We Need To Cope With Eco­log­i­cal Grief

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Ecstasy Of Ideas - [email protected]

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.

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