Coming To Terms With Deep Adaptation
Sunday March 10th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
No folks. I’m not dropping my promise not to give up hope on the climate crisis until I see what direction the U.S. goes on the issue after what I’m sure will be very contentious politics through the 2020 election cycle. If Trump gets reelected then I may throw up my hands and agree with the author of the following dystopian paper I will present today, Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, but not before.
Here is the link to the PDF:
Today’s discussion will involve psychology or the way that many of us are coming to terms with articles such as Deep Adaptation that espouse very bad news. Such articles as of 2019 are based on science but have not been totally through the rigorous peer review process. I’ll be really ready to go negative in this site should Deep Adaptation or its like get the thumbs up by most scientists. Here is more on Deep Adaptation from VICE:
What if I told you there was a paper on climate change that was so uniquely catastrophic, so perspective-altering, and so absolutely depressing that it’s sent people to support groups and encouraged them to quit their jobs and move to the countryside?
Good news: there is. It’s called “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.” I was introduced to it via an unlikely source—a guy formerly in advertising who had left his job to become a full-time environmental campaigner. “We’re fucked,” he told me. “Climate change is going to fuck us over. I remember thinking, Should I just accept the deep adaptation paper and move to the Scottish countryside and wait out the apocalypse?”
“Deep Adaptation” is quite unlike any other academic paper. There’s the language (“we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race with already two bullets loaded”). There’s the flashes of dark humor (“I was only partly joking earlier when I questioned why I was even writing this paper”). But most of all, there’s the stark conclusions that it draws about the future. Chiefly, that it’s too late to stop climate change from devastating our world—and that “climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term.”
How near? About a decade.
Professor Jem Bendell, a sustainability academic at the University of Cumbria, wrote the paper after taking a sabbatical at the end of 2017 to review and understand the latest climate science “properly—not sitting on the fence anymore,” as he puts it on the phone to me.
What he found terrified him. “The evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war,” he writes in the paper. “Our norms of behavior—that we call our ‘civilization’—may also degrade.”
“It is time,” he adds, “we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.”
I’m going to stop here, but I invite all to read the rest of the VICE piece.
So what should we do besides go into our own denial if such articles are soon to be recognized as having merit? Last year I had some thoughts on depression, which I will now share:
To climate scientists and anyone dealing with the global warming issue on a personal level please consider this post as an advice column. I don’t have all the answers to fight the mental darkness in association with the climate crisis, and I am not a psychologist, but after years of dealing with depression and therapy, perhaps I can relay some helpful ways to emotionally cope. Some people know that I have been suicidal over other issues besides the climate crisis, but I’m still here writing and trying to enjoy life. Let’s see if I can impart some of my wisdom acquired over years of dealing with my own depression. Some may want to respond to this column telling their own stories about mentally dealing with the subject of climate change.
First we know that if not mitigated carbon pollution will threaten the very future of our civilization if not humanity itself. Knowing this is a dark thought indeed, particularly if one has children. Occasionally we encounter authors that state in long articles that “humans are doomed” or “the planet will be unlivable by 2100” leaving some doubt over more rosier forecasts. Unless you are the type of individual that shrugs off a barrage of news like this thinking, “oh well, I’ll be long gone before the year 2100, so why should I care?” you are susceptible to information that your body and mind can react to negatively.
Most climate scientists move forward mentally, though, convinced that through hard work and change a +2C average world can be avoided, thus preserving Earth’s civilization for generations to come. Some scientists and environmentalists press on with their depressing work trying not to think too much about its ramifications hoping that by concentrating on statistics and the work itself, like Spock, they won’t be mentally affected. We are not Vulcans, though.
One big reason why there is so much climate change denial among the populace is because most can’t deal with any more negativity in their own personal lives. It’s hard enough to make a living, stay physically healthy, and help solve close friend’s and relative’s problems, let alone deal with another existential threat. I’m middle aged in my fifties not expecting to live much past the year 2040 if I am lucky enough to see that date, but I’m concerned about new climate scientists and people knowing that they should live to the year 2060, 2070 and beyond. Generations coming after mine will have to shoulder a heavier personal burden.
Worry and stress play directly into depression, and concern that one will not have a good future because of potential wars over resources, such as water for example because of climate change, may be wearing on the brain. It would take tough individuals indeed to live in a “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” climate changed world, and most can’t cope with such a plausible future, to be honest.
Bad news is hard to accept and can be very depressing. When it gets too bad the mind can’t deal with it, so like a flower closing at night most of us who are chronically depressed mentally close for protection. Sometimes staying in bed trying to sleep for days on end to escape reality is the first defense mechanism of depressed people…been there done that.
Now as of 2019, particularly in Europe and in the Americas, climate change isn’t so bad of a problem that laymen are depressed about the subject. In fact many news organizations are choosing not to air climate information, so it’s out of sight out of mind. I didn’t here a peep from any big news broadcast that the lower 48 states had its warmest May (2018) on record, for example. It’s not as if most individuals and families are directly threatened yet unless you live along the coast. Just ask residents of Houston after suffering from Harvey, or those in Puerto Rico after Maria, or people in the Northeast after encountering Sandy.
Climate scientists, though, know of coming hardships for all. Most of us climate scientists and writers are not an easy going bunch to be around. One word of advice for those concerned about the future climate is to not dwell on the subject when around friends and family. Sure, converse about global warming at length if the subject comes up, but talk about sports, hobbies, or your children to at least give the appearance of a bright, sunny personality and to keep your mind away from a sizzling frying pan of negativity. This segues into my next piece of advice.
Don’t isolate. Make sure that your pressure valves are operational and not rusty. It’s always healthy to have several friends on top of loving family members. Talk through problems with confidants, not just emailing or posting thoughts on social media. We as humans are wired to communicate verbally reacting emotionally to tonal inflections. It’s hard to let off steam into a computer, or so I’ve found.
