We Need To Cope With Ecological Grief
Scientists studying the degradation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are suffering ‘ecological grief ’, reports Nature magazine. Witnessing the decline of a natural ecosystem was taking an emotional toll on them, and some were left in a state of shock. The immense negative impact of the unprecedented marine heatwaves in 2016-17 that hit and bleached two-thirds of the world’s largest coral-reef system left scientists feeling intensely sad and helpless.
Anxiety, sadness, emotional turmoil and feelings of inadequacy, especially among ecological experts working at the frontline of affected ecosystems, and youngsters like Greta Thunberg – whose future on the planet has been compromised by irresponsible adults – are leading to physical and mental health issues. “Greenlanders are on thin ice,” say experts as they are suffering ecological trauma with their traditional lifestyles getting compromised.
The new range of challenges brought on by bleached coral reefs, depleting Arctic ice, burning forests, dwindling habitats, species migration and in some cases, extinction, rising sea levels, abnormal weather patterns and climate change require specially trained social scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors who can help eco-sensitive adults and children learn to cope. “Emma Camp, a coral biologist at the University of Technology, Sydney,” reports Nature, “tries to channel her sadness about the diminishing coral reefs into action, such as restoring damaged reefs,” in whatever small way she can.
Young couples are asking, why they should even plan to have children – for, future generations will have to learn to survive in an inhospitable world, not of their creation, and grapple with a long history of environmental abuse that cannot be reversed in their lifetimes.
Therefore, the emotional side effects of ecological degradation are perhaps as important as the physical side effects, calling for calibrated action worldwide that can create support networks to help us deal with these challenges.
Recently, spiritual leaders and educationists have taken initiatives to introduce compassion into school curriculums, to provide students with a more humane education that can help them deal with life’s challenges. The focus for so long has been on material advancement and acquisitions and these are being regarded as symbols of success whereas children need to be sensitised to the important aspects of learning to live happily in a world that is now riven with exploitative actions.
Compassion is not only about showing or feeling empathy for another human being or member of another species like dog or cat; compassion needs to be shown to also plants and rivers, trees and mountains, bees and butterflies, coral reefs, oceans and ice sheets.
Kindness begins with your own environment; it is all about treating whatever is around you the way you would like to be treated, and that includes your garden or your potted plants, your pets and stray animals, your class fellows, your colleagues, your house help, other service providers, and so on.
At the macro level, the entire spectrum of life comes into play and we have been told repeatedly by philosophers and scientists, that everything that was ever created is all interconnected; it follows that whatever we do or say will come back to us. The law of karma or the law of cause and effect implies that for every action there is a corresponding reaction. So we should now resolve to show kindness and compassion to earth’s natural systems, as the first step in the healing process.