Contending with Global Ecological Disasters from Home

‘Flashy-bad’ news hit my inbox the other day. Our world is such that most things are either flashy-bad or trying to be in order to vie for our attention. The type of flashy-bad to which I’m referring is the type that reverberates for tens of thousands or years, or more. The most recent ‘hit’ to my psyche was last night, on the ‘World at Six’ on CBC Radio News, when I learned that the Amazon Rainforest destruction is at its highest in 12 years.

An Anteater burned to death in Brazil. The world’s largest tropical wetland is an inferno, and national leadership is complacent in its destruction.

The second source and inspiration (a hard word to use for this) for these musings I write today is the New York Times article I read about a month ago. The article (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/13/climate/pantanal-brazil-fires.html) is on the burning of the Pantanal Wetland. The Times isn’t the first to cover this story, but since this incident isn’t in the U.S., Australia, or Europe, it doesn’t carry as much weight. The Pantanal is one of the most biologically rich areas on the planet, with tens of thousands of species. These catastrophic fires, now having burned greater than 20% of the huge wetland, mostly impact indigenous populations of humans and so the story goes largely unnoticed.

Ahead of, and beside the shocking occurrences of the U.S. election, I started feeling ill while reading this story. The ensuing strong pangs of ‘off-ness’ clouded my mind and even worse, my ‘resiliency spirit,’ without which I would spiral.

I go through what many of you have told me you do as well – temporary paralysis. You know, that which can subtly join the wave of feelings of sheer futility, which then morph into thick sadness, and hard-to-source depression.

Some have called it depression from loss, or even E.I.D. – ‘extinction induced depression.’ For me it’s not just the forever loss (which is damn scary). It’s also the loss of the viability of the indigenous communities and the like ecological systems, the ensuing impacts on the remaining species, and the deep sadness that as sentient beings, with so much capacity to love and understand, we seemingly can’t help but be destructive to our own demise.

The particulars of today – the world’s largest tropical wetland is an inferno – the Pantanal – are ‘hit’ tracks on an all too familiar broken record:

– Habitat loss, conversion to agriculture leading to a drier climate
– Climate change world wide contributing to a drier climate
– National politics supporting the above

The Pantanal is mainly in Brazil, just south of the Amazon Rainforest proper, boarding Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s far away. It is disappearing quickly, forever burning away millions of hectares of irreplaceable life, destroying one of the key systems that permits us all to live.

We have many problems in our own countries. And yet these major disasters that we now witness are impactful to our minds, bodies and spirits and of course, ALL life on Earth. There surely must be something we can do?

Of course, there is much we can do.

Holding What’s Permissible and What Isn’t. We have to create a new norm from the inside out. I will not destroy myself. I will not destroy my home. If we all hold this in every interaction, it starts to impact what is acceptable and what MUST be changed.

Your Purse, Your Wallet. It’s been said effectively that the power is in the purse. Research what you’re buying – where it’s coming from, what it’s impacts are. This is a fast way to support those companies and people that are still creating and ‘progressing’ who have found ways to lessen the impact in a world that needs stuff. Needing stuff is ok. Hurting life to get stuff has to be shifted. Follow leaders that have unlocked these methods.

News and Cell Phone Fasts. Stop reading a couple of days a week. Your systems will revitalize and maybe avoid burn out. A lot of the same news will be there when you resume. Maybe consider helping create a good news story, or circulating one. There are many out there and albeit, hard to find. Also, checking out of the cumulative exasperation for bits, enables us to ground and come back with more of ‘Holding What’s Permissible, and What Isn’t.’

Write It. Write your own play about the environment and perform it in a fringe festival, on broadway, or turn it into a movie script, or just do it for you and no one else. Have you seen Dark Waters with Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway? It happened. Someone wrote about it. Someone saw the importance of the story. Someone made a great movie because of all that.

Therapy, Counselling. Talk it out in psychotherapy. Get a drama therapist. Look up a forest therapy guide in your community and join one of their walks, or see if they offer one on one. This ‘loss stuff’ is heavy and you need an outlet.

Immersion. Get into nature and pass it on. Show someone you know an amazing spot in a natural area in your neck of the woods and turn them into a nature-connected lawyer, electrician, teacher, or homemaker.

Do What You Can Do, Be What You Can Be. We might not be able to go to Brazil and fight these fires on the front lines. But, we can do things, half a world away to show we care, and we’re taking care of our own backyards and beyond, the best way we can.

Protect, Restore Local. Final a local non profit or community group that is working to protect and recover nature locally. Get your hands dirty by digging into ecological restoration. Give them money. Maybe join their boards if that is your expertise instead of tree planting.

Work on Your Relationships. We’re in this mess because the fundamental unit supporting life, the relationship, has been ignored, distorted, and seen poorly. A real relationship is one that cares supports and brings up each side. Our one-sided relationships sour, spiral, and lead to breakdown. That’s where we are in so many of our relationships. The more we repair these between people, cultures, societies, and with the environment, the sooner we will return to give, take, love, sadness, recovery, beauty, solutions, and joy.

Leading by having fun, getting reconnected, and truly valuing nature.

Perspective. We live in dramatic times. It’s not just the Pantanal, the Amazon, Australia, California, and Oregon are all burning or recently have been scorched, of course. The last time the world experienced loss close to this was 65 million years ago. It’s no doubt that many dinosaurs, amphibians, mammals, fish and millions of other species shed tears from their disaster and loss. Mass extinction on this planet appears inevitable. While this may be true, it doesn’t have to be at this time right now. This self-created narrative can turn on a dime. With the above, and more of your own brilliance that I and others don’t know about, are you ready to change the perspective and conquer with clarity and love?

Our world is burning – not just the important bits that science tells us are critical for life. Our unique essences are on fire. It’s time to channel this heat to where it’s needed, to fan the flames of stance, radiating the desires for life-givingness, including one another, all beings and the preciousness of this very opportunity to spark our powers, this moment forward.

Ben Porchuk is a family guy. He’s a recovering scientist and ecologist, a forest therapy guide and trainer, a non-profit leader, and an author-in-training. He lives in the Forest City (London, Ontario), Canada.

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