When Climate Change Denial Can Cost Us Everything

May 15, 2019

Most of us know it’s good to talk about our feelings. 

We share our personal worries: whether we’ll pass chem, if our partners love us, whether the kids are happy, how our parents will grow old.

And breaking news stories really capture our attention. 

Rampant gun crime, assaults to our liberty.

Psychiatry operates on the principle that if we talk about our worries, we will be freer to act, freer to make change.

At the back of many of our minds, tolling like a bell, is another worry, seemingly less immediate, and some of us aren’t talking about it enough, or at all.

I mean the threat to our existence — our existence! — posed by climate change. But "change" sounds so gradual. Let's call it what it is: it's a climate emergency.

Here's what we know. If we hide from financial trouble or a drinking problem, it gets worse. Eventually, such hidden anxieties destroy lives.

If we resist talking about the damage we’re doing every day to this carefully woven web of life, to the very forces of nature, if we remain too overwhelmed to act, we’re done for.

If we start talking, making these realities a part of our conversation, confessing our fears and our desires, then maybe, just maybe, we have a chance to solve this thing, in whatever ways are yet left to us.

And I’m not talking only about international conferences. I mean talking to each other, all the time. Right here, right now.   

At an amazing concert in Hartford recently, Patti Smith, the troubadour of the old avant garde, spoke with great passion about climate, and about love. It was a sobering moment, even a frightening moment. She implored us: "Use your voice!"

But will we?

We still have time to turn things around before the worst of this disaster becomes permanent.

I’m here to say: Please don’t keep climate worries to yourself. Don’t shove those fears to the back of your mind.

Bring them forward. Let them out. 

Denial won’t save us. Worrying won’t either.

Your anxiety is a powerful signal. Don't hide under your desk.

Whoever you are, whatever you've got, use it. Fight this existential threat any way you can. Every way you can.

Write editorials. Block traffic. Insist that your legislators act, and vote out anyone who won't.

Don't run away. Take a deep breath. And start talking.

Shoshana Marchand is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Northampton, Massachusetts.