None of what I suggest is utopian; it’s too late for this. I propose what is enough, which requires change from many of usenough to curb our diseased relationship with the natural world and with one another, for the sake of integrity, regardless of the outcome. Enough that we could move into a functional range of inhabiting the planet without slashing and burning everything to smithereens, or just not so quickly. Enough also means engaging 3.5 percent of the population in rebellion to turn the tides. This figure is based on research showing that “nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts—and those engaging a threshold of 3.5 percent of the population have never failed to bring about change.” 12

Such protests can affect local or global policy. For example, a 3.5 percent threshold was reached during September 2019 when protestors in New Zealand took to the streets for the Youth Climate Strikes. 13 This was soon followed by the New Zealand government committing to an ambitious. goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 14 If many groups worldwide rebel against theirEach local governmental policies, a global shift could occur. This in fact is the basis for Extinction Rebellion's strategy: engaging collective civil disobedience to target local governments by demanding net-zero emissions by 2025. While parts of the biosphere might be too damaged to substantially recover from our lashings, this should not stop us from doing right. Rather, it should invigorate us.

You might have heard someone ask, “If our planet and humanity are lost causes and there's not much I can do, why should I care and waste my time learning, worrying, and getting upset about climate change?” Maybe you have even wondered this yourself. Sadly, acting from this perspective results in both inner and outer inaction and is precisely what has contributed to our current state—not only to the demise of the natural world but to our lost sense of belonging, which has eroded our ability to care enough to work through this mess together.

The non-discerning, binary nature of the above question also fails to appreciate the value of acting with integrity despite the condition of the world—that to live with dignity in heart and action always matters. For instance, we might change our behavior to ease The suffering of other life forms we are extinguishing with us. This could include something as commonplace as not driving and flying unless we must, or something as conscientiously rare as not making undue noise in a quiet place. All this requires commonsense care and a capacity for personal “sacrifice” we seem to lack. This broken integrity is the common “patient” inside us all that we must learn to collectively heal.

Reasons to learn about climate change and expose ourselves to the difficult truths are therefore many. While knowledge might sting in the short term, it can help us avoid—and avoid causing—more suffering in the long run. Knowing and naming the nature of the disease helps us best prepare for and prevent further damage. Also, if it were more likely that your lifestyle and well-being would be significantly disrupted earlier than you anticipated by a force other than the usual culprits that spoil plans, wouldn't you want an informed say in how you spend the rest of your days?


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 Central to realizing a new level of compassion, then, is grief work. Until we release the backlogged pain of unconscious love wounds, it effectively possesses us and drives every aspect of our lives. Unattended, our love wounds block our capacity to give and receive love and cause us to violate and injure others, including the Earth. Until we deal with this shadow pain, we remain too self-obsessed (ironically enough) and unable to love enough, especially during times of decline.

Through grief work, we liberate our grounded care—our embodied human capacity to give and receive love—in the form of what I call our finer jewels of being human . These finer jewels are psycho-spiritual resources that have, in significant part, remained mired in our negative, shadow pain. Our finer jewels therefore correspond with our positive shadow — our inner storehouse of unacknowledged and often underdeveloped, life-affirming capacities and aspirations. They include a stellar repertoire of virtues: our compassion, empathy, creativity, passion. , honesty, patience, freedom, humility, perseverance, critical thinking, courage, care, wisdom, and a robust sense of meaning and purpose.

A profound and sustainable way to liberate our positive shadow is by reckoning with our negative shadow —our unacknowledged arsenal of pain and life-depleting attributes. Note, these positive and negative descriptors are merely that —descriptive. They don't assess intrinsic value. Like dark and light, each dialectic is valuable for its unique contribution to our wholeness. When both are left unconscious, they cause unnecessary suffering. When made conscious and worked with paradoxically, we get integration. Integration bestows the integrity of care.

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Famed Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy believed maintaining the vital link between humans and nature a primary condition for happiness. Tolstoy speaks to the equivalent of preserving our second triangle of resilience relationship. Spiraling into egoic pursuits that excessively despoil the natural world disavows this symbiosis.

Pleasure and experiencing beauty are as important now as ever, to recharge and keep our spirits up. In addition to difficult reality, we can also live in celebration with friends, family, and the providence of the natural world that remains. But too much celebration while the house (Earth) is burning down renders us distracted, ineffective, and addicted to surrogates for “happiness.” It’s still deceptively easy to think we can ignore inconvenient climate change news, especially if we believe that flicking a switch, popping a pill, or going shopping can make it all go away, however momentarily.

