Climate destabilization is accelerating more rapidly than scientists predicted. It does not lie somewhere in the future; it is happening right now. Extreme weather events have become routine, and their intensity is growing, affecting entire communities, human and non-human. We have responded largely by seeking alternative technologies, fighting fossil fuel extraction, and pressing for greener policies. These are important, but the climate crisis is more than a technical problem. It is a human problem, encompassing not only scientific but psychological, cultural, moral, and spiritual dimensions.
Those working on climate issues and who know the urgency of the crisis face indifference, denial, or even hostility, and often suffer from isolation and burnout. As one parent said, “I can’t talk to my child about what I do; it’s too hard.” The hazard is not just in the physical effects of climate change but the emotional storms that frequently attend our efforts: denial, fear, anger, despair, and grief. In light of this, emotional and personal resilience are indispensable survival equipment in the quest for a livable future.
Moreover, as Kathleen Dean Moore points out, climate change is a moral issue that challenges the placement of our own well-being above the very survival of the most vulnerable, including our children and grandchildren. Every significant movement in history, from abolition to civil rights, has ultimately gained political traction through moral reasoning and right action. To ignore this, she adds, “is a terrible strategic mistake.”
A community and gathering place
The Cascadia Climate Collaborative was born in 2013 to help strengthen the climate movement by linking diverse groups of climate leaders, engaging with tough ethical and emotional questions, and encouraging wider participation.
For the past two years, we have hosted strategic gatherings of climate leaders from our bioregion at the Whidbey Institute. The purpose of these gatherings and the goal of the Cascadia Climate Collaborative is to help build a more powerful and resilient climate movement: strengthening our connections by bringing climate leaders together in common conversation, deepening our commitments by addressing the difficult moral, emotional, and spiritual questions at the core of the work, and broadening our collaborations by bringing new constituencies into the movement.
These gatherings have featured leaders such as Climate Solutions co-founder KC Golden, author Kathleen Dean Moore, and youth activist Alec Loorz. Conference time has also been given to inspiring “flash talks” by other leading thinkers, including conference attendees, on such topics as dealing with denial, re-framing the global warming meme, taking effective direct action, addressing despair, and cultivating personal resilience.
Participants reported that the experience was practical and grounded, provocative and inspiring:
I came into the conference struggling with the level of time and energy that I had been putting in, and feel I am coming away with a new outlook on how to proceed in a sustainable way.
This conference has deepened my hope. Real hope. Not a Polyanna, “let’s just pretend what’s happening isn’t really happening, and stay/get busy” kind of hope, but a belief that human transformation is possible.
The videos below, filmed in 2013 and 2014 respectively, show the progression of our work and ongoing learning.
The 3rd annual Cascadia Climate Conference will be held April 17-18, 2015, featuring keynote presenters Elizabeth May, Leader of Canada’s Green Party, and her daughter, Victoria Cate May Burton. KC Golden, Senior Policy Advisor of Climate Solutions and Interim Board Chair of 350.org, will also present a “state of the movement” report. This year’s conference focus is the moral and emotional dimensions of climate change in an intergenerational context.