Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Climate Activists Love Life More Than You Do

A case against a climate change activist has just been resolved, sentencing the man to two years in prison. He hadn't been tree-sitting to prevent loggers. He hadn't been trespassing to climb a coal chimney and hang a banner. He bid on land to keep it from being exploited of fossil fuel reserves. Here's a rundown of the case.

It doesn't bother me per se that he's going to jail, although, of course I'd prefer he'd not. Non-violent civil disobedience has always been under the premise that you might do time for your actions, and you will accept to do so gladly, as a signal that you are a happy enough member of society to accept its rules, while also trying to change them. Two years does seem a bit much though, to be honest. He's caused no bodily harm to anyone, he hasn't vandalised a building. But he has tried to shake the foundation of the way we do business in the world, ie. exploit the land people live on, ruining it for them and future generations.

Just this week, a Danish politician compared a non-violent act of civil disobedience with a misanthropic act of terrorism. I fear that society has been too good for us the last two or three generations. We haven't had enough to fight for, having been lulled into a false sense of security - everything's fine, move along, nothing to see here, please go on shopping. When a comparison like that is made, it is a symptom that we have gone too far as a society, building our governments and laws to be that much bigger than the sum of all their parts. Why do we do it? To protect us. Ourselves. When people then disobey laws to protect ourselves, because the laws have become too self-effacing to do so themselves, it is seen as a crime. But it is not criminal. It is a right, as juxtaposed as that may be. It can also be seen as a duty, for those who want to change their society.

Climate is big. It is the biggest existential problem of our time since the Cold War. Yes there are many problems out there that need addressing, but this one is the underlying foundation for all of them. The way we do almost everything is making our habitat inhabitable, not only for us, but for all life. If we choose to adhere to the business as usual model, which is cunningly disguised as an enjoyable and sustainable affair, we agree to our own active euthanasia. It would appear, when we get to the bottom of things, that we do not really enjoy life, and are hell bent on not letting future generations have the choice to experience it at all.

When you read about a climate activist, committing an act of civil disobedience, curb your disdain. Your first instinct might be to write that person off as a criminal, or misguided hippie. But climate activism, in all its peaceful and non-violent forms, is really an act of life activism. Climate activists love life, possibly more than you do, and are willing to put themselves in jail to show it.

Friday, 22 July 2011


Back in the saddle! So, writing about this stuff does send me to a bit of a delicate balance. I need to get it out, but such intense concentration on the subject brings me out of whack too. I have to wrap up this non-flying thing before moving on.

My friend June tweeted a link to me just this morning, an article about being the spouse of an extremely environmentally conscious person. It hit home.

I'm a difficult spouse and daughter to start off with. Without exposing all of my father's faults, let's just say that I unfortunately inherited a lot of them. I can be egoistic, distant, even callous at times. I'm too old to make excuses for it, but I try my best.

When my husband and I met, one of the first things we agreed on was travelling. It had to be a part of our lives, and if we had kids, they'd go where we'd go, full stop. We managed our fair share of air travel before I made my decision to stop flying. We went round the world twice. Once when I was pregnant with Dante, we did Denmark - Texas - Colorado - Los Angeles - Sydney - home, and a short trip to Madrid after that. Then, when Dante was 9 months, we did Denmark - NYC - Texas - Los Angeles - Hong Kong. When I was pregnant with Halfdan, we flew to Istanbul. We loved it. We loved the experiences we had together, we loved being so far from home, we loved seeing friends and family and feeling the cosmopolitan thrill of touching down somewhere where we felt just as at home as on the cobblestoned streets of Copenhagen.

When I stopped flying, I effectively put a stop to that. I could see it on my husband's face, could see the wheels of his brain turning, trying to imagine what a static, earth-bound life he'd just been served.

