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Five Stages of Climate Change Grief (Plus One)

daphne-wysham-091212In the 1970s, psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explained that when we suffer the death of a loved one, we go through five stages of grief. This process has been applied to other forms of loss like loss of a job of loss of one’s health. Researcher Daphne Wysham is applying it to how people are reacting to climate change. [readon]

She picks up the topic in her blog on Other Words:

The first stage, denial, is rampant. The media doesn’t like to talk about climate change for fear people will switch channel. The politicians don’t talk about it for fear people will switch their votes.

The second stage – anger – is the territory of various talk-show hosts:

Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh … are at their most vitriolic when they attack climate scientists or advocates of fossil fuel alternatives. Their ferocity gives license to the crazies who issue death threats against climate scientists: they would rather shoot the messenger than listen to the message.

Stage Three – bargaining – is when big companies like ExxonMobil claim that they’re working on the issue and that we can “adapt” to climate change.

Next comes depression, which Wysham describes as “a familiar state to me and my fellow climate change activists.”

And then there’s acceptance, which is “damn scary [because] we are surpassing all of scientists’ worst-case scenarios by a long shot.”

But while there’s no sixth stage to go to when you’re dealing with the kind of grief that Kubler-Ross was writing about, Wysham says there’s an important sixth stage that we all need to get to as soon as possible. She calls it doing The Work.

In what she calls “the battle of a lifetime”:

Systemic change — not just light-bulb change — is what’s required now. This must include … getting schools to teach climate science and arm the next generation with the facts. Together, we can get a glimpse, beyond despair, of a world of transformation and rebirth that is possible if we’re courageous enough to fight for it. After all, our planet will eventually restore itself to a state of equilibrium — we just have to make sure humankind is around to witness it.