for Ecological Grief is a first-of-its-kind online course consisting of lectures, handouts, journal prompts, four accessible yin and restorative yoga classes, and discussion forums to connect with one another. It includes readings, poetry, and teachings from Joanna Macy and The Work that Reconnects, Pema Chodron, Francis Weller, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tricia Hersey, Rumi, Bayo Akomolafe, Sharon Salzberg, and many others. This heart-supporting, heart-opening series cultivates compassion & equanimity, loving-kindness & joy, courage & resilience, all within a safe, trauma-conscious container.
Facilitated by Laura Johnson, PhD, RYT-500, TCYM, this unique course is pre-recorded and self-paced, offered at a sliding scale with scholarships available, and participants gain unlimited access to the materials. Folks brand new to yoga as well as seasoned practitioners will benefit, and all bodies are welcome.
That’s all for this edition