And that was just him. What about my mother, grandmother of two of the wonders of the world, but just on the other side of it? Sure she flies here, I can't tell her not to, but as she told Mikael on tape once, she's been hurt over the notion that I won't fly to see her at her home in Texas while she's alive, but I'll come over to bury her. Well, I put her straight on that. My mother's only child has refused to take care of business when she no longer is. Ouch. I have to give it to her - she's taken it well. She has friends lined up to do the job, she's even friggin' donated her body to science (!), so I won't have to think about all that from afar. My decision to not fly has really had quite far-reaching consequences. I also have a godmother in the States who considers me her child, and my children her grandchildren. Her health isn't the best, so flying here is not really an option right now. Inside, I want to make everybody happy, want my kids to be loved and coveted by those who love them, want to enjoy home-cooked meals with people I enjoy spending time with.

There's just that glitch you know? That huge gap between our way of life and our....way of life. The one way of life being our own human construction based on habits and fossil fuels, the other way of life being the physical world and the high-school science that explains exactly how it keeps us all alive here. If we want the latter, the former has got to go.

It's not all bad though. My decision had brought us on rail-powered trips to France, Spain, Morocco. Trips where we've seen and done things that no flyer will ever do. It's different. It's better for the earth. It's still extremely satisfying. Admittedly, I get a high on other people hearing about our trips - "train to Morocco?", "with TWO children?". It can be done, really. It can be enjoyable too. Just sayin'.

The odd thing is, as perspectives go - what have I really done? Not much at all. I haven't sold all my worldly possessions and moved to the woods to live off the land or anything. I just stopped flying. Loads of people don't fly, maybe not for the reason I don't, but because they're afraid of it. And somehow, it's a more acceptable reason. In a way, I'm afraid of flying too, but more in a long term sense, not in a "we're going to crash and burn right now" sense.

I'm not going to apologize for making my decision. I don't adhere to a lot of doctrines in general, but I'm sticking to this one. It's pretty much the only way I can live with myself in these times, where merely exhaling would seem an act of climate treason.

I will however, extend an apologetic thought to loved ones for somewhat disrupting their lives. To my mother, for shafting her posthumously. To my husband, for doing a 180 on our future travel plans. For keeping him from fulfilling his dream of buying a house somewhere exotic, because it's too difficult to travel there for short stays. To our friend Elijah, for missing the most important day of her life. But I hope that my children will applaud me for being unyielding on this. When they ask me one day, sea water up to their knees, what I did when I'd realized what we were doing to our habitat, my answer will be more satisfactory than "nothing".

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Anatomy of a Climate Depression - Part 4, Walking the Walk-ish

After my angst of Peak Oil hit me as relayed in my last post, the crisis was pretty much complete. Having basically entertained all thoughts of how the future could play out, and carrying them out to the bitter end in my head had not really helped much, it didn't seem there was any way out of our predicaments. If I was depressed about the climate before, the looming energy crisis almost derived me of my will to live.

Don't get me wrong, I was really trying to enjoy life, despite everything. I had two sweet babies and a loving husband, what wasn't to like? But the thought of sticking around to watch the end of everything was too sad to consider. The best antidote to this feeling was to pretend everything was okay, and just go about my business. Or was it?

The fact of the matter is, once you've realized something of this magnitude, you can't go back. It's Pandora's box, it's the apple in the garden of Eden. You can pretend that you don't know what you do, but underneath it all, the worry is still there. You're merely lying to yourself. So while pretending that everything is all business as usual can dupe the outsider looking in, you can't dupe yourself.

At this point in the timeline, my husband and I had been invited to a wedding in November 2008, in the US. A good friend was marrying her best friend. We were looking forward to the nuptials and the festivities, and the kids were slated to go with us. But thoughts were swirling in my head. Flying uses an insane amount of fuel, fuel that's running out, and not only that, but the carbon emissions of just one person flying to the US and back were equal to the amount of energy it takes to power our apartment for over a year. And there were four of us in all.

