Imagine your most beloved family member is ill and no one came to her aid.
No one is there to hold her hand when she is scared.
No one to talk to the experts about ensuring her best care.
No one to watch to make sure everything is done on time and in the proper way.
No one to distract or uplift her when she’s anxious.
No one to pray for her recovery or wellbeing.
But a lot of people are worried, from afar.
The Pew Research Center reports that 68% of the world, and 59% of Americans are significantly concerned about Earth health and climate change as a major issue.
A sizeable number of Americans have been putting their money where their mouth is. According to nielson.com, sustainable product sales have been on the rise for the past 5 years, projected to reach $150 billion by 2021. A 2019 survey by CGS reported that more than 66% of Americans consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions. More than 1/3 are willing to pay up to 25% more for them.
This is extraordinarily good news for our beloved family member, Earth.
However, we still have a long way to go.
According to the EPA, only 35.2% of waste is recycled or composted, with 52.1 percent going into landfills. Forbes reports that only 53% of Americans would consider buying a hybrid car, a rate lower than many other countries like China or Germany, with the national average of hybrid ownership at only 2.3%.
Though certain green behaviors seem to be more accessible than others, the desire to care for Earth and concern for Earth are there. It’s almost as if it’s incubating in a little chrysalis, waiting to blossom into an all-out campaign to holistically provide for the one that cares for us.
The Kubler Ross five stages of grief tell us that we have to go through several steps before we can accept the inevitable, in this case, that Earth needs our all-out help. As a collective, we’re not in total denial. Cumulatively, with those who feel there is either major or minor cause for concern, there is a vast majority, with 84% of Americans and 88% of the world who fall into either category. The majority of Americans are even taking some action by changing their purchasing behavior. Are we in the bargaining stage, believing that if we make small sacrifices, then we can fend off the inevitable?
Though most of us may be in the bargaining stage, some are still back in the denial or anger stages, and some have advanced to depression (ecogrief or ecoanxiety) or acceptance. I should also point out that grief is not a linear process; it’s perhaps maybe more cyclical where we may return to anger or denial during phases of depression or acceptance.
I learned from the loss of my beloved husband that grief is something that should not be avoided. The only way to get to the other side is to go through it. Chris taught me to be present with my emotions and name them. Once I name them, I can just feel them dissipate. Over time, they decrease in intensity and frequency as long as I consistently embrace this practice.
I also know that pairing grief with gratitude and learning can turn something tragic into something beautiful. I have the opportunity to grieve because I had something beautiful to lose. For that beauty and the gifts that were the life of my late husband, and are currently the care we receive from Earth, I am very grateful, and I intentionally spend time in that space of appreciation each day.
Emanating from the loss, and the ensuing void, also comes an opportunity to learn and grow. The time I would’ve spent caring for Chris is now spent caring for people and Earth, the work motivated by his legacy. Though it doesn’t change the fact that I continue to grieve, it adds a sense of meaning and purpose to the loss that somehow lightens and inspires my heart. The cold, hard feeling of grief, the chrysalis, can open and blossom into something beautiful too, if we let it.
Maybe there should be another stage past acceptance, i.e., a sense of meaning and purpose. What would your grief chrysalis grow into, should you nurture it and allow it to open up? What contribution to others, or Earth, would blossom?
Written by Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert