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Bargaining with the climate devils

By Lyn Bender - posted Tuesday, 15 December 2015


Grief was the relentless unacknowledged delegate at the Paris Summit. Despite the denial of the real significance of the climate emergency the uninvited guest of collective grief will grow despite our collective denial.

Beyond its declared purpose of deal making, the Paris Summit was a massive witnessing and outpouring of grief.

First came the worldwide cries of the marching people.

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The signs proclaimed.

There is no planet B.
There is no economy on a dead planet.
We want climate justice.

An estimated 785,000 people marched world wide sending a message to world leaders attending the Paris Climate Summit. There were 2,300 marches, in over 175 countries and thousands of pairs of shoes - including those of Pope Francis - of absent marchers, laid at the place de la Republique in Paris. The world and its peoples were waking up to the huge existential threat of unbridled climate change and they were protesting.

The pioneering psychiatrist Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's famed model of grief highlighted the impulse to bargain with a cruel reality. People are rocked by intense emotional states, when confronted with the terrifying and traumatic prospect of approaching death or deep loss. There is shock at the dawning awareness, precipitating denial, anger, bargaining, depression and despair. Finally acceptance of the reality and decathexis – which is a form of letting go of the denial of the reality of an inescapable truth. Grief involves alternating between confrontation and avoidance of reality.

Human emotional responses have evolved to have a survival value.

Denial is a defence used to manage fear.

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But remaining stuck in denial is maladaptive and dangerous. So how do we continue to have any hope for our lives and our future, in the face of an unfolding climate catastrophe?

'The situation is hopeless. We must take the next step' – Pablo Casals

As we recognise the reality of unfolding climate disasters, it is biting.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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