How could I rationally deal with my angst of climate change and still pretend everything was business as usual? I couldn't, could I? I wrote about it on my blog as it was playing out. Reading the comment section brings back a lot of memories - the guilt of considering to forego a good friend's most important day ever, because I was a climate worrier. There was some hefty deliberation going on in my head!

It finally culminated. And not quite how you think. My husband Mikael was doing everything to convince me to attend the wedding. Good friends, see my mom and godmother while we were at it, take a train instead of flying domestic, carbon offsets etc. etc.. But then one day he came home from work, bearing a newspaper he'd been reading on the bus. He flung it on the coffee table, completely nonchalant. The headline was: Oil extracted from tar sands will bring climate change beyond the point of no return. I read the story, and my mind was made up.

To quickly surmise the tar sands subject, there are millions and millions of barrels of oil in tar sands, however, it must be ground out of the sands using machinery that requires a lot of energy to run. Using energy to extract energy = bad idea that seriously jeopardizes our habitat. However, because the quick and easy oil is running out, tar sands are next up. Go google it if you need more info. It's bad news, people.

So, how on earth could I justify increasing demand on something that would effectly ruin the habitat of my children and their children? I couldn't. My husband would be attending the wedding alone, alas. I'm not going to tell people they can't go off flying, this is my decision, about me, and only me. And as it is, I'm not living in a forest, foraging for my own food. I'm living in an oil hungry society, and I'm not ready to give up grocery shopping, hot showers and electricity yet. Seriously, for the oil left on this planet, would you rather eat or fly? Something had to go. I wrote about my decision on my blog here.

Listen, I live in Europe, I have family members living in the US. My husband loves to travel. I love to travel, for that matter! My mother was a stewardess and my father was a pilot for god's sake. I was born with jet fuel in my veins! This was not an easy or wanton decision to make. This was my personal stand to take against "Business As Usual". I'm not finished, there's still a ways to go. But it was a powerful start.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Anatomy of a Climate Depression - Part 3, It's Not Just the Climate, Stupid

My original blog, Copenhagen Follies, is proving an invaluable resource in my visits back to the start of my climate woes. I hardly ever go back and visit earlier posts, but it's a perfect timeline of the evolution of it all, and I'm actually quite impressed how well I wrote in the throes of such a huge existential crisis!

To continue, after my second son was born in July 2007, I had a complete meltdown over the climate in October of the same year. I was a sad and crying mess, friends were starting to be concerned, I started feeling more sad than happy for having put kids in the world. There was a certain ebb and flow to it, so after the initial rough patch, I learned to live with it, sometimes even forgetting it, and going happily on with my life. But it would always come back to a certain degree when I read about climate in the news.

I did start to act upon my climate fear, not only writing about it, but also being more aware of unnecessary consumerism on my part, and deciding to take a family vacation to France by train instead of plane to cut down on carbon emissions. It was a small start.

However, what I'd experienced in October of 2007 was peanuts compared with what came in March 2008.

On a regular old weekday, I'd been home with both boys, messing about in the kitchen, stirring something up, while simultaneously messing about on Google. I was searching after information about Dr. Udo's oil (healthfood store staple of different omega oils), and something about Peak Oil popped up. I started reading. Shouldn't have done that! (Well actually, I should, and I did. If you don't know about Peak Oil, you need to google it. Another good resource is The Transition Towns Movement, but please try to find a broad spectrum of resources, for balanced input)

The notion that the world was going to run out of oil wasn't new to me. I'd even bought this book at an airport bookshop (the irony) years before getting married and having my kids, which I'd dutifully read, though for some reason I didn't find it particularly alarming at the time. In trying to understand how that could be, I can only guess that I was such a product of the consumer society I was a part of that I was duped like everyone else into thinking that everything would be ok, and things would eventually be taken care of.

