ECOLOGICAL GRIEF: A SHARED HUMAN EXPERIENCE

Ecological researchers and environmental scientists have found that ecological grief is not limited to people who have suffered some form of environmental disaster, nor to those who have experienced intergenerational environmental devastation.  Climate change and more severe weather is something that impacts everyone on some level. An interesting fact in this study (Monitor on Psychology May 2019) is that the people of the self-governing region of Inuit in northern Labrador Canada and people in the Australian Wheatbelt expressed the same sentiment and emotion. Although these two ‘speakers’ may have little in common on the surface both are people whose lives, livelihoods, and identities are intimately tied to their experiences of their land and their homes, which is now significantly changing due to climate change. These changes have had dire consequences economically, and physically(health).  

    In both communities, the residents are facing off with more than practical hardships.  They share a typically unaccounted for threat-ecological grief or mourning for the natural environment they remembered from the past. This is similar to the mourning that anyone would feel for a lost loved one. Ecological grief is an expected reaction to climate change and 100% of the human race, will, if we look within, will mention at least one form of a mental or emotional challenge due to a changing environmental condition and especially one that has occurred as a result of a changing climate!  Please take a moment now to reflect within and see where you experience this human emotion. 


 

    In addition, the consequences of a changing climate are dangerous and costly. We have already seen the impacts including chronic droughts rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent and extreme storms and flooding. The leadership role of the U.S. state and local governments - both red and blue and the role that the private sector, like YOU, is playing around the world can make a difference! 


 

    The more we educate ourselves and expand our awareness about the economic and emotional impacts, risks and challenges of a changing climate or shifts in our immediate environment the greater our ability to make clear and rational choices in addressing and solving these challenges each in our own unique way. These actions will invariably mitigate the stress, trauma, and grief that is catalyzed by these conditions. One perspective I have found very helpful in creating a clear and expanded awareness is to view nature as an art form and a source of beauty and solace which engages the peace that lies within. Art is integral to our own spirit and nature is the art of the universe. If we think of healing as art then nature can be seen as its most ancient practitioner. Aristotle noted that “art takes nature as its model”. It is true that art has its origins in nature. For anyone who has spent time in nature has found that nature is healing. 


 

    When we are close to the magnificent ocean we do not need to travel far to find the art in nature and nature in our art. The power, majesty, colors and even present flow of the waves are so peaceful and beautiful that it is hard to not appreciate and respect that force that permeates this planet is such a subtle way.  It is this respect and appreciation for this beauty that hopefully can support and mitigate against all forms of stress. The efforts we engage in relation to the above practices are part of an ongoing evolutionary process toward creating an authentic voice and an authentic life. By authentic life I mean a meaning oriented perspective to living which includes listening to our inner observer, our inner physician and our intuition all of which promotes a more harmonious way of life and mature happiness.

    The fulfillment of mature happiness is ‘the cure’ for ‘ecological grief’. This is what is meant by a transformed life. Practices such as mindfulness and entering the silence all serve to enhance this transformative lifestyle and authentic way of living. It is never what our life circumstances are but rather what we greet them with that really counts. Our willingness to cope, adapt and transform life circumstances in our day to day practice will provide the quintessential foundation for mature happiness. 

    The experience of mature happiness, referenced in psychological literature, is often correlated with the macro-cosmic aspect called global well being. This latter dimension of meaning-making, from psychological, sociopolitical, sociocultural and bioecological perspectives interact to form the creative dimension of human existence and is founded upon both moral virtues and basic survival needs. This is supportive of the greatest good’ within an individual and also the best for the greatest number of people. 

    Therefore evolving mature happiness and harmonious inner being occurs through an active transformational process based on a consistent self-awareness which evolves into a natural and sustainable lifestyle.  This experience reverberates to create harmony not only within an individual as a way of life which can encompass grief, and also a more ecocentric natural existence which is psychologically and morally more balanced and spiritually meaningful. As always the journey begins with the first step: take a look inside and start to embrace this practice to experience everyday fulfillment. 

    The nature-al and sustainable lifestyle is a byproduct of this inner work and will reverberate to create greater harmony with the forces around you! When we are more peaceful, balanced and in tune with ourselves and nature the energy this produces does attract a better life in every aspect and more clarity as to how to proceed forward with any goals we may have. 

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