At a gathering of friends, new and old, over Easter, I'm asked, "What is it exactly that you do then, Penny?" After a few fumbling attempts to explain, they get it. Their responses, though, are telling:
“Yes, because I just wouldn’t think about climate change at all if I didn’t have to.”
“It’s just too depressing to think about.”
“And too frightening.”
“And you just feel overwhelmed. The more I know, the less I feel able to do anything about it.”
Those are the responses of my friends. As professionals in our field, however, what is our duty to our clients? What do we do with their feelings of fear, depression and powerlessness?
An 'every-day' response might be to rescue people from their feelings, so as to spare them (and our) discomfort. "It's OK, I'm sure we'll get through it, there's nothing to get upset about."
But I think that as professionals intervening with our clients, or active citizens helping to run grass-roots activities, that's not sufficient.
The work of people like Joanna Macy and Mary-Jane Rust can help us. It can help us to understand the causes of despair. And it can help us to honour it without being disempowered by it. So we can confront that depressing thought and begin to make a path of our choosing.