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Femmes monolithes

Carnet de bord de l'Expédition Bleue

By William Gagnon

Building engineer LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND, LFA, ECO Canada EPt

By William Gagnon

Building engineer LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND, LFA, ECO Canada EPt

Environment | Society | Case file

Ecoanxiety and the ecological grief, the new state of mind

Imagine you are walking through a forest by yourself in the woods, with your earphones on, lost into some deep thoughts.  Suddenly, a bear appears a few metres ahead and it’s running towards you. Your body gears into a reaction, survival mode that we call fight or flight.   This is how various animals fled from predators, and survived.  This fight or flight mode is a constructive unpleasant emotion : it’s allowed us to evolve and survive up to this day.


Now you’re on the bus home reading the news.  Melting glacier. Rising sea levels. Increasing carbon dioxide levels, and politicians stalling more than ever.  You’re getting this very uncomfortable feeling. Depressed, anxious, sad, outraged : Ecoanxiety is also a Constructive Unpleasant Emotion; but you need to know what to do with it. However uncomfortable it might make us feel, however annoying it might be (we have a strong tendency to avoid thinking about it), we as a species need to figure out ways to react to it.  It might just save our existence on this planet. 


Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010). Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).

Now humans are faced with the threat of extinction -- yet we are slow at running away from the danger.  We are bombarded with negative news on a daily basis and this is causing a lot of anxiety. We are slowly building a set of emotions that is helping us as a species survive this existential threat, and ecoanxiety is one of them: it’s a constructive unpleasant emotion, if you know how to channel it. 


Some of us have an easier time expressing it, like Greta Thunberg; she is very open about her Asperger’s syndrome that allows her to see only black and white. In her TED talk, she explains that it is one of the reasons why she is speaking up about climate change.

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Les régimes, les éternelles salades, les calories qu’on compte et recompte, on connaît ça. Minçavie, Scarsdale, Keto, Montignac, Dukan, Weight Watchers, énumère-les, je les ai tous déjà essayés.


Depuis qu’on a levé les voiles, maintenant confrontée à son gros corps dans « le carré » – cet espace de vie réduit qu’on partage avec tous ces autres – on devient une baleine bleue qui engloutit 300 crustacés d’un coup.


Aujourd’hui comme hier, la minceur n’est qu’une question de motivation. Aujourd’hui comme hier s’impose le souvenir de cet ex qui, un jour, a dit tu feras attention à ton poids lors des retrouvailles, au sortir de l’avion, parce qu’il avait vu, sur Facebook, cet égoportrait qu’on avait pris à La Rochelle, celui où l’on s’était permis un bâton de réglisse.

- Camilles Deslauriers


Not alone 

In a meeting in Toronto with Innovation Norway, Alana Prashad shares with me her experience of dealing with two chronic immune diseases.   Her body gets triggered when she is exposed to high levels of stress — climate change news, populist politics, and other bad news. 


Our conversation drifted away from green, clean business in the Norwegian trade context to a discussion about ecoanxiety, and turning it into something meaningful: 


Alana tells me that she had to find ways to uses her anxiety about the state of the planet, and turn it into something good; she tells me that she tries and sees beauty in desolated landscapes: plastic floating in oceans, rising sea levels; she finds in these bleak images the elements that are worth fighting for — the beauty, the little bits of light in the darkness, the “okay, what do we have”.  


Again — action alleviates anxiety.


In Alana’s case, she had to quickly get adapted because she was becoming very ill.  


Now Alana is aligning her work on fighting climate change through Innovation Norway’s business development agenda.  I thought this was very inspiring — turning ecoanxiety into climate action. I was stunned. I left our meeting empowered, and convinced that we’d change the world together, somehow. 


D’un monde à l’autre, on apprend à lire le vent, la lumière reflétée par la brume. Ici, pas d’autre choix que de se fier au corps. Notre corps de femme. Ce corps mal aimé – avec ses cicatrices, ses rides et ses rondeurs. On apprend à se tenir debout sur un sol mouvant. On s’adapte vite. Déjà, le mal de terre. Sur l’île, des falaises mortes aux cimes de sphaignes. Elles prennent racine dans des talles de lichen, de camarines noires et d’airelles. On se découvre monothropa uniflora. Une fleur sans chlorophylle, métamorphosée pour survivre dans la faible lumière. 


On se découvre littorales, monolithes, eaux fécondes. 

On ressort de la forêt comme on sort de chez le psychologue.

Tourmentées que tant de beauté puisse encore survivre. 

- Tina Laphengphratheng

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