After reading one too many google hits on peak oil, I experienced what a can only describe as a full blown anxiety attack. I threw up. Twice. I broke out in cold sweats. I couldn't stand up. All this, with a 2 year old and a baby to take care of. Why the notion of peak oil hadn't bothered me before, but caused such a physical reaction to me then I put down to the additions of having children and climate change in my life. Feeding the world is largely an oil based activity in this day and age, stop and think how much farm equipment is run on petrol, and imagine how the world can continue agriculture on such a large scale using manual labor only. Feeding ourselves is going to be the new black, or rather an all encompassing factor, and not just a hobby or an afterthought as we order our favorite numbers from the pizzeria around the corner. And naturally, I think about how my kids are going to eat, now as in the future. Throw in climate change, and the fact that less oil will no doubt mean more coal, the real carbon sinner, and we have just about as many post-apocalyptic scenarios as there are Hollywood movies that provide them for us.

How to describe the first physical feeling that overcomes you when you realize something of this magnitude? Before the spewing, that is. It's like having a huge bass string running the length of your body, from the very top of your head to the soles of your feet. And The Hulk is plucking it. "Doing!"

I somehow managed to call my husband, between vomiting and dragging myself to the den where all I could do was turn on the tv and find something to satiate my kids for a while. The baby was hungry though, and my oldest was constantly asking me to read a book. None of which I was capable of handling alone. I told my husband to come home ASAP, and bring dinner with him. I have no recollection of what happened after, I stayed an apathetic lump on the floor the whole night.

In the morning, I remember waking him up, and in all seriousness telling him that I wanted to find a place in the country where we could live and grow our own food. What a wakeup call. All of a sudden, all that mattered was getting back to basics, taking control of our own primary needs, instead of leaving them outsourced to an unsustainable paradigm. Peak Oil will change everything the industrialized world does. But no one is taking account of that fact. Our lifestyles are still based on a finite resource as though it were infinite. And like climate change hardly figures on political agendas, peak oil hardly gets a mention. It's not a secret or anything. Since the first oil well ran dry, humans have known that oil would one day run out.

Peak Oil and Climate Change present two different sides of the same challenge. Our need for energy has tipped the natural carbon balance of our planet. So we can't address the one, without addressing the other. And the implications of both mean big changes for society as a whole. The sooner we realize that, come to terms with it, and embrace it, the less scary it can seem. I'll deal with that later on in this blog, I need to wrap up the "Anatomy" series of blog posts first.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Anatomy of a Climate Depression - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, the world really woke up to the climate crisis in 2006. I was no exception. Being a parent had changed and prioritized my thinking on a number of subjects, and of course I was now a lot more interested in the future of all things, especially the future of the world my kids would be adults in. My second kid was born in 2007, and during the pregnancy, I was actually starting to doubt having children in this world at all! Luckily, as with all things, no matter what happens off in the future, it is what's going on right now that's important, and having a second bundle of absolutely scrumptious cuddly baby-love set my worries aside - for the time being.

About two or three months after Halfdan was born, and the media was gearing up to cover the climate talks in Bali, the daily paper we keep was having a bonanza of climate news, publishing alarming articles for an entire week that brought me pretty much to my knees. No doubt post-partum hormones played in, one is naturally sensitive after a family augmentation in general, but I couldn't read the paper without feeling my chest constrict, my head grow hot, and finally, sobbing. I vividly remember walking around some nearby lakes with the baby buggy, looking around, feeling quite surreal about everything, and I had to call my husband in the middle of work, a blubbering mess. He was alarmed of course, to hear his normally cool, calm and collected wife this way. He beckoned me to come to his work, where we could have lunch and talk. That was my first real emotional outburst spurred by the climate crisis.

After that, the issue was really there for good. I calmed down a bit, enjoying my maternity leave without being too sad, but I was en garde at all times for news of climate change. I even wrote a blog post about it when it happened in October of 2007, on my other blog. It sums up exactly what was going through my head at the time. I can only say, that it is more or less how I still feel about it, only now, it is worse, but in a more rational way, if that is possible.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Anatomy of a Climate Depression - Part 1

I had my first kid in 2005. Now, back then, the general public had already known about global warming and the greenhouse effect for at least 15 years. And awareness of it was growing, but the world wasn't anywhere as alarmed as they would be, just the next year. Dante was born in August of 2005, and just as he was turning a month old or so, Hurricane Katrina hit the US along the Gulf coast. All of a sudden, global warming was being connected with a real life disaster in a Western country. Natural disasters have always been taking place, flooding, droughts, wildfires, in the West as well as everywhere else. But somehow, in our little comforting consumer cocoons, we've just assumed it was the natural order of things, as it certainly can be.

