I want to start with a reassurance. It’s okay if the world is too much sometimes. Those of us who keep paying attention, who turn again and again towards the changes this generation is bringing the planet – we’re understandably overwhelmed. Some changes come shockingly quick, some agonizingly slow. Some we yearn for in our hearts, some we can barely bear to stomach. Other healthy and understandable responses may arrive for us as frustration or fury, despair or dread. The urge to shake people awake, to scream with all our might “But our people are being murdered!” “But our land is being poisoned!” “But our water is being stolen!” – these are totally reasonable reactions given how much we love and care for our homes, our families, and the alive and active threats facing us. But of course screaming at people doesn’t ultimately help, won’t sow solidarity, doesn’t encourage agency or support real strategy. Yet if we don’t move through these emotions that arise, if we deny or ignore our emotional ecologies, we’ll never include or integrate the insights these feelings provide.
There’s a poignant new word that resonated with me around these questions, and may with you too. Solastalgia. Coined ten years ago by Austrailian ecopsychologist Glenn Albrecht, it refers to the homesickness we experience while our home disappears around us. This shows up through intersectional scales. Through foreclosures or evictions. Through overshoots or toxic changes to the water or foodshed. Through each of the ways the 50 million refugees on the planet today lost their homes. I experience solastalgia working for a Bay Area honey farm and witnessing firsthand the loss of our sweet buzzy bees, realizing what a harbinger of doom this is for both my farmers market friends who grow the food, as well as all of my neighbors who eat.
I also recognize these connections because I’ve worked around the world on behalf of food justice for over a decade, and through my hungrily gobbled up masters degree in Integral Ecology at CIIS in San Francisco, working closely with giants in planetary consciousness like Joanna Macy and Brian Swimme, combining climate science with commitments to justice and spiritual appreciations. How can anyone expect to tackle our interconnected global challenges without folding in such diverse perspectives and ways of knowing? I loved school for the first time in my life. And I’m grateful to see Integral Ecology all over the Pope’s encyclical last week!
But when you study what’s changing on the planet – it’s terrifying. Drawdowns and depletions, a whole cascading coalescing confluence of culminating crises! Floods! Famines! Droughts! Die offs! I keep looking around the farmers market from my little honey stand and wondering ~ who will bee the next to go?
And yet it’s right there, in that corny word play, where I make a joke to cut the tension, that I actually begin to feel I’m embodying Joanna’s description of hope as “something you do.” Because it helps! We can recognize our plight till death overcomes us, but it’s the “What do we do?” question that understandably trips us up. Gratitude for places like Hub Oakland, committed to continually bringing those questions and solutions to light. What I’ve found consistently helps the most – is humor. When we can laugh even though it’s hard. When we dance even though it’s heavy.
So as I’ve continued to learn and share skills for facing our future and actively transforming our homes together, and as the rivers of my life continue to confluence around helping people deal with their changing homescapes, I’ve increasingly brought in fun and funny and even sometimes silly music and movement exercises, that still nonetheless bring attention to the most difficult or scary parts of the climate crisis – to get that learning into your bones, splash new ways of being around in your cells, let reconnections flash across the laugh lines of your face. I also take kids and adults out into educational immersions in nature, where we learn a ton about our transforming ecologies but it feels like play. And often during and after an event we create art and media, like photographs and video, that encourage sharing and integration into our daily lives. I’ve started to call the combined curriculum Eco Courageous Education Creations, and details about our offerings are available at ecocourageous.com. There’s also a crowdfunding campaign currently running at https://www.indiegogo.com/
One of our next offerings will be a Witnessing Water: Mokelumne River Tour, getting to know where our Oakland and Berkeley water comes from. With 2 days and 1 night camping, we’ll follow the flow of the watershed from our house taps to our treatment centers, and out to the wide meandering agricultural valley stream. We’ll record the precious and receding reservoirs, and then camp up for a night up by the thunderous Sierra headwaters, ultimately seeking the trickling sacred source, the spring that spreads so far providing sustenance for so many. I’ll also be hosting monthly Climate Courage Cafes in my garden in South Berkeley, and there’ll be several other Eco Courageous series starting up in the fall.
Because when you live a few minutes from a quiet but overdue fault line, it’s all good to mentally, physically, or emotionally prepare for an earthquake next time you get a chance – but when you’re also gripping a rope swing tied to the steady branch of a hundred year old Eucalyptus tree slated to be cut down later this year to prevent fire – and you walk to the edge of the hill and peer down to see how the line of the Hayward Fault directly below has caused the land to rise dramatically up out of the flatlands leading down to the Bay – and the view of our enormous life-giving estuary encircles you, and you imagine how many times these waters have risen and fallen, reducing the mighty bay to one solitary river running through the valley and exiting, as 45% of all California’s water still does, through that sliver of a portal of the Golden Gate – and then you imagine how this bay may look soon, after the next “big one”, after we’ve industrialized over 95% of the marshlands and set in motion a 1000 year watery coastal encroachment – and for a moment you’re filled with everything that feels grounded and stable in your life, and you’re facing everything that is up in the air and uncertain – and then you imagine how this picture Josh is about to take of you rope swinging will look on Instagram. And you trust that whatever happens, these folks will keep it fun. And so you hold on tight, and you leap.