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Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change?


Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change?

Margaret Hetherman

In 1977, I was in middle school in Michigan, and a science teacher shared a tidbit off-curriculum. Some scientists had postulated that as a result of "pollution," heat-trapping gasses might one day lead to a warming planet. Dubbed "the greenhouse effect," the image was clear in my 12-year old mind: people enclosed in a glass structure, heating up like tomatoes coaxed to ripen. It was an interesting concept, but something in the very, very distant future.


Perhaps we are also trying to avoid a collective guilt over allowing unregulated capitalism to become so destructive to humanity and nature. To extol industrial progress a century ago is one thing but that became a semi religious worship of unchecked profits decades later. To continue to applaud profits even if destructive of the environment has brought us to this final tipping point and the last line in the sand to be crossed. We yet pretend that there is no limit - no end - to greed.

We now find ourselves unable to say no to that spoiled child that we have let capitalism become.

We can’t say no to our capitalism even as it destroys our chances of survival. Even as unchecked capitalism destroys the means of sustaining itself decades from now. We cannot say NO even as capitalism destroys capitalism and our civilization by destroying the environment.

We simply never learned how to say no to our own greed.


Revolution is coming! It’s not going to be fun. Happy Motoring is coming to an end.


Yes, it is collective grief. I personally feel deep grief and fear of what we see happening all around us. The science is there and it is becoming obsolete as soon as it is released because climate change is rapidly, exponentially changing. Scientist can predict one thing but it changes so rapidly that it has become unpredictable.
On top of the grief we all must feel inside, we have to deal with the denial of so many and the lack of action on the part of our government to do even the smallest of things to prepare.
The anger, the grief, and the fear, that we live with daily will only be worse as time passes. We are losing the battle while Washington plays politics with the life of our children and the planet. They don’t seem to understand it will be their children and grandchildren that will suffer as well. Are they so heartless they don’t care? Unless they have another plan we don’t know about, we are doomed by the greed of the elites and corporations. So of course the TPP is the gold standard to finish us off.
Go Green party, Jill Stein, 2016


May I point out a form of “denial” seldom recognized.

It was clear to many of us 40 years ago that then was our last chance to avert calamity, yet for those last forty years not only have the flatout deniers been refusing to recognize the problem but well-meaning scientists and other rather well-informed persons who accepted we have a problem have been unwilling to accept that time ran out decades ago.

“We still have time to avert calamity,” they have chanted, instead of making plans to deal with the inevitable.

In the end they have been just as much an impediment to making realistic preparations as have been the flatout deniers.


I feel the grief as a continuous presence.

Ms. Hetherman speaks honestly about the climate changes going on but could well be funded by a think tank that takes its money from an Oil behemoth like the Koch Brothers’ enterprise.

I’m stating that because the entire article is written in the generic-WE frame which falsely posits the following (if through suggestion rather than overtly):

  1. That if citizens really knew the truth, there would be remedial shifts underway
  2. That it’s the average citizen and their energy usage pattern that determines the net effect of global warming
  3. That the missing political will is treated as but a footnote
  4. And not mentioned at all isthat this missing political will is the direct product of For-Sale U.S. elections and the moneyed entities that finance candidates in order to ensure that policies preferential to their interests will become or remain the law of the land. Those policies don’t cut into the profit centers of the established energy barons.

Lip service is given to the Paris Talks without any honest discussion related to the weight of Western nations and their leaderships’ resistance (except for Germany) in making MEANINGFUL investments in renewable energy systems and the infrastructure these would require… to be implemented on a vast scale.

Lip service is also offered to Zika which apparently serves as a sort of “must mention” MSM meme these days.

I’ve understood that Nature was being put on the auction block since my first poem was read to fellow students in a junior high school English class back in the l960s.

Knowledge of a thing is not the same thing as AGENCY, especially in this particular era where corporations have essentially turned our government into its own subsidiary.

Even if aware people cut back on their personal energy usage that won’t meet the bar for the level of change required. It takes concentrated, centralized WISE leadership to engender that effort; and that is the problem… since THAT is what’s missing.

The “personal responsibility” ethos is the favorite of right wing pro-business corporate interests even when they fund green-washing campaigns to hide their own complicity with full-scale global ecocide.


Your entire comment pushes the idea that citizens have had absolute agency over their governments and economic systems…

When in reality, the old elites have controlled both for centuries.

You use the generic WE frame which is 100% disingenuous, particularly these days when astute authors have made sound cases for our nation being run by organized crime style corporate cartels, with almost all wealth headed to the top of the financial pyramid (*Thomas Picketty), and almost ZERO public influence over policy (*The Page and Gilens Study).

Did women allow their 2nd class status?

Did slaves allow slavery?

Do the Palestinians wish to be colonized by outsiders?

