Environmental Grief: Not Only Can I Help You Define It, I Have an Even Bigger Term

The Earth’s patience with our continual abuse is coming to an end, and many of us are feeling the consequential loss something very, very dear. It has a name: environmental (or ecological) grief.

Defined by Washington State thanatologist Kriss Kevorkian as “the grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystems from natural and man-made events”, it often goes unacknowledged or misidentified. Reported as far back as Jul-2016 by Jordan Rosenfeld for Scientific American, Kevorkian recognized the profound sense of loss she felt in her study of the death of whales. She likened the intensity of the grief to that which she would feel upon the death of a family member.

I feel that grief.

Family holding Earth in hands. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

In his article, Rosenfeld reported that in a National Wildlife Federation report, “John McIlwain, director of the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Program, described the effects on natural scientists of ecological loss as “secondary trauma,” saying, “It takes a rare and brave human being to continue to do what needs to be done in the face of hopelessness.”

The 2012 report states “that 200 million Americans will be exposed to serious psychological distress from climate-related events and incidents.”

Do you recognize this grief?

Do you feel it when you see a bewildered polar bear adrift on a piece of ice? When you read about the sale of shark fins, or are confronted with the imagine of a dead elephant, killed for nothing more than his tusks? When whole geographic coastal regions are being forced to migrate inland?

How are we not responsible for this?

For increasing numbers of us, living with this grief is both a feature of every day life and completely unacceptable.

I’ll go farther. There is what I term an “environmental conscience“, meaning the living conscience of the whole – all systems – which we are only a small part of, that constantly informs us of the damage we do and the destruction we wreak as surely as our own individual conscience does.

Just sit in the silence of nature and listen for it.

Galvanizing our collective grief and coalescing around – and in fact demanding – solutions is action whose time has come.

One more important idea.

Lori Garver is the chief executive at Earthrise Alliance, and was deputy NASA administrator from 2009 to 2013. She wrote a couple of days ago in the Washington Post that, “NASA was not created to do something again” [meaning to go to the moon or Mars.] The agency was “created to push the limits of human understanding, to help the nation solve big, impossible problems that require advances in science and technology.”

“The impossible problem today is not the moon. And it’s not Mars. It’s our home planet. NASA remains one the most revered and valuable brands in the world, and the agency is at its best when given a purpose. In a July Pew Research Center study, 63 percent of respondents said monitoring key parts of Earth’s climate system should be the highest priority for the United States’ space agency. NASA could create a Climate Corps — modeled after the Peace Corps — in which scientists and engineers spend two years in local communities understanding the unique challenges they face, training local populations and connecting them with the data and science needed to support smart, local decision-making.”

Reading the article may change your entire perspective on a collective solution to restoring the earth to wholeness.

In referencing the smallness of our anthropomorphic vision of God or Nature or Source or the Universe, the glorious author, Brian Doyle, wrote, “how incredibly foolish to [even] assign human gender to something we all admit is so unimaginably epic.” I say this because it’s time to ignore the small voices.

It’s time to ignore the small anti-environment voices, the corporations who would pillage, the single-minded developers, those who suppress their own bit of environmental conscience in favor of some anthropomorphic ideology. We no longer have the luxury of time to debate smallness.

It’s time to stand up: in personal conversations, in town hall meetings with political candidates and online where your voice for restorative wholeness can be magnified.

We need big conversation and big solutions.

Use your voice.

 

 

 

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We Should Not be Led by Those Who Cannot Lead

Whose ideological voice is leading you?

Not recalling the exact moment, I do remember reflecting on the evolution of my own thinking, politically. Raised in a moderate Midwest Republican home, I could later understand how – not why, but how – my father admired George H. W. Bush. Dad admired few people. They were largely those who were the First. They were the First Wave of men who landed on Normandy Beach, the vast majority of whom lost their lives immediately. The few others he admired were his contemporaries in the law practice… those who he may have perceived as more brilliant or, yes, those who also served in World War II.

The evolution of my thinking, politically, seeped into my consciousness over time, circling me almost indescernibly as predator circles prey, hanging quietly in the air. It long predated the moment when I actually began seeing myself in all others.

People fly into our experience to dance on our souls. Some flit away leaving an imprint that lives in us for the rest of our lives. If we are very, very lucky, one or two may take up permanent residence. Who are those teachers in your life? How have they transformed the thinking of who you are in the world? Can you be honest with yourself about how you might see your role in the world differently if you mustered the courage to emulate that person whose qualities you so admire? Can you summon the courage to give that elevated role VOICE?

If can I see even a bit of my life experience in others, how can I not act on their behalf while I’m acting on my own? Can I not understand that the simple comforts and opportunity of my life experience are that which others seek? When I remember that it was my birthright, I ask why others shouldn’t have it.

