I am slowly emerging from the cocoon of maternity leave and getting ready to share new writing, research, and resources for coping with climate anxiety, eco-distress, and what I think of as “trauma of the now” in 2022. I’m very excited to reconnect with you dear reader, and want to lend a big welcome to anyone who is new to Gen Dread. What we do here is value the emotions you might have about the climate and wider ecological crisis, help each other understand how we’re feeling and whether those feelings are thwarting our ability to act, demonstrate care, or uphold climate justice, and finally, transform the intensity of climate emotions into meaningful ways of living at this time. If you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so for free by clicking that yellow button:
Reflections on becoming a climate mom
It is not an overstatement to say that I owe everything I’m doing right now in my work and activism to my 3.5 month old son. The dilemma of whether or not to have a child given the climate crisis overtook my life in 2017. I tried to find an answer to this question that I could live with by spending years researching everything I could about climate psychology and the bigger emergency that causes it. Without that deeply personal struggle, I wouldn’t have felt tormented enough to write my forthcoming book Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, leave my old field in order to focus on the climate in my academic work, get involved with a variety of activist projects, or start this newsletter. There would have been another on ramp to focusing on the climate, for sure. But my specific path towards examining the emotional intensity of living in an awakened state about the crisis, as well as the role of privilege in this debate, was incepted by his potential. I explore the many complex angles, arguments, and emotional considerations tied up with being a “Baby Doomer” (a label used in jest that I apply to myself even though I now have a baby) in a chapter by the same name in the book, so won’t get into it here in any depth yet.
After a rocky birth that sent our son to intensive care for 11 days, the first 6 of which were terrifying because we didn’t know if he would live, die, or have massive long term complications, I am coming back to this work now with a bigger capacity for holding the space open for joy amidst fear. While his health scare wasn’t about the climate, stretching oneself wide enough to embody two polar states at the same time is a key ingredient for coping with the vast uncertainty we are presented with on a daily basis about how massively hellish the climate crisis will become. This is what three climate psychotherapists call “holding open the space between abyss and advance” in this excellent paper.
Please fill out our climate emotions podcast survey
Part of what I’m trying to do here is figure out what people like you want in order to support your own mental wellbeing amidst your climate awareness. Obviously global climate action is the best antidote to the rising trauma out there, but as we continue to push in that direction, the demand for supports that are more immediate and accessible are on the rise. Things like online or in person gatherings, workshops, evidence-backed health and wellness interventions, climate-aware therapy, soothing activities one can do on their own at home, and climate psych literate media are being requested. My colleagues at the Climate Mental Health Network have done some helpful research on what media and tech tools people want in order to support their coping, and it turns out that there is a big amount of interest in podcasts.
Therefore, as we settle into the holidays, I’m wondering if you would please give us the gift of filling out a very short survey about what kind of climate emotions podcasts you might desire. Then before long, you might get the gift of the podcast in this space that you are hoping for, all because you described a bit about what it should sound like now. THANK YOU in advance.
Link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XSW9MSK
Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
Having climate conversations with family and friends over the holidays
If you’re celebrating the holidays throughout the coming days, I’m very curious to know if you’ll be talking about the climate at the dinner table, and how those conversations will unfold. So much energy (for those of us who are alarmed) is spent navigating the dead zone of other people’s defenses and disinterest in facing climate reality. As an article in New Republic puts it, the climate crisis is a generational conflict, so holiday dinners with grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and kids could get red hot. It is no doubt difficult to keep your cool when what feels like life or death is minimized by a relative who couldn’t be less bothered and thinks you’re either being dramatic or crazy. But our ability to thrive depends bringing people together rather than pointing fingers.
So if you talk about the climate crisis over the holidays (as hopefully you will, since talking about it is the best way to fight it, according to climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe), please hold onto your stories about how it all went. We’re going to share and examine those stories in the new year with an expert who specializes in climate conversations, to see what we can learn from our successes and failures, in order to do better at fostering connection when we talk about the climate moving forward. Cool? Cool!
Sending joy, and happy holidays!