A recent piece in The Cut shows how Climate Psychologist Margaret Klein “gets it done”. Margaret talks about waking up to the climate crisis and dealing with climate grief. And she shows how she’s applying her training as a clinical psychologist to the climate movement. Her latest book Facing the Climate Emergency is a call to become the climate heroes humanity needs. (Editor introduction)
This article consists of excerpts from the online preview of her book.
An epic calling. A heroic calling.
Did you know you have a calling?
It’s probably grander than anything you had let yourself imagine, outside of your dreams. You are supposed to save the world. That’s why you are here, alive in this time of great consequence.
We — humanity — are putting together a team of heroes to cancel the apocalypse, to protect humans and the natural world from catastrophic collapse. You might not realize it, but you are on the roster. Your jersey is sitting in your locker. We need to figure out your position and get you into (emotional) shape. The first step is to show up to practice. We are waiting for you.
Unlike most self-help guides, my goal is not to make you happy, and it’s certainly not to help you avoid pain. This is not about feeling good or finding satisfaction — though these will likely be side effects of fully embracing your mission and living in climate truth. My goal is to help you maximize your potential to meet the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. I will show you how to face your pain with courage and vulnerability, and let it motivate you to become the most effective climate warrior you can be.
Battle between knowing and not knowing
Inside all of us, a battle rages. It’s the battle between knowing and not knowing, between fully facing the truth — emotionally, as well as intellectually — and shrinking from it. We sense we’re in a climate emergency and mass extinction event, but we have a deep-seated psychological instinct to defend against that knowledge.
The pain is shouting at us: “Everything is dying!” Somewhere inside, we know that humanity and the natural world are in peril. Indeed, we feel the horrors of civilizational collapse and the sixth mass extinction of species, in our bodies. Our minds attempt to shield us from this pain — we avoid, distract, deny, and numb ourselves. But these defenses work only temporarily: When we fail to process our emotions and mourn our losses, the pain takes on tremendous power. It follows us around like a shadow, and we become increasingly desperate to avoid what we know.
This pain has several dimensions. It is the fear we feel for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for all humanity; it is the empathy and grief we feel for the people and species already immiserated or killed; it is the crushing guilt that we feel for continuing to let this happen. Our pain is the consequence of our participation in a destructive system.
We have allowed ourselves to become killers — a plague on the rest of life. We share, to varying degrees, guilt and responsibility. Our pain may feel terrible, but it is rational, appropriate, and deserved. It is an internal reflection of external reality: The biosphere — all life — is suffering or threatened. Of course we feel sad and anxious. We are caught in an economic and political system that fosters our collective participation in our planet’s daily degradation. Why would we expect to feel good, and good about ourselves, while we are a part of killing all life on Earth, including ourselves and everyone we love?
Our society treats life — human life, plant life, animal life — as if it were a cheap commodity rather than the most precious, sacred thing there is. By doing so, we’ve not only ensured the coming ecological crisis; we’ve inured ourselves to it.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, we can face climate truth and choose not to commit passive suicide.
We can choose to turn away from illusion and distraction. We can each decide to face climate truth and make the choice that now is the time to do everything in our power to wrest life back from the jaws of extinction. We can each help to initiate a collective awakening to the climate emergency and a World War II-scale response that protects humanity and the natural world and builds a beloved community.
Facing the Climate Emergency
The Climate Mobilization
Published on May 21, 2019
Facing the Climate Emergency
Facing the Climate Emergency is a self-help book, but its goal is not to make you feel less pain. Its goal is to make you feel your pain more directly and constructively: to turn it into action that protects humanity and all life. In this book, I argue that your pain is a signal — it’s telling you something critically important. The pain is demanding to be acknowledged, and I want to show you how to listen to it. I want you to face the pain of the climate and ecological emergency, and to feel it in a focused, conscious way so that you can initiate a process of transformation — first in yourself and then in society as a whole.
This large-scale change must be our goal, as Pope Francis wrote in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Sí. To stop the climate emergency, he says, we must “become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”
There is a movement being born, and I am proud to say that I helped bring it into existence. The members of this movement are not content to numb our sadness with money and things. We’re not willing to ignore the Earth as it burns. We’re going to fight for what matters. We know that we can face climate truth and let it transform us.
Margaret Klein invites all of us to become the climate warriors, the climate heroes humanity so badly needs. As normal crumbles, we must do like young people who are turning their grief into action.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.