But Katrina planted that first real seed of awareness, and connection between mankind's actions and the repurcussions it could have on our lives. Not a moment too soon.

In 2006, when Dante was a year, we moved into a friend's garden cottage for what we thought was a a month and a half of simple living, while our apartment in the eastern part of Copenhagen was being renovated. I recall even more awareness yet. More and more articles were appearing in the paper about climate change, experts were starting to point out the warning signs, not just in natural calamities, but also in the receding ice sheets, melting glaciers, etc.. 2006 was truly "the" year when common awareness of climate change grew from a small article in a respectable newspaper into a frontpage story. Again, not a moment too soon.

Our stay at our friend's summer cottage was prolonged, as anyone who's renovated their home before knows. September flew by, October came, it got cooler, but nothing the portable radiator and furnace couldn't handle. But there was no insulation in the cottage whatsoever, and since we had a baby with us, I jokingly thanked global warming for the Indian summer. Our apartment wasn't completely finished, but we had to move in, since no matter how hard we tried to warm the place, on Nov. 1st, when we woke up in the morning, fully clothed in our over-bundled beds, there was a layer of frost on the covers. Time to go home!

I always thought I was the environmentally aware type. Back in Texas, where I grew up, my mom and I would drive 3 miles out of our way to recycle newspapers, glass and plastic. The irony. I grew up a place where most food save beef came from another state or country. Where I had a driver's license at age 16, needing it to get to school. Going shopping would have been a daylong affair if you had to walk to and fro, and bicycling was suicide. The place I grew up was built around the car, and as unsustainable as one of the steel monsters is, it's a necessity that everyone practically takes for granted just like they do electricity. In high-school, I remember when the price of a gallon of gas shot up over 1$, 1.07$ I think it was. There was an outcry. Nevermind that gas cost, and still costs, about 4 times as much in Europe. So, recycling was about as environmentally aware as I could be. My life was provided for by a well-oiled machine, where all my parents needed was an income doing what they'd been trained to do, and everything else was bought at the cash register. I could even have an after school job so I could bow to peer pressure and buy t-shirts with the "right" band on it, or maybe the "perfect" shade of lipstick. The disconnect was complete.

I do though remember reading Newsweek in what I'll estimate was 1988. The Greenhouse Effect was the front page story. I was alarmed, as much as a 10 year old can be (though not as alarmed as when the first Gulf War started a few years after that), but the matter dissipated into the ether, and I didn't think much about it again until years later.

So, in 2006, after Katrina, after climate change had hit mainstream media again, this time for good, I started to feel the burn, so to speak. Becoming a parent had of course heightened my awareness of the world around me even more. The world didn't just have to provide for me, it had to provide for my kid too, hopefully also long after I'd be gone. I was beginning to see that there might be a slight glitch in this scenario.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Daily schmaily!

My head is chock full of things to write in this very venue, created solely for that purpose, and yet, when I've finally released some of it, and got it on paper (you know what I mean), I find myself mulling over new angles, and needing more time for mulling before writing. Hm.

The very fact that I have to write this blog is, to me, such an ultimate admission of failure. I am taking the words and thoughts from my head and making them real, verifying them, holding up to the gaze if others - that means that I really mean it. That means that we really are on the brink. That means...we have failed. Let's hope that there is time yet to make amends!

I'll be going forward with this blog (hopefully tomorrow!) with an anatomy of my own personal climate crisis. It's all in there, but I've never deconstructed it. I'm a little excited to go back to the beginning!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Climate Blues - Tristesse or Clinical Depression?

