Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Many observers have writen about the experience of environmen-
tal grief, of mourning for ruined ecosystems. In ordinary circumstances,
grief enables us to accept the loss, to acknowledge a new absence within
the reality in which we must live, and to face the future having integrated
that past into our lives. Through this process of recovery, in some sense
we recover our sense of reality, regaining a future through absorbing
that loss. 123
But grief in the era of climate change can no longer operate in this
way. Grieving for those we have lost, we will move forward into more loss,
into a generalized experience of even greater mourning. In effect, because
we will face those losses and absorb further devastation without end , we
will never fully recover from them. The process of mourning, which will
become inevitable for virtually everyone, will lead to litle healing at all.
Furthermore, if we acknowledge the prospect that we are not likely to act
in time, our emotional situation today transforms as well. Facing a stolen
future, mindful of the immense social crises to blossom around the world,
already enduring the traumas to come, we have litle choice but to mourn
forward , to mourn into the very disaster we grieve. Even the specific emo-
tional future promised by the process of grieving disappears, replaced by
nothing that grief can overcome. Already today, and to a greater degree in
the years to come, we will have to take on a kind of second-order process
of grieving for the future and for grief itself , for the very possibility of inte-
grating such losses into our lives and surviving.
Because of that fact, we cannot rely on grief, or indeed on any other
emotional process, to carry us through this moment. However devastat-
ing the crisis for longing, hope, grief, and despair, however harrowing our
emotional lives may be at this moment, we cannot salvage them on any
familiar terms; we simply must find another basis on which to build any
prospect of ethical integrity.
The same difficulty confronts us if we contemplate our responsibil-
ity to the generations to come. In our era, as the future is disappearing,
any ethics that grounds itself in a future good is in danger of shatering
beyond repair. Abandoned to history, living without guarantees, we may
soon discover that the basis of our efforts to safeguard the biosphere for
ourselves and others to come will fail. A purely secular description of
our moment may falter as much as a purely religious one; both dissolve
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