In any arrangement of asymmetric power, it’s a LIE to pretend that “both sides” have equal say, agency, influence, and resources.

You stupidly said:

“We simply never learned how to say no to our own greed.”

About 40% of U.S. families are a paycheck or two away from homelessness.

God knows how many single mothers are lucky to be able to pay for car repairs, groceries, rent, and utilities in the same month.

Greed belongs to the Wall St. 1% and some of their upper middle class mimics.

Spreading greed universally is the way that the truly responsible parties are protected.

I will continue to call out this form of dis-information and who it likely protects (as in who funds this meme in message forums today).


I am just short of 53. I first became aware of the climate sciences and the possibility of global warming in the mid-80’s when I was a punk rocker squatting in a UC Berkeley CO-OP dorm and I stumbled upon an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that was concerned with shifting climate zones and jet streams due to human activity. Up until then I thought that the “end” would come in a rain of nuclear missiles. I had already resigned myself to accepting our fate, and this new threat seemed so quaint. But I was now aware.

I have attended a lot of protests for this and that reason over the years (I’ve been beat senseless by cops on many of those occasions too), and I’ve come to realize that protests solve nothing but to create derision and tactical ignoring from the masses who want nothing more than to live in happy bliss and continue on with status quo. I no longer attend protests.

I watched with interest the ozone hole event in the 90’s, and was amazed that we could actually come together and, for the most part, stop the emission of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere, eventually bringing the growth of the ozone hole to a halt.

However, that event compared to what we currently face with anthropogenic climate change (and the extinction event that climate change is a part of) is small beans. The great masses of humanity do not want to change their habits, and if they are aware of climate change, as long as they don’t have to make any drastic changes, they think that it won’t effect them.

As for me, I’ve accepted our fate. My contribution to mitigating the event is to keep my environmental footprint as small as possible, and not to have children. Beyond that my life now consists of being aware and keeping track of our collective folly. I wholeheartedly believe we will never mitigate the event, and that anything done will be a small drop of water in the ocean. Talk is bluster, “sustainability” and “green” have become marketing catchphrases used to sell a product or propaganda. We have divided ourselves into ideological camps that are at each other’s throats, and that divide constantly becomes wider. United we stand, divided we fall; and we’re about to hit the hard surface of reality.

So I watch, I laugh, I occasionally get depressed, and I do a lot of thinking while I’m out hiking and walking. We’ve made our bed, and the time is coming when we’ll have to sleep in it.

Blessed be.


Nice to see Obama break away from his golf game to speak on Louisiana…NOT! I wonder if he would have done the same if the Hamptons were under water?


It astounds me that you persist in this arrogant obsession of yours to arbitrarily erase the use of the rhetorical we. It is beyond ridiculous and rather sad to see you take this solitary mission of yours so seriously.

When a reference is made to being an American during this election cycle for example, the rhetorical ‘we’ is used whether that person is a democrat or a republican or a third party advocate etc.

A reporter need not differentiate between groups because there is a need to define all of them together (say by how a new law will affect the voting pubic) but not individually. So the reporter or commenter might say - we have changed our voting laws or something like that merely to include themselves and everyone in the eligible voter group. Meanwhile the eligible voter group is composed of Dems and Repubs etc and is not uniform. Nevertheless, anyone in it can still say the word we (as a voter) without joining the opposition party.

You are wrong and sadly unable to accept a non literal view of this aspect of language. Yet you are also a hypocrite because many times you will imply or infer a collective ‘we’ whenever it suits you.

Why must you persist in posting to me about this silliness when you know how I feel? Do you see the increasingly bizarre component that is now entering your posts. You refer to your doing this silliness almost as if it is a divine mission - your ‘quest’ - a Holy Grail. In fact you announce it as if you expect applause for your selfless devotion and dedication to wage this campaign.

How odd it is to see though that you apparently see little hypocrisy in your not harping on that other bugaboo of yours >>> the influence of Mars/the military/men axis when the militarist and warmonger happens to be a woman. Evidently your message is mostly concerned with the sexes and not the philosophy. Somehow the anti militaristic points you always raise seem to have lost importance in your mind when you would have to refer to a woman - Hillary!

Tsk tsk!


You congratulate yourself on not wanting to bother about climate change. You assert that it is all too late and so why do anything to help those who will follow and have to live in the mess we have created. Yes a lovely hike is restorative and pleasant but then what about their walks and hikes twenty or thirty years from now. The only thing I see here is your throwing up your hands at how much work it will take to make things better and how you have fatalistically absolved yourself out of having to help.

Maybe you should consider a family with small children who flees the fires or the floods that will come inexorably and try to do more than wave your hand at them and say under your breath - “Well you guys are fucked! Too bad about that. I’m just going to focus on my walk but I do choose paper over plastic even so!”

BTW - I think you mean that …we have made our bed but those who come after us will have to sleep in it.


