My Grief

     The other evening I came across an article by Ross Gelbspan, a journalist I admire for his work on global warming.  The article, “Beyond the Point of No Return,” (available at his website is full of important information.  But the following paragraph affected me especially deeply: 

“This slow-motion collapse of the planet leaves us with the bitterest kind of awakening.  For parents of young children, it provokes the most intimate kind of despair.  For people whose happiness derives from a fulfilling sense of achievement in their work, this realization feels like a sudden, violent mugging.  For those who feel a debt to all those past generations who worked so hard to create this civilization we have enjoyed, it feels like the ultimate trashing of history and tradition.  For anyone anywhere who truly absorbs this reality and all that it implies, this realization leads into the deepest center of grief.”

     That passage took me  into the center of my own grief.  It’s a familiar space , one I experience often.   I grieve because so much that I love is being lost.  

     Nature, along with human love, are my greatest sources of sustenance.  Yet, so many of my joyful moments in nature are tinged with darkness.  Although my heart may surge with delight at the whispering sound of a bird flitting between nearby branches, the next moment may bring a stab of pain, as I remember that even our common birds are in steep decline.  

     There is little joy for me these days in imagining the lives of polar bears.  The pictures in my appointment book of a mother and her white, furry cubs make me think, instead, of their struggle to survive when the polar ice is melting all around them.  It hurts.  

     I grieve because we humans have carelessly set in train a process so powerful that it is strangling the earth’s incredible ability to support literally millions of species in mutual dependence.

      If birds continue to decline, as they most likely will, could I bear to live in a world without them?  And, according to many sources, polar bears may be extinct within a century.  Could I tolerate knowing they no longer exist, that our way of life has extinguished them forever? 

     And of course the peril goes far beyond birds and polar bears.  These creatures, and a handful of others, are just the ones that have made it onto our mental and emotional maps.  These are indeed ‘the canaries in the coal mine,’ representing myriads of other species who are also struggling to survive.

     But those many other species, of course, include us.  It is not just the non-human world that is under siege.  Mr. Gelbspan’s article reminded me that the great achievements of civilization are also threatened–democracy, great music and art, scientific and medical advances. 

     And then I think of my son,  a bright, ambitious college student.  What does the future hold for him?  I long for his safety, comfort, and opportunity.  How I wish he could take the stability of the planet for granted, as all previous generations have done.  But what will the world look like in one, two, three decades as it continues to warm?  I am afraid, grieving, and angry.  

    Despite all the above, I hate to end on such a hopeless note.  While I believe that we are too late to stop many severe impacts of global warming, our actions do matter.  I believe that Gelbspan offers some good advice.  “The key to our survival as a civil species during a period of profound natural upheaval,” he says, “lies in an enhanced sense of community.”  He urges us to come together as a global community, “to change our economic and political structures that determine how we behave, to elevate the ethic of cooperation over the deeply ingrained reflex of competition.”–April Moore


4 Responses to “My Grief”

  1. Joan Brundage Says:

    Thanks, April, for your eloquent sharing. I, too, grieve as you do. I am trying to do my small part politically to somehow lessen the effect of global warming.

  2. Todd Says:

    April, Yes, it is terribly sad. His website is a massive compilation of the destruction being wrought, and your words are so touching. Thanks.

  3. Kathy Ferger Says:

    Your thoughts come just the day after I watched “Exteme Ice” on PBS last night. It has fabulous but frightening photography of the glaciers in Alaska, Antartica, and Greenland, showing how fast those ice masses are melting and breaking up. I had the same reaction to that and the quote from Gelbspan — the same gut punch of a feeling of utter failure and loss. My many gestures of conserving energy seem so trifling in the face of the forces we’ve unleashed and the inertia of cultural change. I’m part of that inertia: I still keep the house at 65, I still drive five to ten thousand miles a year, etc. I’m feeling I SHOULD be spending all my waking time fighting for big political changes to address global warming, yet I find an awful lot of excuses to stay in my ruts.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Grief and pain are useful only to the extent that they galvanize us to action. If they paralyze us in hopelessness, they are our enemies and must be fought with every ounce of our emotional resources. It’s a battle, to be sure, and your powerful postings help to inspire the right kind of action.

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