How to Face the Painful Emotions Stirred Up by the Climate Crisis

There are resources that can help us face frightening realities without being completely overwhelmed

From Charlie Brodkin

“The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” –Joanna Macy

Working together to insist that governments and corporations take climate action requires a willingness to acknowledge that there is a serious climate problem, to face it and discuss it. But it seems extremely difficult for many people to even think or talk about the climate crisis. Why is this?

Some don’t believe the crisis is real, or at least downplay its importance (“There must be a simple technological way to fix this, right?”). This denialism is not due to lack of available, accurate information. The facts about climate change are available on the internet, and are covered regularly in many media outlets. And there are many climate activists and organizations devoting themselves to raising awareness. But, on the other hand, the internet and social media are also full of distortions and disinformation, and a tremendous amount of money is being spent to deny or minimize the issue.

Others are blinded by availability bias, especially those not living by the coast and not living in what are now fire or flood zones. People not experiencing the direct effects of shifting climates use available personal examples, instead of all possible data gathered, when making decisions about the potential consequences of climate change. To some people, things still seem fairly normal…for now. We humans often have difficulty taking seriously dangers that are not right in front of us, right now. Tragically, though, an increasing number of people have the issue thrust upon them, as they personally experience climate-related fires or floods, and an aftermath of grief and sometimes posttraumatic stress symptoms, often without adequate support.

Many others know, on some level, that the climate crisis is real, but find it extremely difficult to think about, because the whole situation seems so frightening and overwhelming, and they feel powerless to do anything about it. Being able to discuss it with others might be helpful in facing it, but it can seem like a faux pas to bring up the crisis in some social…

Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin

Co-authors of the new book “Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections.” Twitter: @ashleypallathra @tedbrodkin