Monday, June 10, 2024

#162 / Will We Be Blown Away In Stage Six?


On April 10, 2024, a news article in The New York Times told us that scientists have been "blown away" by the fact that "ocean heat has shattered records for over a year." This is not, by any means, happy news. Click the link to read the article. I think it's fair to call it "disturbing."

As you do read that article about the global warming crisis that is upon us, you might want to keep in mind the advice contained in a "Guest Essay," published in The Times two days later, on April 12th. That essay was titled, "We Don't Have to Drown in Climate Grief." 

The author of that "Guest Essay," Liz Jensen, is also the author of Your Wild And Precious Life: On Grief, Hope and Rebellion. Jensen's book documents how Jensen dealt with the untimely death of her young son, and she urges us to deal with the climate crisis in the same way that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross tells us that we can deal with death, progressing through the following stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Jensen's essay in The Times quotes a 2007 paper by the Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist Steven Running, who applied those [five] stages to the climate crisis, characterizing [1] "Denial" as the belief that the climate emergency isn’t happening or that humans aren’t the root cause. The [2] "Anger" stage kicks in when you realize your worldview or lifestyle will have to change substantially. Then you [3] "Bargain" by downplaying the scale of the crisis or by putting all your faith in technological fixes. The [4] "Depression" stage manifests when you feel overwhelmed by the extent of the crisis and realize that governments and corporations are not only spinning their wheels but also are often actively exacerbating the damage. [5] "Acceptance" entails recognizing that the scale of the challenge is irrefutable and then moving on from there to look for solutions, because “doing nothing given our present knowledge is unconscionable.” 

These are the five stages we go through, in the Kübler-Ross model. Jensen, though, thinks that the fifth stage, "Acceptance," isn't where we should stop. Jensen cites to psychologist David Kessler, who suggests another stage, Stage #6, to be added at the end. That stage is called "Meaning." 

Jensen, in her essay, says that we need to figure out the "Meaning" of the climate crisis, and then proceed from there: 

Grief is not just loss. There is the potential for rebirth too. “We hear about post-traumatic stress,” Jensen writes. “But we hear less about post-traumatic growth, post-traumatic regeneration and post-traumatic spiritual awakening....
Acceptance isn’t the end of the grieving process; it’s only the beginning of a new, sixth stage of grief, defined not by finding closure but by finding meaning. This stage made a lot more sense to me than any of the others did. There was no meaning in Raphaël’s death. But I could find purpose, meaning and fulfillment in what I did and made happen in its wake [emphasis added].

"What I did (and made happen)" describes "action" and its result. Meaningful action results in change! We are all going to have to get through that "five stage" thing, and then move right on to action. That's what I think.

Aren't you done "denying" the climate crisis, and haven't you given up getting "angry" that we have let things come to this, and that our lives are going to have to change, and change significantly? We all know that we can't make a "bargain" with the facts (like those ocean temperatures); facts are facts. There is no use getting "depressed," either. That won't accomplish anything. 

So, here's the question: Are you willing to move on to "acceptance" of what the global warming crisis portends? [This is stage #5].

Or, are you willing to go beyond that stage, and start moving to Stage #6, which means doing something about it?

Something meaningful. We know that this is what is called for. 

Each one of us has a life yet to live (however long that may be), and I am suggesting that we had better get cracking and spend some quality time working too change the trajectory of the climate crisis curve!

If we don't, if we don't move to meaningful action in Stage #6, we may be "blown away," quite literally, by some tornado in Topeka (or in California, where we got a tornado report just last March).

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