One night last summer, at a Brooklyn loft event, attendees were asked to turn off their drinks, lie on the floor, and close their eyes. As the recorded buzz of cicadas and crickets filled the room, two women walked around and brushed flowers on the cheeks of the living creatures. The participants then alternately visited an altar that was lit by candles and piled with ripe fruit, honeycomb pieces and a bunch of dead insects.
Subgroup therapy, subperformance and subparty, the meeting had a clear goal: to make people feel something about climate change. That is the work of Nocturnal medicine, a two-year project by two New York landscape architects. With live events, online installations and self-published texts, the founders Larissa Belcic and Michelle Shofet act as triggers and pioneers for the difficult feelings caused by climate change.
“In our society, there is no infrastructure to handle the emotional responses to the changes that are occurring every day,” Shofet said on a phone call. “We are bombarded with them and we may feel bad, but we have no fixed practice to capture the emotions and let them process us.”
The Brooklyn Soiree was conceived as such a practice, in this case as a confrontation with the climate-related phenomenon of the catastrophic decline in the insect population. Shofet and Belcic drove people to the floor, washed them in a sensory bath with pollinators, and invited them to observe the arthropods in the open coffin. They hoped to send participants through an arc of nostalgia, discomfort, confusion, and sadness – but as part of a gentle, shared experience.
And it seems to be doing something. Some visitors laugh or cry; some move silently through the process. But at least almost everyone starts talk about climate change. “A lot of people came after that and said to me,” Oh, I didn’t even know how badly I needed it, “Belcic said.
Ian Crowe, a 31-year-old product designer who attended a second nighttime medical event at a LA nursery, said he subsequently felt catharsis. “It felt like I was attending Earth’s funeral.”
An environmentally conscious ritual for creative people from the surrounding area may sound a bit like one Portlandia outline, especially when millions of global citizens are much more directly affected by the droughts, storms and human conflicts to which the heating planet has already contributed. But the eardrum of the doom still takes a heavy toll on the sidelines from the spectators. A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association on the effects of climate change on mental health found that “gradual, long-term changes in climate can cause a variety of emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of fainting, or exhaustion. Growing parts of the American public report negative emotions regarding the topic: 2019 edition of an annual survey by Yale University 46 percent of Americans said they were “outraged”, 45 percent “fearful” and 66 percent “worried” about climate change, an increase of ten percentage points since 2014. More than half said they felt “helpless”. “
Fear and paralysis may be normal responses to formidable, terrifying threats, but few of us are exploring the depths of the emotions themselves. News of the recent climate horror – mass extinction of species, blackened forests, apocalyptic global temperature forecasts – could be overwhelming news Shake heads and carry on with their lives, while activists carry on with political actions. At both ends of the engagement, the emotional cocktail associated with the burning world is often left untouched, said Renee Lertzman, a research psychologist and author who specializes in environmental communication. This is partly because this is such a new phenomenon.
“It’s not the kind of anger, sadness, and sadness that we usually think of when someone dies,” said Lertzman. “This is a completely different category: there is an actual loss and sadness when you hear about a billion animals killed in a wildfire plus an anticipated loss. We are already grieving for what we understand based on the predictions of science will disappear. “
Lertzman argues that our inability to process these latent feelings has ramifications for the planet. Without reflection and grief, people can be prevented from taking sensible action. After all, behaviors such as denial, separation, and even paralysis that occur in the face of climate change are all based on real feelings about it. This is a problem at the individual level, as well as for governments, non-governmental organizations, and other organizations that urge people to change their behavior or work for change, and often rely on scary images and statistics to take action.
“They jump over the” pause “where people have to say,” What the hell? I have to deal with that, ”said Lertzman. “People need to find out what that stuff means and how they feel. The quickest way to get there is to get people to talk and relate.”
With the magnitude of the global crisis, awareness of the affective dimensions of climate change is growing. Google search for the term “climate grief” has tripled in interest since 2018, and a growing group of psychologists, therapists, and hobbyists are working on it.
Another project that offers an artistic response to environmental trauma in addition to nighttime medicine is that of Kate Schapira Air-anxiety counseling center, Since 2014, Brown University’s poet and lecturer has been setting up a peanuts-style advisory table in a public space every summer, trying to overcome the climate anxiety of strangers who appear. The goal is to break down great fears into concrete questions and bite-sized actions that can be as small as Google What happens if my daughter’s apartment is flooded? or as is senevacuate iors? “I give people little cards that are written with recipes because this problem is too much for many people,” said Schapira. “Climate change affects everything there is. How should you think about it?”
An organization called We heal for everyone offers a self-care approach to climate resilience. Liz Moyer, a former expert on climate policy and sustainable development, started a series of “climate circles” when she discovered her own psyche, which was strained by the struggle for the planet. Now she opens a 90-minute video group chat once a month with a mix of NGO staff, activists, and anyone else who wants to talk about how her heart is doing in the face of climate change. “There are many ways in our society to talk about science, advocacy, and strategy,” she said. “I want to offer something complementary. It is a place where we can penetrate our body and heart, share from there and have space for each other. “
All of these practitioners said that they view the act of emotional processing as a prerequisite for meaningful activism. Perhaps the eco-horror parody by Extinction Rebellion, an international group of climate activists known for euthanasia, face painting, and lavishly costumed protests, is an example of what can happen when the pathos vote turns into action.
Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term “Solastalgia” in 2005 to describe the grief caused by the loss or destruction of the environment. It may be a new phenomenon for wealthy people in wealthy nations, but it is known to the indigenous communities whose land was long confiscated by colonialists or degraded by resource extraction. Thanks to global climate change, writes Albrecht, “we are facing a solastalgia pandemic.” Nevertheless, the treatment of this outbreak is probably just as unfair as anything else that is related to the disbursement of resources in this era, as the emerging field of climate protection advice shows : While poor communities around the world are most affected by the effects of global warming, they are also unlikely to have the time or money to access therapy or other measures.
This healing gap can delay critical preparations and community action, experts argue. For example, Colette Pichon Battle, managing director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Politics, often talks about how the ongoing trauma of Hurricane Katrina continues to hamper the political mobilization of the Louisiana color communities against climate change. “We are not like some other communities where something bad is happening, and the answer is” let’s get everyone going, “said Pichon Battle in one Interview in 2014, “We’re actually in a different place:” Something bad happens, let’s treat everyone’s trauma first. ” In a 2019 TED talk, It called for more resources to cure the psychological trauma suffered by climate survivors.
For their part, Belcic and Shofet want to find opportunities to expand their work outside of their well-known network of creatives. They are currently making progress in the New York rave scene to see how climate change overlaps with the euphoria of dance. In the meantime, they collect anecdotal evidence of how their unusual climate ceremonies, filled with sounds, sights, touches, and tastes, can accelerate healing for those present.
“Sometimes when people show up, they feel uncomfortable or they don’t know how to act,” Belcic said. “There is a reluctance to be serious and get involved with what you think or feel about the subject. But I think it helps to watch other people open up. Then they can start talking. It helps to give other people permission to feel something. “
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