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Green Is The New Neurotic

E.B. Boyd, Common Ground
How to save the world without losing your mind

I admit it. I’ve stood at the supermarket fish counter, struggling to remember which fish are sustainably grown and which ones are not. I obsess over the deli containers tumbling out of my kitchen cabinet, worrying about their plastic toxins and inevitable resting place – landfill or recycled? I feel guilty every time I buy bottled water, kick myself if I arrive at the grocery store without my canvas bags, and feel like I’m personally murdering future generations whenever the furnace churns. My heart pounds every time ice breaks off Antarctica. I’ve fantasized about slapping stickers that say “I have a small weenie” on the backs of Hummers. And at the odd cocktail party, I’ve been known to blurt out something cheerful like, “So, global warming, huh. I mean, shouldn’t we be doing something about it?”

Turns out, I’m not alone.

… The combined threats of climate change, peak oil, household toxins, species extinction and a slew of other environmental disasters are making many cranky, depressed, resentful, overwhelmed, afraid, fretful, strung out, despondent, belligerent, spooked and snappish. So many of us are in a kerfuffle that there’s a new term to describe our feelings: “eco-anxiety.”

… In a recent issue of HopeDance magazine, Edwards and Linda Buzzell, a Santa Barbara psychotherapist and founder of the International Association for Ecotherapy, wrote an article called “The Waking Up Syndrome.”

… So what’s an eco-anxious person to do once they’ve woken up, if they don’t want to end up a panicky mess? Many of the strategies seem counter-intuitive. First, go on a news diet, says Thomas Joseph Doherty, a licensed psychologist in Portland, OR, who also teaches ecopsychology at the Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. Staying informed is one thing; overconsuming alarmist messages cranked out by a media eager to sell your eyeballs to advertisers is not. “Our media diet is like our other diets,” Doherty says. Consume what you need and then push back from the table. Troubling messages, like junk food, eventually just wear us down.

Then, give yourself permission to proceed at your own pace.
(May 2008)

Eco-Anxiety: A Call to Action

Sarah Anne Edwards, HopeDance
And So It Begins…

The signs are all about. Each day there are more, and they are escalating in seriousness.

• Delta Airlines is significantly cutting its number of flights this summer.
• Flights that aren’t full in time for take off will be cancelled.
• Middle-aged white-collar workers in their 40s and 50s are moving back into their parents’ homes for shelter.
• Twenty-four states are now paying $4 or higher for gasoline.

… The intertwining realities of energy, climate, and economic change are unraveling life as we’ve known it right before our eyes. As such signs mount, our personal and collective anxiety is rising. Mainstream media is already noticing our discomfort and has at times somewhat cavalierly and a bit tongue-in-check dubbed it “eco-anxiety,” the newest mental health craze of the time.

While the term has been an attention-grabber, it’s actually a bit of a misnomer. Anxiety is usually used to refer to vague or irrational fears. But our eco-concerns are neither vague nor irrational, and they’re certainly no sign of mental illness. They are a sane response to a real threat.

… If we want to protect ourselves amid the changes swirling around us and prepare for the many more that are on their way, we need to heed the signs, be concerned, but not get stuck in fear, confusion, panic, or feelings of powerlessness. We have to use our concern to energize us into concerted action, starting right now.

But what action? What do we need to be doing?
(May/June 2008 issue)

Kindergarten Ethics and Disasters No Longer Waiting to Happen

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
… There is enough to go around – enough food, enough energy. But the way it goes around changes as there are more of us – we have to get better at living together. The old rule of kindergarten is this – you can’t have it unless there’s enough for everyone to have a fair share.

Believe it or not, that’s pretty much sufficient. You can’t have it unless there’s enough to around – and if you do have some, you have to leave enough for everyone else to have their share. And what’s really funny is that you can have a lot with that – one ton of carbon annually, for example, would give you wealth beyond the dreams of avarice by the standards of most people who live today – just not us. We’re inured to plenty by excess.

With kindergarten ethics there’s enough food for every person in the world to eat to fullness, enough water to have everyone drink their fill and still a bit more to grow good things. There are fish enough in the ocean for each of us to celebrate and enjoy a lobster or fish dinner once in a while. There’s enough oil in the wells for us to visit beloved family and friends on occasion, and hold a huge family reunion feast. There are enough trees for each of us to sit in the shade – all 6.6 billion. There’s enough wealth for all of us to have clothes enough and shoes and a little house. There’s enough space for all of us to have public parks and most of us to have a little garden somewhere. There’s enough. Not as much as you or I might want, having gotten accustomed to more, but enough to make people in Nigeria cry out with delight. Enough to impress your own great-grandparents. And if we don’t honestly believe that the only lives worth living are our own – and thus that no one else’s life is worth valuing – enough for us and our posterity.
(29 April 2008)

We can survive but can we communicate?

Carolyn Baker and Sally Erickson, Speaking Truth to Power
When we think of preparing our minds, bodies, hearts, and living situations for collapse, the focus is often on our individual or household living situations. Equally important is our need to develop a circle of trusting, mutually interdependent relationships. The culture we live in is based on hierarchies of control and influence. Work relationships, kept in place largely by paychecks and ordered by project managers and bosses, are the most common experience most of us have of being part of an organized group. We have little experience outside of those hierarchies. Even more rare in our hyper-independent culture is to depend on others for mutual aid, support and comfort. So, for most people, it likely feels overwhelming to consider how to build a wider circle of people based on mutuality, as part of preparation for the ongoing collapse of basic life support systems.

As daunting as that challenge may seem, consider that individuals in isolation will have a hard, lonely, and extreme challenge if they try to survive the world that will remain when systems collapse with ever-increasing rapidity and intensity. Humans are hard-wired as social beings. Absent the distractions of media and entertainment we will find that we need each other. At the same time, we will discover how emotionally and spiritually wounded we’ve become as members of the largely bankrupt, and often abusive, culture that empire has created.

Sadly, peoples’ experiences of community end all too often in pain and disappointment. Such experiences range from attempts to live in intentional communities to the struggles of serving on church committees or being part of activist organizations. As a whole we are ill-equipped to create cohesive and cooperative groups and then to resolve ongoing issues and conflicts that naturally arise. People often express cynicism, despair and helplessness around the possibility of successfully creating and maintaining a sense of working community within a culture of empire. Clearly, it is critical to acknowledge the need for a sense of real connection, for the ability to work through conflict, and to cooperate in effective and joyful ways with others. Once we have come to terms with the need to do so we can begin to find others who have identified the same need and are ready for the task.

Let’s first identify what we are talking about when we talk about community.
(1 May 2008)