So, the moderate political persona of George H. W. Bush may seem appealing in today’s world of separation and confrontation. Yet, it was really nothing more complicated (or nefarious) than one person seeing his or her values in another. For me, it has nothing to do with the physical attributes of that person or his/her personal history. Feel into that relationship, and you’ll recognize it’s universal.

voice verification

Courage, please. How, you ask?  Step way outside yourself to vocally support someone who is already exercising the courage to speak for others. It’s really a small step but, what you’ll realize in doing so is that it is very, very easy. And you join the big human picture in doing it. How would I do that, personally? I’d take a week’s vacation to canvass for a candidate who speaks for us all, not just for me as a privileged white female.

Are you being led ideologically? Is that really who you are and what you’ll show up for in the world? How many others can your voice speak for?

Use your voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love of the Beloved in the World

How does love of the beloved impact one’s presence in the world? What does love of the beloved inspire?

The energetic presence that awakens as love for a partner or spouse expands can be a useful tool to deepen all our relationships, even with persons as yet unmet.

We often think of all relationships as distinctly separate when, in actuality, we are simply making a clear set of choices about how we will relate to a given person often based on the role of that person in our lives. What if we feel into the love we share with a beloved and test its power on a friend, a co-worker or, perhaps, even a stranger? Doesn’t it just require momentary hesitation, a chance to drop the veil of perceived separation we feel for another? In that moment, the voice of love that has its origin in the same place in each of us and has its expression with our beloved can rise kindly, clearly, lovingly to create a new dynamic.

When that which you inspire awakens in me

our shared well full, molecules clinging

delicately to each other

as liquid love over a

tipped edge, I tap your strength,

a dip, a ladle

that I might share

courage not

mine as

a

drop,

a drop

placed in the

dry well of a

heart not yet full, but

longing for that which fills,

placed with the love you lent, the

nourishment that feeds us both and

ignites love’s soulful fire, awake now

in our lives’ tiny and wondrous beauties.

Happy couple in love making heart shape over precipice at sunset.

Can our courage be extended more broadly to alter the dynamic of a meeting, a conference? Can it influence important matters of public discourse? Can it be an expression of equanimity between people of different races, cultures, lifestyles? In each of us that love has only one origin – and is instantly accessible.

How might it feel to receive an unsolicited loving response from another? Do we not already revere those who speak the language of love to us? Can we each find it in ourselves to do just that?

In alert hesitation, how might I influence a relationship through love?

Use your voice.

I’m Thankful For the Voice of …

Writing is a process of mining layers of dreaming and intuition, and then offering it to the world’s voice in thrusts of courage.

I hear voice in all things. When I intuit sentience in animals I hear the animal’s voice, its connection to others of its species, its family unit, and its interdependence with its environment. I feel the complex interactions, the richness, of the animal’s life.

So on the Thanksgiving weekend, the voices of taste, writing, family, service, freedom, history, Earth and Spirit self-excavated. Simple bits of gratitude for some of life’s voices.

Still life harvest decoration for Thanksgiving

VOICE 

Taste

Herbaceous hand of moss and peat in French press,

a sweet column of Sumatran steam infiltrates senses

40 parallels away

Writing

Long enough listened, fear, shame, grief, remorse, repentance, re-commitment

no longer the sharp elbow to whispers of silence, reflection, empathy, comfort, truth, divinity, awe,

the voice of vertical self-purification, empowerment

Family

8 mm low-octave joy

manning the blinding light bar on a 1957 Christmas morning,

impervious to sleepy eyes

Service

Breath of Presidio officers past,

steeled in Golden Gate,

incarnate in eucalyptus

Freedom

The tenderest spot of sacrifice,

historical, contemporary service emancipates our chained hands, hearts

restlessly underlies colorless purpose 

History

Argued self-governance in perpetuity

Families of variety, integrity, diversity, equality

“With malice toward none, with charity for all”

Earth

Filtered sunlight politely suspended

over an archical band of redwood salal,

a massive red and yellow slug an emblem of scale of its environment

Spirit

In Light,

in my presence,

as my father transitioned

 

Use your voice.

Oprah Made Me Laugh Today

It’s been awhile.

Oprah slides into a folksy, communal speak when she wants to emphasize something we already know to be true… an open secret… and it almost always engenders laughter.

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Aside from it feeling really, really good, laughter reminded me that the ferocious energy of concern I have for the health, well-being and future of this country has recently over-taken the, frankly, tender set of sensibilities that are my foundation and the sustenance of a healthy personal, professional and spiritual life.

Nonetheless, Oprah’s recent public appearance in Georgia caused me to clarify what single attribute in a candidate for public office I believe to be non-negotiable.

Here’s how I answer my own question. If I consider the issue of self-empowerment solely through one’s own hard work, a historical tenet of the moderate Republican platform (and no such moderate platform remotely exists in today’s conservative discourse), I can understand the merit of the idea. What’s missing in its viability and in conservative gun, immigration and health care philosophies is what Republican candidates never speak of: an intentional statement of support for the well-being of others.

Language such as, “standing for the values that matter to all others”; “collaboration is the first responsibility”; and “the change we need has to come from valuing and respecting every voter” is evidence of a person, a soul, infused with mutual, universal respect. These are Stacey Abrams’ words. Stacey hopes to make history on Tue as the first black female governor in the U.S.

