From the Climate Action Team

Moving Through Grief into New Possibilities

sun rays through forest mist

“In his book The Denial of Death, social anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote that the awareness we humans have of our personal mortality creates a level of anxiety that drives much of our behavior. . . And, so it is that, to alleviate the anxiety we feel over our animal nature, we try to separate ourselves from our fellow animals and to exert control over the natural world.” (1) Climate change reminds us of our mortality. So, distancing ourselves from the rest of nature through investing “our energy in our social group and its achievement” (2) also helps us maintain a certain distance from climate change and its reminders of death.

How can we attend to climate change so that we move beyond our fears and grief and into conversation and hopeful action? Finding new ways of talking about it and our relationship to Earth will be needed. Instead of proving the rightness of facts, we can try a language of shared feelings, beliefs and values to help open us to another’s experience and understandings.

As Chickasaw writer, Linda Hogan wrote in her book, Dwellings, “We need new stories, new terms and conditions that are relevant to the love of land, a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world. It would mean we . . . give praise and nurture creation.” (3)

What would allow you to express your feelings about climate change? How might you reimagine new stories about living lovingly with the Earth?

(1) Michael Mountain, “I Am Not an Animal!” Earth in Transition (website), November 30, 2014,

(2) Michael Mountain, “Why Our Brains Can’t Understand Climate Change,” Earth in Transition (website), November 8, 2015,

(3) Linda Hogan, Dwellings (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 94.

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