Posts tagged “Depression”

Kübler-Ross on the Parkland Walk

We got together with friends to go for a walk last Saturday: an urban jaunt of six miles or so, starting from our homes in N16 (North London).  We picked up the Capital Ring walk at the Castle Climbing Centre, stopping off to have a quick look at the thriving fruit and vegetable garden round the back.  Part of this site is run by Growing Communities as part of its Patchwork Farm, and supplies salad to local organic eaterie the Fat Cat Cafe on Stoke Newington Church Street.

On past the reservoirs and we followed the canal round to Finsbury Park, where local Transition Town group were holding some sort of event.  We stop for a bit of cake (no tea, sadly) and soak up the optimistic face of local resilience.

On to the Parkland Walk.  This is a disused railway line which has become a much-loved and well-used path for cyclists, walkers and runners.

This is where we met the Kübler-Ross change curve, restyled as an artwork helping Parkland Walk passers-by move “From ignorance to bliss… confronting the psychology of Peak Oil“.

I’ve been impressed at how useful this model is in helping us to understand our reactions to climate change since being introduced to it in this context by David Ballard some years ago.

The artwork had the different stages at intervals along the path, each marked by a word and ceramic faces hanging down around it.  Enjoy this selection.

Our little party responded to this conversation piece.  It was a chance to explain Peak Oil, and discuss its likely consequences.   We also pondered the different ways you might “accept” climate change.

I was reminded once again about how much of my work at the moment is about adapting to climate change (for example, facilitating stakeholder workshops about managed realignment at Medmerry and a separate stakeholder engagement process of UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment).

It was a chance to discuss terminal illness and debate the validity of the change curve. And we also wondered about the ceramic faces – which of them embodied the stages most convincingly?

It’s a beautiful day – am I allowed to enjoy it?

A bright, warm, sunny, late October day.

The sky is blue, butterflies are dancing through the air and a fat red dragonfly buzzes us as we walk along the footpath in our T-shirts.

I want to lose myself in how lovely it is, but part of me is saying “We’ll be nostalgic about cold cloudy autumn days with proper rain once climate change kicks in”.

Curses!  Sustainable development change agents have a hard time of it, what with being so aware of impending ecosystem collapse and the paltry efforts our organisations are making to stop it.

Can’t we just enjoy the sunshine and let tomorrow worry about itself?

How do we feel about it? And how do we help ourselves feel effective, empowered and persuasive in the face of the latest information on ice melt, ocean pH and HIV/Aids? This survey of organisational change agents may help you feel less alone.

Take a look at this slide show, that illustrates the results of the same survey and draws some conclusions.

What do you feel about it?

*Update: Jonathon Porritt blogs about optimism and pessimism here.

Horror stories and denial – which makes me cringe more?

So I’m just topping up on today’s environmental news feed (my feed of choice is The Guardian, a nice little app that even a web dilettante like me can add to their Google home page) and two stories stand out and demand a closer look.

The first states, “Met Office warns of catastrophic global warming in our lifetimes“.   The second say, “CO2 is green”, which is less self-explanatory.  In fact, it’s an astonishing TV ad running in the US aimed at scuppering a cap-and-trade bill – thanks to Leo Hickman for picking this up in his blog.

What I notice is that while reading them, I get that creeping feeling up the back of my neck and round to my jaw, and the sinking in my shoulders.  I’m physically cringing.  Not very much.  But it’s there.

And which had the biggest cringe effect?  I can’t be certain, but I’d say that CO2 denialists make me more unhappy than the Met Office’s truly dire research.

So I wonder: what can I learn from this?

That I’m more comfortable with things which reinforce my existing world view, however awful?  Perhaps.

That we need to pull together now and use all our considerable intelligence and organising power to avert the worst and prepare a soft landing, and that I’d rather the US pro-CO2 lobby would ‘get with the programme’.

I’m happier owning up to that as a reason!

The other thing I notice is that these cringe-related feelings are not empowering and motivating.  What I plan to do now is

  • forget I read either story,
  • remind myself of some of my reasons to be cheerful,
  • review my to-do list, and
  • plunge into productive work.

Does that make me a denialist too?

Just too depressing to think about

At a gathering of friends, new and old, over Easter, I’m asked, “What is it exactly that you do then, Penny?”  After a few fumbling attempts to explain,  they get it. Their responses, though, are telling:

“Yes, because I just wouldn’t think about climate change at all if I didn’t have to.”

“It’s just too depressing to think about.”

“And too frightening.”

“And you just feel overwhelmed. The more I know, the less I feel able to do anything about it.”

Those are the responses of my friends.  As professionals in our field, however, what is our duty to our clients? What do we do with their feelings of fear, depression and powerlessness?

An ‘every-day’ response might be to rescue people from their feelings, so as to spare them (and our) discomfort.  “It’s OK, I’m sure we’ll get through it, there’s nothing to get upset about.”

But I think that as professionals intervening with our clients, or active citizens helping to run grass-roots activities, that’s not sufficient.

The work of people like Joanna Macy and Mary-Jane Rust can help us.  It can help us to understand the causes of despair.  And it can help us to honour it without being disempowered by it.  So we can confront that depressing thought and begin to make a path of our choosing.

Penny’s blog

Portrait of Penny

Thoughts, updates, links, and essays on creating change for sustainable development.