What do you feel when you read those two words? Dread? Irritation? Anxiety? A desire to immediately start reading something—anything—else?
For me, thinking about climate change brings up a list of “shoulds:” I should be more aware, I should be more involved, I should be donating more. Also, fear. Particularly for my almost three-year-old daughter, who will be living in this changing world much longer than me.
When all of the shoulds and fear start to rise up, I often find myself clicking off of the story I was reading and moving on to fold my laundry, or do anything else besides think about the situation on our planet. While I’m usually pretty good at staying with hard feelings and working through them (I am a therapist after all!), I often feel stuck around this issue.
Because it feels so freaking HUGE and OVERWHELMING!!!!!
And sometimes kinda hopeless.
Anyone else with me here???
So, I’ve been thinking.
I’ve realized that, for me, the first step toward taking on climate activism in a serious way (beyond attending a rally here and there) is to face these feelings, and see what emerges from there.
And one of the best ways I know to do that? The arts. Of course.
Why face our feelings? Why use art for such a daunting crisis?
Working through my feelings with art always helps me to sit with my fear, grief, and anger, rather than running away from them. Any art process, whether it’s drawing or collage or movement or writing, creates a container for things that can feel huge and unwieldy. It helps us get whatever is inside, out.
And because the creative process is generative, it always opens us up to something else. Sometimes there’s discovery—a way that our current feelings about climate change are connected to fears from our childhoods, or recognizing our disillusionment from being an activist earlier in our lives (this is true for me). We might also connect to our love for our planet, as we allow ourselves to feel and move our deep grief.
Through all of this, it may create some room for inspiration and action. For new ideas about how each of us can be involved in creating a world that is healthy for everyone.
Oh, and another thing we need to face these challenges? Community. Real connection. Knowing and feeling that we’re not alone.
I’m putting together some Expressive Arts circles where we can process our feelings about climate change together, and inspire action in ourselves and each other. If this is something you’d be interested in participating in, reply in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
While I don’t have the answer to the crisis we are facing, I do know that it requires many, many people using their creativity to come up with inspired solutions. So let’s start practicing.