This is language I insist upon in any candidate who has my vote. A candidate who cannot or will not acknowledge our shared humanity as being integral to how this country thrives and how we live in this world has not yet learned the simplest lesson of love. The lesson is simply to recognize and accept what is spiritually true about myself and all others.

Stacey Abrams’ speech is honest speech. She confesses having to, “manage the limits I’ve put on myself”; to include romance novel writing as a key piece of a balanced and expressive life: “writing is cathartic to me.. it’s one of the ways I can soothe my soul”; to managing debt (three college loans): “If you’re rich, debt is considered a mark of greatness. If you’re poor, it’s considered a mark of inadequacy.”

So, again I say: We need a bigger tent. The Democratic party needs a tent so large that its members’ commitments to honoring racial, religious and economic diversity, affordable education, local and national consensus-building and vast environmental protections literally vaporize the small, small voices of hate and separation.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to move this country in a whole, meaningful and progressive direction. The election of Stacey Abrams and innumerable other bright, energetic, fearless candidates this Tue is the United States of America righting itself,  turning a corner with the sun on our shoulders and supporting every citizen to live her or his greatness.

“I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” Maya Angelou.

VOTE.

Here is My Vote

I voted:

  • FOR a governor who protects health care coverage for all and Medicaid for those who need it; who supports a woman’s right to choose and women’s essential healthcare; who supports protection of public lands, clean air, water and stringent environmental protections; who pre-emptively legislated against off-shore drilling for oil.
  • AGAINST legislation that would end Oregon’s commitment as a sanctuary state; against racial profiling; against the forced use of local police as a deportation force; against legislation that is self-defeating and discriminatory against the wide spectrum of people who work in every Oregon industry.
  • AGAINST legislation that would unfairly strip away quality healthcare, including abortion care, from low-income residents.
  • FOR legislation allowing the issue of bonds for financing affordable housing in a market that is increasingly unaffordable.
  • FOR a surcharge on retailers with total annual revenue over $1 billion dollars to fund the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund, which funds clean energy projects and clean energy job training.

20181028_213846

I also voted FOR:

  • A country that cares for its weakest residents, its disabled, its sick, its elderly.
  • A country that is still striving to provide accessible, affordable high-quality education for everyone.
  • Courageous businesses that are committed to paying all their employees a fair, livable wage.
  • A country whose residents ALREADY recognize that the rights of LGBT people should never be any different than their own.
  • A country that so deeply cares for its own residents that its legislators are permanently committed to clean water and deep environmental protections.
  • A country that takes a leadership role in funding sustainable energy options.
  • A country that reflects every and all family units.
  • A country that abhors racism and misogyny.
  • A country that values EVERY life as unique and valuable.
  • A country that stands for the premise that women are the absolute equal to men.
  • A country that finally recognizes when its highest duty is to remove a fascist president from office.

THIS IS WHY I VOTE.

 

I Will Vote in the 2018 Mid-Terms Because

  • The world I see for my son, his family, and their families’ futures still has coral reefs, old-growth forests and vast expanses of pristine undeveloped land that I have national ownership in.
  • Self-education on critical issues opens me to the ideas and challenges others face, which enriches my life.
  • The rich ethnic heritage of black, Hispanic and Asian women is as important to them is as my ethnicity is to me. We are each other.
  • I support leaders who have the courage and self-reflection to honor animals’ Your Vote Counts buttoncontributions to human lives.
  • I want the restoration of serious conversation about issues that matter to Americans like health care, preserving the environment and gun violence, not junk inflammatory issues designed to separate us.
  • I actively support courageous young adults who insist on free and safe school environments.
  • I support the basic human right of legal recognition for who one chooses to love, and for legal recognition of each person’s service in government and in the military.
  • Inspired leadership is now a requisite skill in any elected official I will consider voting for.
  • I insist that my elected leaders represent the entire country with courage, intellect and grace.
  • I expect leadership that respects and reflects the extraordinary variety of beings who live in this world and who want to partner with each other.
  • I cannot, at this time, afford the privilege of feeling fragile from the assaults to my sense of decency, self-respect and autonomy.
  • I will not tolerate self-aggrandized ignorance in my political leadership.
  • Michael Soule reminded me that our global crisis is really the Sixth Great Extinction, Earth’s only extinction event caused by an animal [us], not volcanic activity or an ice age.
  • I now feel forced to examine how I contribute to global warming, and to hold myself and my elected officials accountable.
  • I’m reminded that, unlike a Chinese exchange student after college graduation, young American adults are not pigeon-holed into a subsistence job and into a dormitory with a shared bath and a pre-written future.
  • As Wendell Berry wrote: “We need to go now and again into places where our work is disallowed, where our hopes and plans have no standing.” Those places are critical to the quality of life of every being, and they must be preserved.
  • Another woman’s sexual assault is as important to me as my own.

VOTING IS VOICE.