When I was in therapy I was told of the cup analogy in which people that tend to get depressed only have the capacity to hold just so much negativity leading to worry. I suppose that no matter what our mental constitution is like, all humans have their limits. Climate people obviously are human and have other concerns besides global warming. Bad news coming from new findings, or just a bad day in general, just might fill mental cups to the point of overflowing so that we become susceptible to shutting down, getting sick. Please drain some poisonous liquid from your mental cup via therapy and talking to loved ones.
I’m going to pause here to write about another type of person among us that doesn’t get depressed because of the climate issue but has a “bring it on” mentality that might backfire unless they are complete sociopaths. These would be individuals who are internally rooting for the planet to get hot enough so that they can say I told you so to the world, validating their work. To a certain degree, pardon the pun, I’m angry enough at some of my former climate change denial colleagues to want to see enough warming so they would admit they were in error. That may take quite the temperature rise, however, putting the health of the world’s population in great jeopardy.
If I had a magic button, I’d press it such that we would all be in error about the effects of carbon pollution for the sake of our fellow man. I’d love to be laughed at in an alternative universe for being wrong about the climate issue. Others may hold onto a “let’s get even, revengeful” attitude that isn’t very healthy. Oh the regret climate scientists will have in the future if all of our hard work and arguments fail to lower the planet’s temperature.
Before mentally getting so low that I attempted suicide I didn’t have much of an outlet or way to release steam (loosening that mental pressure valve). After a long hospital stay and some painful rehab a friend of mine suggested starting this site, which makes me very happy. I do like writing about climate subjects and presenting statistics, meaningfully reaching others with my thoughts and getting feedback, finding a voice.
The key words in the last sentence are “reaching others” and “meaningful.” Depressed people need to be somewhat gregarious. Bad medicine is when we isolate ourselves away from others holding any dark thoughts inside.
Now I’ll make it clear here that since people are different since writing is not for everyone. Some people would rather speak publicly about weather and climate. Also, the climate issue makes me sad at times, but it’s not the issue that literally set me over the edge. If the issue gets too dark to handle, try to take a few days break. As an aside, it was a security issue and a feeling that I was no longer needed or wanted in this world which set me off. Finding meaning and purpose to one’s life can be crucial in fighting depression.
One former colleague of mine did successfully commit suicide over passion from a relationship, losing control for a few critical hours before killing himself. In this case my colleague harmed only himself, not his partner. This person was one of the smartest human beings I have ever met, so high intelligence does not preclude depression. And yes, the vast majority of scientists have very high IQs.
For those who are depressed having a healthy relationship with one’s significant other is crucial. It takes a strong person to love someone who is chronically depressed having witnessed what happened to my struggling parents. I’d recommend that a couple in which one person is depressed seek therapy.
Next, just flat out have some fun! Before I starting writing this article I looked at some art to post on Facebook. My personal favorite art genre is 19th century Impressionism. Others may enjoy music, food, etc. Go to museums, which will get you out of the house. Some of my meteorologist coworkers liked roller coasters, although amusement rides were never my cup of tea. Climate people are often environmentalists liking to be outdoors among nature. Hike and yes storm chase if you like being out in nature. A lot of my former coworkers could not wait to go on vacating to try and film tornadoes.
Speaking of tea there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks out there that do sooth the soul like tea. Sing, bike, or swim to stay healthy. Have a night out on the town. Get together with some pals occasionally to play cards, board games, or actively play tennis or recreational team sports. I like watching and following a few sports teams, but try not to get too upset when they loose. P.S. traditionally being an Atlanta Falcons fan can be depressing, so you might not want to get too upset over a few choice teams. Sitting around the house alone brooding about life and work without doing or seeing, as Julie Andrews would sing, “my favorite things” for more than 24 hours is never good.
Back in late 2014 I also suffered from anxiety, so I missed out on a Geophysical Science conference I did want to attend. That literal gut wrenching experience did fade with time but was so debilitating that I could hardly get out of bed. I should have forced myself to get on a plane to that conference. For climate people attending conferences is great because all attending can commiserate about new, dark science and their experiences dealing with deniers. Also, conference attendees usually get recognized by peers for successfully completed projects, which can always be uplifting. Just be aware of enlarging carbon footprints from any jet travel.
Since the start of 2017 I’ve begun to take a spiritual journey, a key component missing from my life. Quiet meditation can also stave off depression. Yoga comes to mind. Worshiping with like minded individuals might be an answer, which can also give isolated individuals a sense of community. In my opinion science does not necessarily preclude religious belief.
It wasn’t my case, but if strapped with too many projects at work, depression and anxiety could be the end result. Adding pressure on oneself to finish scientific papers by a deadline is probably not a good thing. Don’t procrastinate when initially tasked with a project. Yesterday I wrote a description of chronically depressed people and filling mental cups. If mental cups are filled to overflowing with stressful items some people literally do snap. Have a frank conversation with your boss about how much work you can do in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a bad boss by all means try to get another job if possible.
Finally and most important, don’t self diagnose if feeling depressed or told that you seem to be down or not yourself by close friends, colleagues, or family. Seek out good psychologists and psychiatrists. Besides, talking out issues with a psychologist and getting good medicine from a psychiatrist might prove very helpful in the long run. Yes, if necessary one can scream, yell and cry to a therapist in order to release built up pressure and tension. Any money spent will be a very good investment.
Related, Dr. Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia has written an article linking suicide to warmer temperatures. It’s worth a good read:
Well, I sincerely hope that my two cents worth of advice here helps, especially after a monster like “Deep Adaptation” rears it’s head.
Here is some more climate and weather news from Sunday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
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The Climate Guy