Laura Keeth-Rowledge suffers from eco-grief because she believes that climate change is causing an irreversible effect on our world. Knowing she wasn’t alone, Keeth-Rowledge has created an Eco-Grief Support Circle in Calgary with the hope to spread awareness so others can begin to build their own communities of support.

Eco-grief can be explained as a deep sadness or anxiety because of the loss of the environment and natural spaces.

Keeth-Rowledge said there was a need for a circle when she realized that climate change is real and that as a world we will soon be past the point of no return — despite what many may say.

“People have been told that this is a hoax and they’ve been told that it’s something that has been done for very specific financial reasons and I feel bad for them honestly,” said Keeth-Rowledge.

“When they realize that climate change is real,” she continued, ”it will be a very painful experience and for that reason, I have a lot of compassion for them.”

She said she strongly believes humans need to adapt to cleaner ways of living, otherwise extinction will become a very real threat.

“It’s likely that we’re not going to pull this one out and it will have an impact on our lives and on the lives of all these other organisms,” said Keeth-Rowledge.

Keeth-Rowledge described her eco-grief as a form of anxiety or depression because of the worsening state of the environment.

“For me, it is the feeling of loss that people experience when they think about the things that are being lost to [construction] developers, climate change, extinction,” Keeth-Rowledge explains.

“The loss of the natural world and loss of the life that we’ve lived. People start to realize that they’re probably not going to be able to continue on business as usual,” she added.

HikingKeeth-Rowledge fears that because of climate change, humans will no longer be able to experience Canada’s wild spaces the way they have previously. Photo by Hannah Papke.

Comparatively to anxiety and depression, eco-grief, as of now, has no cure.

Keeth-Rowledge explained eco-grief is “continually renewed” because triggers are very hard to avoid. When a new community replaces where a natural space used to be or when one notices trees around their community dying, it re-opens the state of grief.

Media can play a role in eco-grief and has an effect on those who suffer from it, Keeth_Rowledge added

“The accessibility of it and the frequency in which we subject ourselves to that information, that can generate a lot of anxiety and stress.”.

Those suffering from eco-grief rely on coping mechanisms in order to overcome the challenges they are faced with day-to-day.

Keeth-Rowledge explained that keeping a connection with nature is key when battling eco-grief.

“Whether that’s a degraded state of nature or a special spot or whatever and just beginning to really go there for comfort and reaching a state of healing,” she said. Simply going on nature walks is a great way to calm the nerves.

“Find a place that you are comfortable and safe in. A park or really just anywhere that you feel safe that has trees or nature surrounding you, then just start cycling through your five senses,” she recommended.

Keeth-Rowledge also started a Facebook page called the Eco-Grief Support Circle so she could reach out to others with eco-grief. She got the idea after meeting a small group of women at a book club and realizing they were all feeling the same sense of anxiety towards the environment.

For herself, forming a sense of community is key when dealing with eco-grief. She often hosts meetings in her home where people can come together to discuss eco-grief in a safe space.

“Humans aren’t meant to process these types of emotions on our own,” she said. “For a lot of these kinds of bigger picture types of things, we need each other.”

sShe thinks that by spreading awareness of eco-grief, more people will be able to join her group and get the support that they need.

“When I talk about it that maybe haven’t been exposed to it before I almost never get people saying things like ‘oh is that a thing’,” she said. “It’s almost always of ‘oh man do I ever know what you mean’. It’s like people feel it without having a word for it.”

Looking forward, Keeth-Rowledge hopes that her Facebook group will inspire others to form their own communities for support.

“It’s just about having a place to go to talk about what you’re experiencing with other people. It’s incredibly healing,” she said.

Editor: Sofia Gruchalla-Wesierski | 

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