My husband’s car after Superstorm Sandy caused it to be “totaled” by a fallen tree.
Today I looked up definitions of the verb “to weather” on dictionary.com. To weather is “to bear up against and come safely through (a storm, danger, trouble, etc.).” It becomes clearer to me almost every day now, and to many others, that we will have to learn how to weather the rapid changes to our climate. As we listen most recently to the news of those impacted by Hurricane Matthew and the raging storms and tornados in the Pacific Northwest US, it can feel quite scary as we wonder who will be hit next? Having lived through Superstorm Sandy myself, I not only have “been there,” but also wonder if and when it will happen to us again. It seems like there is nowhere in the world where the effects of our changing climate has not been felt.
People react to the climate crisis in various ways, ranging from anger to denial and everything in between. Some are motivated to action while others do not even want to face what is happening. I believe most people know on some level that something is very wrong and want a better world for themselves, their families and others. Although the situation is serious, difficult and overwhelming, we can learn how to cope without denying the reality of what is going on. Once we are able to cope, we may even feel motivated to take positive action to improve our situation, whether they are small personal activities or larger environmental justice efforts. The first question, however, is how do we move from fear, despair, anger and/or feeling overwhelmed to a more positive and constructive place?
Photo by By xusenru, https://pixabay.com/en/users/xusenru-1829710/ [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
I know that it has become a bit of a cliché, but the well-known saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” (that is usually attributed to Gandhi, but it’s origins are uncertain), is really a good place to begin. One of the changes possible for us all is to grow in self-awareness and acceptance. We need to recognize and acknowledge our own feelings and needs before we can help others, be they human, animal or plant. To do this, we can develop our “emotional intelligence,” which is defined, in part, as awareness of our own feelings and needs.
Developing and honing our emotional intelligence is the first step towards refining our ability to see how the climate crisis, as well as other important issues in our personal lives and the world, is impacting how we relate to ourselves, our families and friends, and other people in the world. Becoming more emotionally aware nurtures us by helping us to confront issues such as the climate crisis and providing us with the energy to move out of denial, anger, fear and other negative emotions and move into compassion, inspiration and other positive emotions that help us cope and to take action.
By Crackulates (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Once we’ve worked on our emotional intelligence skills, we can then move on to social intelligence, multispecies intelligence, ecological intelligence and spiritual intelligence. We actually can work on developing all these intelligences concurrently, if we so desire, as they are all related. However, emotional intelligence is foundational to all of the rest. If we know ourselves, we can better know the world and, therefore, have greater choice about how to deal with the changes and challenges we all are facing.
If you’d like to learn more about all of these concepts, please check out One Earth Conservation’s Nurture Nature Program at http://www.oneearthconservation.org/nurture-nature. If you are interested in exploring more in an online group, we are offering a free webinar on Ecological Intelligence on Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00pm. You can register for the webinar through the Nurture Nature link above.