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Facing the Climate Emergency: Grieving The Future You Thought You Had

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/06/23/facing-climate-emergency-grieving-future-you-thought-you-had

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The author is the founder of an advocacy group called “The Climate Mobilization”. According to their Wikipedia page, they ask politicians to sign their pledge, and then advocate for people to vote for those politicians.

They sponsored a “Climate Emergency Caucus” in 2016, when Tom Harkin spoke “on behalf of” Hillary Clinton, which I take to mean he asked people to vote for her because of her climate commitment.

Her facebook page has a picture with a man and a child who seems to be younger than her advocacy group, so it is strange that she uses her book to state that goals such as “starting a family” are part of a future that “is not going to happen,” and we need to “factor the climate crisis” into these goals.

This article is astoundingly vague, with little more than feel-good prose about changing our lives and rethinking our values. Does she even mean what she writes? Then why not be more specific.

The reason for a lot of people not changing their lives in the face of the climate crisis is because not only do we not feel climate change on a daily, or even yearly basis, but it is so enormous we have no way of perceiving it. Then on top of it, we read that our goals aren’t going to happen because of the climate change. Most people looking to start a family are thinking a couple of years into the future. What would those people think when someone like this says their goals aren’t going to happen because of climate change? They know it isn’t true and so they dismiss the issue and take this essay as one more reason to not take it seriously. It’s even worse when we have to wonder if the author herself takes it seriously.

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Totally agree on that, nephewsam. My own philosophy of fictional or factual prose: real meaning comes from real feeling comes from real stories. Sometimes vague generalizations or fantastic concoctions (the ghost of Christmas past, say) come in handy, but usually not enough to make up for the emotional disconnection the reader experiences in too strange a place.

The fate of Life on Earth has long been my focus, and I’ve had to consciously readjust the life-trajectory I forsee, but I feel uncomfortable with the author’s description of “grieving for the future” you thought you might have. Grief for me is very present; I don’t like playing around with that word heedlessly. My experience of such readjustment could just as well be described as gratitude that I wised up in time to stop wasting any more time on vanity.

It may or may not also bear mentioning: My own sense of emotional/intellectual maturity, self-confidence, ever personal security and more robust physical health, coincided with a decision to give up on forgiving abusers in my life, when my voice cannot possibly reach their ears.

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I am 62, and I grieve—for places I love that have burnt down from wildfires, been polluted by radiation, and for all the places that I’ll never see. Most of all, I grieve for the younger generations, like this author, for the insanity that still runs the political world, that is fast destroying the only home any of us will ever have.


Never does she state that she, or anyone else cease having family, children, friends, jobs, or anything else. She is talking about trying to better integrate the unfolding crisis happening before our very eyes emotionally and trying our best to cope and do something positive in the face of it.

People know that what isn’t true? That we are likely to see collapse of nation states, human habitat, etc in our lifetimes?

I say those folks have no grasp whatsoever to what’s already happening, and what will likely occur in just a decade, let alone the span of their lives.

It is definitely hard to fathom. This author is just doing her best to help.


Hi Aleph…regarding your last paragraph, my two cents. Sometimes seeking to forgive is forgiveness enough, even though never fully realized by oneself or the one to be forgiven. It counts for something. Good for you.


Thanks, PC. I instantly felt ridiculous about that word “forgive” as soon as I wrote it, because I have the impression nobody has a clear idea what the word means, certainly not me. The keystone of my recent personal liberation was realizing that I can let go, refuse to allow the damage abuse has manifested in me to define me. I can accept that damage is lasting, and move on.

I just saw a wonderful biopic about Chavela Vargas. All her life, she was grieving for Isabel, the little girl she began as. A life like that, a tidal wave overwhelming Mexican music from now on, and a defiant quest for liberation – there’s no meaning in assessing Chavela’s as a “happy” or “unhappy” life. She was just Chavela, and that was enough.

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That one can accept that damage is lasting, and move on is indeed paradoxical.

There is true freedom and renewal in that. It’s a story we can reread, or shelve and if the pages fall open again, we still have the agency of the moment to shelve it and pick up a pen.

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I got the message early in the 70’s. The reality check. In retrospect, through a set of my own unique and often troubling circumstances and this particular time and place.

My personal grief has developed as years went by and I saw a moment missed when so much was on the table and at least some of humanity was taking notice and engaging. Then our collective attention waned and change was back burner-ed. Leadership was insufficient to the task. And so here we are.

It takes a concerted effort to not feel the waves of pain from all angles. The sense of an opportunity lost at great cost. It could have been a very different outcome. And it still might be.


For this writer climate change is obviously an excuse to adopt a religious crusader mindset—to be righteous, moralistic, preachy and one of the elect who is “saving the world”. What is the psychology of such a person? Doesn’t she know that the world will end no matter what she does—for her, for humanity, and for all life? If things are as dire as she’s suggesting, non-moralistic, non-humanist philosophies like Taoism will probably be a lot more helpful than moralistic, humanist Judeo-Christian ones in coping with a world that doesn’t care about us and has no moral arc whatsoever.

Dissuading vanity in favor of a sense of gratitude is a virtue. Grief is too large and prevalent to disregard though. Resenting ones grief is unhealthy and there is plenty of it to resent.
Dealing with extreme grief on a daily basis is more difficult for some, than it is for others. imho.

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The reason I brought up abuse is the two seem to get all tangled up (along with guilt, oh, and here come a whole party of complicated feelings!) Sometimes the loss is too large to heal, you just limp along as best you can with this huge scar. That’s what came to mind for me when I heard Christine Blasey Ford remembering the laughter of her assaulters. The memory is branded permanently into her hippocampus, but the scar of loss for her is that of safety from vicious predators who want to hurt you for no reason, a place where you can relax and feel present.

That extremity of loss is impossible to fully recover from. We do what we can to protect children from encounters with demons, because the damage is permanent.

Read again folks as this is not a stand alone article. It is an excerpt of a few paragraphs from Margaret’s new book.

Under the title heading there is this:
CD editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming book, Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth .

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