The rhetorical WE lumps all persons into one camp.

This form of propaganda is useful for accomplishing what Noam Chomsky exposed long ago: The manufacture of consent.

Lost on narrow-minded authoritarian fools like yourself is just how offensive the WE frame is when 98% of its narratives are based on what is true for males, typically Caucasian males, and generalized to falsely include everyone else.

Some people indeed do get what I mean; and from time to time, I see this same WE-frame questioned by some of the authors this site features on a daily (or weekly) basis.

Why would a flea get it? You chose an apt screen name.


Capitalist profiteering has manipulated our governments to the point that the increase of fossil fuel damage to our planet will soon render the human species extinct. Since this is our only home, I would like to see a concerted effort by hackers, whistleblowers, freedom fighters, civil libertarians, whomever, to address and stop the destruction of our environment before it’s too late…though we may well have passed the tipping point.

It’s all very nice to sit back and comment upon media coverage about the olympics, electioneering, NSA, DNC, GOP, MSNBC, CNN, blog trolls, or any of the other daily distractions that fill our heads, but what will you do when the air is too hot to survive outdoors, or water is so 'fracked with carcinogens and toxins that purification cannot support the population? Then what?


You want to chastise me, Wereflea, to make yourself feel better? Let me give you a good reason.

Nobody gets out of here alive. I would posit that our species time has come to become a thin layer in geologic history. There is going to be a lot of suffering and death in the near-time future (hell, there already is in this world), but that’s just part and partial to life.

I’m not a human supremacist; matter of fact, I’m much more a misanthropist. We’ve been quite busy f***ing over the planet these last 30-40 thousand years, and our antics have ramped up exponentially since the advent of the industrial revolution. To paraphrase the comedic philosopher George Carlin, ‘I love when people die.’ After we’re gone, or our species has been culled by at least 95% can Earth begin the healing process. Hell, maybe those who are left will learn some lessons??? I doubt it though. Collectively, the human animal is exploitative, consuming, egotistical, vain, and stupid when it comes to the so-called big-picture.


LOL, blaming systems when it is our entire species who is at fault. You want to see the face of the guilty? Take a good, long, hard look in a mirror.


Would you puhleese knock it off with the We-word policing.
And the attendant caustic ‘smack down’?
Seriously. Please stop it.
Your Ego seems to be waaaay too invested in ‘being right’.
Take a big breath and let it go.


To me there seems to be a “methinks thou doth protest too much” quality to the denialists’ utterances, like that bit one sees on TV comedies with a kid or childlike character covering ears with hands saying “I don’t hear you!”

That’s why trying to reason with them is so frustrating. They cannot talk on a “just for the sake of discussion, what if it is true?” basis. The more you pile on examples, the more fiercely they stuck to their insistence that there is no possibility that it could be true.

I wonder what it will take to get past that.


There is only one viable currently available technology that could make a substantial reduction to CO2 emissions. One that is not intermittent, that does not stop working on a cloudy day, or at night or when the wind’s not blowing. Only one that does not require vast energy storage capacity - which is currently not available anyway, and will not be available on a sufficient scale for many years.

We are now facing a global emergency which requires action to be taken immediately. We are in this situation, not so much because of climate change deniers, but because environmentalists have been blocking the uptake of this technology for about half a century. They continue to do so today. Without environmentalists we would not now be facing a climate catastrophe.

Nuclear is the only option which actually works today. All of the “green” technologies are limited by the unavailability of large scale power storage, and therefore are not an effective solution, no matter how much we may wish they were.

Fortunately nuclear is safer then every other form of power generation. Deaths per TWH by energy source. Yes, even safer than wind or solar.

The problem is that the likes of Greenpeace, who carries a large part of the responsibility, by leading the way into this absolute disaster, is continuing to recommend hysteria over facts.

It seems that the deniers and the environmentalists have together driven us to the edge of a potential runaway greenhouse, and neither groups are changing tunes. Unless this changes we are going to be stuffed.


And what will you do with the waste? And the inevitable “accidents”? Your logic is the same as those who wait for a technology to suck the carbon out of the atmosphere.


Much of the waste will be burned in molten salt reactor designs currently under development. Until then it can continue to be safely stored, as it has been for many decades. Because, despite the fear of this “incredibly dangerous waste”, as far as I know there have never been any casualties from the handling or storage of waste from civilian power reactors.

After about 50 years of power reactor operation there have been accidents which have caused less than 60 confirmed fatalities. How does that compare with coal or oil over the last 50 years?

How many people will die as a result of greenhouse climate change? How many species will go extinct if we have a runaway greenhouse if/when the methane comes out of the permafrost in significant quantities. How much land will be uninhabitable forever if we have a few meters of sea level rise?

You need to seriously think about relative risks, and about the need for real and effective solutions right now.