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Grief and denial

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About loss and the WWF report

About loss and the WWF report

I try not to blog about depressing stuff; but today, when everyone in the country is remembering what we lose in a war, all the broken lives and the sacrifices, the mood seems appropriate for reflecting on where we’re at.

My friend Michael dropped by last week, unannounced; he wanted to chat. He felt a bit shaken up; his mother had just died, after a long illness. This had come as no surprise but it’s always a blow.

But then he had a surprise for me; that’s not what he wanted to talk about.  He said he had just learned that about half of the animal species on Earth have gone extinct, according to the World Wildlife Federation’s latest report. And that’s what he wanted to talk about – “how come it’s not front page news”, he said. “That’s really burning me up. Have things really gotten that bad, that quick?”

There was a mixture of concern, anger, and sadness in his voice. It’s as if his personal grief had been subsumed in something bigger, something planetary.

And it got me thinking: yes, I knew about the report, I had read parts of it. I hadn’t been surprised – the report just confirmed what has been a depressing, long-term trend.
But why wasn’t I angry, like Michael? Why aren’t we all angry? Michael added “and it’s funny, I learned about that just after  listening to an radio interview of that guy [George Marshall] who studies the psychology of climate denial – it’s as if we’re programmed to ignore big news like this.”

I poured Michael a brandy, and we kept chatting. But I kept thinking, yes, we are indeed just blithely walking towards apocalypse – and sometimes it takes the shock of a personal loss to shake the complacency and the denial.

“How come you don’t blog about that”, said Michael, “about the loss of species; everybody should know about that.” Yes, that’s true, everyone should know about that. I try to blog about upbeat things, about hints of solutions on the horizon. But sometimes you have to take stock and look at the losses.

I don’t know if linking this to Remembrance Day is appropriate. The older generations, those who fought in the first World War, didn’t fight for wilderness or clean air, certainly. They fought for their country, they fought for something they valued. But what would they have thought, those who died long ago, if they could have seen our generation turn the Earth into a lonely desert because of short-sightedness and a warped sense of progress? Would they shrug, or would they instead reproach us for how we have treated the world they left for us to look after?

So cheers to you Michael, for reminding me that being complacent is also a form of forgetfulness – when what we need to do is remember.


Written by enviropaul

November 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

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