Since the tsunami in Thailand and India in 2004, and the other subsequent hurricanes and natural disasters, I have become more aware of climate change issues. As I keep learning about mass extinctions of animals and coral reefs dying, limited oil supply without alternatives developed and in place and the feeble responses that come from the public, the government and industries, I feel we are headed for a disaster. I don’t see many people involved in recycling, driving less or even driving more fuel efficient cars, eating less animal products and processed foods which consume much higher resources and doing other things that can help reduce our carbon footprint. I end up feeling alone and helpless. When I see documentaries about some of the environmental issues, I feel very worried and anxious. I don’t quite know how to deal with these overwhelming feelings.
It is indeed overwhelming to consider the range of issues that you have named. Your need to research and seriously consider the effects of our lifestyle, policies and practices upon the environment is an act of strength and a sign of your willingness to not be in denial about this phenomenon. To wake up to reality, especially a negative one with potentially massive consequences, is courageous. If what you are reading is true, then how could you not feel worried and anxious? It is akin to your very home and your own family members being seriously threatened. Our health and survival and the planet’s ecosystem are at risk. Our bodies are made of the earth and we are so dependent upon the planet for all of our physical nourishment. As long as you keep educating yourself on climate issues, you will feel a certain amount of worry and despair.
Ask yourself why you aren’t ignoring this information. What keeps you interested and concerned? Is it just fear of losing what you have or concern for your future? Are there feelings of care, attachment and love for the nature and our planet? If we really take the time to feel, we realize that we are so deeply connected to the biosphere—the plants, animals, rivers and sky. Our ancestors lived so close to the land and other species. It is only in the last hundred years that many of us have become so estranged from the natural world.
Fortunately, there are other people who feel similar to you and are also participating in range of activities to help make a difference. This includes cleaning up oil spills, being part of simplicity circles, joining organizations, using less fuel, growing vegetables, or writing articles and books on the subject. There are hundreds of ways to be proactive and contribute to the healing. The feelings and concerns you have are too intense to deal with individually. Additionally, it is a systemic problem rooted in our relationships to ourselves, each other and the world at large. No one person can solve it or carry the weight of feelings associated with the issues.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D. is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. (650)325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com.