Climate Grief: “Half the wildlife in Africa has died on my watch.”

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Climate scientists want to be “stewards of grief, to hold the hand of society as we enter the unknown space of the climate crisis“.

Scientists need to face both facts and feelings when dealing with the climate crisis

Kimberly Nicholas

I was taught to use my head, not my heart. But acknowledging sadness at what is lost can help us safeguard the future

Bearing witness to the demise or death of what we love has started to look an awful lot like the job description for an environmental scientist these days. Over dinner, my colleague Ola Olsson matter‑of‑factly summed up his career: “Half the wildlife in Africa has died on my watch.” He studied biodiversity because he loved animals and wanted to understand and protect them. Instead his career has turned into a decades-long funeral.

My dispassionate training has not prepared me for the increasingly frequent emotional crises of climate change. What do I tell the student who chokes up in my office when she reads that 90% of the seagrasses she’s trying to design policies to protect are slated to be killed by warming before she retires? In such cases, facts are cold comfort. The skill I’ve had to cultivate on my own is to find the appropriate bedside manner as a doctor to a feverish planet; to try to go beyond probabilities and scenarios, to acknowledge what is important and grieve for what is being lost.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my climate and ecological grief, but swimming through it is the only way forward. One role environmental scientists can play is to be “stewards of grief, to hold the hand of society as we enter the unknown space of the climate crisis,” as my friend Leehi Yona so beautifully wrote when the IPCC’s 1.5C report launched. As scientists, we have had much more time observing the decline of what we love. We are further down the line of where we all must get to as a society, facing hard truths and still finding ways to be kind and resilient, to do better going forward, to get through this together. We still have so much we love at stake that is worth fighting for.

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Whenever I read something like this I get this kind of yech feeling, like I’ve just received an unexpected and unwanted random hug from a stranger. You know, the quick look to see if they have any obvious indications of mental or physical illness, the quick check to make sure your wallet is still in your pocket.

Let us just say I’m not in a hurry to hold your hand and let you lead me, Kimberley.

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via Watts Up With That?

March 26, 2021 at 12:32PM

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