Nature Climate Change has just released a special series on climate change and mental health. I am thrilled to have a piece in this series, co-authored with the amazing Dr. Neville Ellis, on ecological grief and loss in a changing climate. Our article explores what it means to grieve for deaths in the natural world, as well as the experiences of people who have already experienced profound environmental change and ecological loss, by highlighting the lived experiences of Inuit in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, and Canada, and farmers in the Australian Wheatbelt.
This work is very near and dear to our hearts, both personally and professionally, and we are honoured to have it out in the world now. In addition to our piece, there are some excellent articles examining various aspects of climate change and mental health.
We argue that recognising ecological grief as a legitimate response to ecological loss is an important first step for humanising climate change and its related impacts, and for expanding our understanding of what it means to be human in the Anthropocene. How to grieve ecological losses well — particularly when they are ambiguous, cumulative and ongoing — is a question currently without answer. However, it is a question that we expect will become more pressing as further impacts from climate change, including loss, are experienced.
We do not see ecological grief as submitting to despair, and neither does it justify ‘switching off’ from the many environmental problems that confront humanity. Instead, we find great hope in the responses ecological grief is likely to invoke. Just as grief over the loss of a loved person puts into perspective what matters in our lives, collective experiences of ecological grief may coalesce into a strengthened sense of love and commitment to the places, ecosystems and species that inspire, nurture and sustain us. There is much grief work to be done, and much of it will be hard. However, being open to the pain of ecological loss may be what is needed to prevent such losses from occurring in the first place.