Research shows that people increasingly feel the effects of [these] planetary changes and associated ecological losses in their daily lives, and that these changes present significant direct and indirect threats to mental health and well-being
So goes the introduction to an article on ecological grief by Neville Ellis and Ashlee Cunsolo, young academics interested in the mental health consequences to people living in the Anthropocene, the geological epoch man has created.
They suggest that we feel the ecological change going on around us so profoundly that we grieve for the loss of its more comforting attributes.
There is no way that the average city dweller en route to a job they hate after grabbing a pop tart that will give them indigestion at best and yet so happy to be out of the house where all they seem to do is argue, is grieving over the loss of Amazonian rainforest and 2 degrees of warming.
Not unless you unfurl a hugely long bow and claim that all this angst is, actually, ecological grief manifest.
Sorry, I don’t buy it.
The stress people experience in their lives starts much closer to home. It is their ego propelling them into chaos. Whilst it is true that the ecological cliff we are hurtling over adds to the problem, it seems unlikely that our insatiable needs for wealth, recognition and personal power all have their origins in grief.
There is far too much basic evolutionary biology that can explain these human drivers. It’s just that the selfish gene has spectacular psychological and emotional expression in the Anthropocene.
Ecological grief is an enchanting concept though. I have no doubt that we all feel it even if almost all of those good folk on the 7.32am from Barking never make the association.
So my challenge to the inventors of the the term, is to figure out how much of this grief exists and is it strong enough to influence present and future behaviour.
There are glimpses that it might be. The zero waste girl who lived for a year without generating any garbage. Or the global movement to ban single use plastic bags. But there is also endless examples where, if people are grieving, it is not changing their behaviour.
Unless, of course, this is their grief.
Ah, such sweet tautology.