a podcast about love, loss, and the natural world
The age of climate crisis is upon us, and grief and anxiety are on the rise.
This podcast explores the emotional burden of climate change, and why despair leaves so many people unable to respond to our existential threat. Overcoming that paralysis is the first step in moving to action, and yet official climate strategies rarely address the emotional toll of climate grief and eco anxiety. Meanwhile, frontline communities - particularly people of color, indigenous communities, and other historically-marginalized groups - are experiencing the heaviest mental health impacts of climate disruption and displacement.
This series introduces ways to move from despair to action by addressing the psychological roots of our unprecedented ecological loss.
Episode 1: Facing Down Climate Grief
"To be numb to the world is another form of suicide."
-Terry Tempest Williams
The age of climate crisis is upon us, and grief and anxiety are on the rise. Our pilot episode introduces the emotional burden of climate change, and why despair leaves so many people unable to respond to this existential threat. Overcoming that paralysis is the first step in moving to action, and yet official climate strategies rarely address this emotional toll. Meanwhile, frontline communities — particularly people of color, indigenous communities, and other historically-marginalized groups — are experiencing the heaviest mental health impacts of climate disruption and displacement.
Episode 2: Why Climate Emotions Matter
"It is not half so important to know as to feel."
- Rachel Carson
Is reason or emotion more important in driving climate action? Will solutions to mass extinction come from the head or the heart? Or are these binaries themselves part of the problem? While some climate activists argue that we should focus on facts instead of feelings, others know that our intense emotional response to climate chaos is far from irrational. Moreover, feelings like anger, hope, anxiety, and fear profoundly shape our perceptions of the world, and can motivate us to act or shut down and retreat. To better understand how those mental and emotional states relate to environmental crisis and public perceptions of risk, this episode explores why emotions matter in the climate battle.
Episode 3: Eco-Grief: Our Greatest Ally?
"Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel you are beyond that pain."
- Kahlil Gibran
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, Dr. Jennifer Atkinson points 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.
Episode 4: Coping with Climate Despair in Four Steps
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
- The Talmud
With the urgency of our climate crisis increasing by the day, many scientists and climate leaders are calling for global action on the scale of World-War II mobilization: a swift and comprehensive overhaul of our existing consumer economy and the energy systems driving us off a cliff. And yet as the planetary fires close in, many people remain paralyzed by fear, hopelessness or cynicism.
Luckily, there are steps we can all take to overcome despair and start contributing to solutions. This episode outlines 4 basic strategies to beat the climate blues and become an agent of change.
Episode 5: Is Hope Overrated?
“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency."
- Rebecca Solnit
Many consider Hope to be essential for sustaining social movements where change is slow, setbacks are frequent, and the odds aren't good.
As Rebecca Solnit once wrote, "To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”
But when it comes to the existential threats of climate change and mass extinction, what if hope is part of the problem? What if it obscures the enormity of our crisis, or makes us complacent, allowing the public to defer responsibility onto other people or the future?
Episode 6: Embracing Uncertainty
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
Eco-anxiety and climate grief are sometimes framed as “disorders,” but in fact these feelings typically arise from an accurate perception of our ecological crisis. It may be more appropriate to identify eco-anxiety as a “moral emotion” -- a sign of compassion, attachment to life, and desire for justice. And so paradoxically, we can take some encouragement from the global increase in eco-anxiety and climate grief, since that very existential discomfort affirms our desire to live in a more just and sustainable world.
Because the fight for climate solutions is filled with such contradictions, this episode explores some ways we are strengthened by challenging easy assumptions about climate distress. Our future remains unwritten, and by embracing the unknown we are better able to reframe our thinking in empowering ways. So-called “negative” feelings that arise in response to ecological disruption (grief, anxiety, anger) can be seen as signs of emotional health, while “undesirable” states like uncertainty are potential doorways to transformation. Climate anxiety might even be seen as a kind of superpower -- a signal that alerts us when something's wrong and needs to be addressed, especially while others are sleepwalking through the crisis because their alarm isn't tuned as well. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "the salvation of the world lies in the hands of the maladjusted." The time has come for the maladjusted to rise.