Picking up the thread from my last post on Solastalgia, a term coined to express the feeling people people have when the natural environment around them degrades, I'm delving a bit more into the whole climate depression subject today. If you didn't read this Wired article on the term, and the subject matter behind it, I thoroughly recommend it!

The ecosystem we live in isn't the only victim of climate change, our mental health is too. Certainly, not enough people are concerned about the climate crisis, much less aware of its gravity, but those of us that are concerned and aware are naturally worried. I was at a friend's place Friday, and we talked about our climate angst, my friend pretty much sharing the same sentiments as me. It's not like people in general don't have enough on their plate as it is. Life is a constant running mill of spouses, jobs, expenditures, deadlines, maybe also children thrown into the mix. Plus friends and the extracurricular stuff that makes life worth living. That's quite enough to keep most people physically busy and their heads reeling. To have the added, pressing worry that the very base that sustains all of the aforementioned elements is being undermined by the prevailing paradigm that we are an integrated part's a lot to swallow. No doubt loads of people are simply ignoring the news and the facts, and shoving it to the back of their minds, simply so they can go about their daily lives. Done that myself.

Back to the main point of this post - mental health. I'm blessed to know two psychologists from my closest network of friends, and they've both been involved in my own personal climate crisis. The one had things to say about it around 3 years ago. The other, just last week. I'm not going to give a detailed description of how my climate depression has progressed through the years, I'll save that for later posts, but I will give a quick run down of the implications.

I had my second child in 2007, and immediately after, no doubt in a rush of post-partum hormones mixed with a lot of doom and gloom climate news, I had a breakdown. People were worried about me. Which was kind of funny, since I wasn't worried about me, I was worried about them, albeit in a more meta way. Psychologist friend number one, my good friend Niels, said two things - 1) that I should talk to a shrink. 2) that I should be careful in defining myself as having a depression.

I did call a shrink to make an appointment, and since she wasn't by her desk at that moment, she couldn't mark me down for a time, and asked me to call back the day after. We did end up talking for about 30 minutes though, enough for me to explain my troubles, and enough for her to explain to me that it was a matter of "distance". "Distance" is apparently the mechanics behind us not falling into a sobbing heap everytime we see a commercial with hungry children or abused animals. We create a distance, since obviously, it's not directly affecting us or our loved ones. I got her point about it, didn't agree (though I didn't tell her that) but to be honest, just having a candid talk with someone, admitting to a professional that the climate crisis had an effect on my mental health was liberating. I never did call back to make an appointment.

The fact that I needed "distance" to keep myself sane was disturbing. Climate change was too far off to be considered an immediate threat for most of us, and I entertained the notion that the psychologist didn't have any thoughts about how climate change was going to affect her life, otherwise she wouldn't be spouting that all I needed was some "distance". Since 2008 there have been more and more natural disasters caused by global warming - we don't need "distance". I certainly don't want "distance". This is a very real threat, it's happening right now. I want to feel that threat and have it compel me to act on it.

The second thing that Niels said, about identifying myself as having a depression, I tried to heed. I just stopped talking about it. I didn't want people to worry anymore. I also stopped reading so much about it, and tried to concentrate on my studies at the university instead. But looking back on it, the condition has been there all along. I had, and still have, a climate depression. It is too late to identify myself otherwise.

In the 3 years that have passed since Niels and I talked about it, the situation has gotten only worse. Here, I am talking about the political will to take the measures necessary to prevent the worst case scenarios from happening. The issue is even more pressing. The scenarios are becoming more dire. My angst comes back tenfold for each climate related article I read. Not two weeks ago, I read an article on the state of the world's oceans. It made me cry. I was feeling extremely low that day, since the oceans have actually absorbed way more carbon that the atmosphere around us (which is bad enough), and ocean life is facing "mass extinction" within "a generation". Always fun to read those words combined in an article about the place you live! Not. My day was not going to get any better without some help, so I texted my second psychologist friend, Maria. She could meet me at a café later that day for a chat. Again, just the prospect of speaking to someone was a huge relief, I dried my eyes and got on with my day. What I also wanted to talk with her about was the prospect of going to a psychologist and getting a diagnosis of having a climate related depression. Would that help me? Should I get a prescription for something to help me get through the day? Would it be helpful and for the greater good if people like me were recognized politically? Would people start taking us seriously?