Ironically, our “happiness” culture might be in good part responsible for our crisis, since perpetual, superficial happiness goes hand in hand with too much consumerism, pollution, and denial. Rather than deal with sacred heartache, we too often try to pleasure it away. While pleasure makes life worth living and soothes its harsh turns, when we use it to avoid too much difficulty, we brew disaster.

In contrast, we are rewarded when we embrace our pain. In his poignant book Original Blessing , Reverend Matthew Fox writes, “Pain destroys the illusions of false, that is elitist, pleasures. It burns from the inside out. It thereforesensitizes us to what is truly beautiful in life. ” 33 Our denial of pain not only atrophies our stewardship of the natural world, but also denies our experiences of one another as sacred. It creates a shadow that goes on growing while we simultaneously generate more And we lose yet again when we deny our pain because we don't get to unearth our finer jewels, which emerge from embracing the depths of our hearts. So, we pursue more and more happiness, more “ elitist pleasures, ”until our souls are buried beneath so much compulsive pleasuring that happiness becomes not a slice of life, but a covertly fear-driven addiction.

I wonder if Reverend Fox's use of the word “elitist” is coincidental or uncannily prescient for yoking corporate, elitist-manufactured, unnecessary products with not being sensitive to “what is truly beautiful in life.” In the lexicon of Chinese medicine, this kind of avoidant pleasure-seeking is understood as too much Yang-light (pleasure) casting too big a Yin-shadow (pain). Such addiction robs us of essential psycho-spiritual gifts—from both these domains—conferred by our positive (Yang) and negative (Yin) shadows.

When dark and light fall too far out of balance, chaos ensues as a healing crisis, to transform pain into a more sustainable form of happiness—fulfillment. Fulfillment requires we lovingly embrace personal and collective heartache as a more humane reckoning with everything alive. takes wisdom and courage to choose such a path over a steady diet of sugary pleasure in the form of protracted avoidance and smiley faces that disguise our suffering. This inner path to sustainability yields a richer life, a full-course meal of meaning, depth, and soulful community rather than that which avoids, appeases, isolates, and burns us — and the planet — out.


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It's worth mentioning that feeling all our emotions does not mean we wallow in or immediately act on these emotions. More important is that we embody, work with, and then act on them—this is the heart of emotional intelligence. Case in point: in a discussion of emotional responses to climate crisis, a colleague asserted that grief is not the emotion we need to be feeling right now. I responded that this assumes we have the choice not to feel grief. Indeed, we often don't have this choice , and embodying our grief can actually help us generate a clearer, more genuine, and passionate climate response.

In a letter responding to the suggestion that climate scientists tend to repress grief on the job, professor Andy Radford acknowledges that unacknowledgedgrief “can cloud judgment, inhibit creativity and engender a sense that there is no way forward.” 38 In the same letter, its coauthor, Dr. Steve Simpson, adds: “Instead of ignoring or suppressing our grief, environmental scientists should be acknowledging.” , accepting and working through it. ” 39

The suggestion to avoid grief also overlooks the importance of grief's role in curbing anger, as previously discussed, as well as grief's compassion-generating and wisdom-birthing power. When grief is repressed, it can transform into anger and rage via the reciprocity of Yin -Yang, specifically one extreme transforms into the other. This fuels war-mongering, imperialism, domestic violence, bullying, and injustice of all kinds. Especially for men, anger is easier to express and is less stigmatized than grief. Arizona-based psychologist Todd Linaman speaks to these many dynamics: “For many people, chronic anger is an expression of unresolved grief. They may unconsciously exchange the emotions most often associated with grief because it makes them feel weak and vulnerable. Anger, on the other hand,serves as a sort of force field that shuts us down so we don't have to go any farther in the grieving process. It allows us to turn our uncomfortable feelings outward onto others. While this can affect anyone, men, in particular, struggle with expressing deep, personal grief. ”40

We might feel grief or anger for a few seconds, or it might flood our psyche for weeks and months. Still, we can take measures to reduce our emotional suffering and employ emotional passion to our benefit. With practice, we become more skillful at finding balance between sitting with our emotions and expressing ourselves in the moment. We can pay more attention to subtle messages—such as “whispers” from our deeper self—for when to let insults go and when to take them to heart. We become more attuned to knowing when to be patient and when to be spontaneous— everything has its season.Each situation, and each of us, merits unique balance in this regard—a personalized, seasonal prescription for psychic and ecological sanity best guided by an amalgamation of established wisdom, trial and error, and our own intuition.


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