Well. And this is where it gets tricky. Because politically, Maria says, recognizing people with environmental worries as being clinically depressed will set a whole apparatus going that will basically ostracize people like me, categorizing us as "sick". As in, something is "wrong" with us. In my optic, that couldn't be farther from the truth. People are inclined to worry about their day to day needs, rightly so. Us climate worriers are concerned with our living environment in the future, the near and almost tangible future at that. The last thing the world needs is to keep us back.

That said, some of us may still need help. There is no doubt in my mind I have a depression. In theory, I could get a clinical diagnosis and probably some lovely anti-depressants to go with it. But 1) I don't want the political apparatus concerning climate depressed people to start rolling, and 2) I don't want drugs to dull my climate nerves. I need to hold on my feeling of angst and fear, because that's what drives me forward on climate awareness, even though my daily life takes a hit now and again.

Now, I still want to function. As I've discovered time and time again, the best antidote to a bad climate day is to talk about it. I choose my conversation partners carefully. People too close to me just worry. Likeminded people open up, and a constructive dialogue is started. It's not enough, but it is a start. On Maria's recommendation, I've started taking an herbal remedy (it's even from the pharmacy, for the sceptics out there) that's pretty effective. Since taking it I'm about 50% more productive, starting this blog, doing some creative work, sleeping better. Placebo? Maybe. But effective nonetheless. I also got the name of a good psychotherapist, but I'm a little afraid of "too much talk and too little action". We'll see.

What I want to stress with this post is that climate depression is real, it's not just having a bad day or a bad week. People like me are out there, and there will be more coming. It's an issue, it's not an illness, there is nothing wrong with it, but there are steps we need to take if we don't want our angst and depression to be completely fruitless.

Friday, 1 July 2011


"Hi, my name is Jennie, and I have solastalgia."

No doubt in coming years, more of you will be experiencing it too, your voices echoing mine, in an ever louder chorus: "hello Jennie". Then it will be your turn. Hey, we'll have real honest to god meetings, where we drink bad coffee, eat sugar cookies, and hug a lot. We can call in SA - Solastalgics Anonymous. But there's no need to be anonymous about it, unless you find it shameful that you are experiencing solastagia, which, I suppose when you think about it, you should. Collectively, we are shitting in our own house - I don't know about you, but my cheeks would be pretty red if I got caught doing that.

But this is not so much a feeling of shame as a sort of depression. I've been personally dealing with this, sometimes fighting with it, for the past 4 years at least. More about that in another post or two. For now, the focus is on the word solastalgia, since it's the best way to describe this malaise.

This excellent article from Wired (from 2007!) writes on solastalgia: "It's a mashup of the roots solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia. In essence, it's pining for a lost environment. "Solastalgia," as he wrote in a scientific paper describing his theory, "is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.'"

You know how people say on parting, "I miss you already" to a loved one? This is it. This is the sense of loss I am already feeling at the slow demise of the very ecosystem that supports my life and yours. Some days it's worse than others. Some days I almost forget that we are in the middle of a crisis. Then I read the paper. It doesn't take much to snap out of it, there's news on the collapse of our ecosystems everywhere. I won't chalk them up here, I'll get back to 'em later.

I'll be back tomorrow with more explorations of the mental implications of this. For now, just chew on the word. Solastalgia. It's a good word. Not too clinical (don't want that), not too frivolous (don't want that either), reminiscent of a word we already know (good!). Let's put it to good use, shall we? We're going to need it.