An estimated four million people participated in the climate strike. September 20th was the first day in months I didn’t get hit with eco-anxiety and I actually felt a certain amount of hope. Maybe Ragnarök won’t actually come yet, you know?
But there’s no getting around that even the very best case scenario is going to be rough. Beats the frighteningly likely alternative by a long shot. But where we are now is not great. And where we will be in ten years will not be an improvement.
I don’t know if there’s anything we, as common people, can concretely do for Jörð beyond giving her the love she’s entitled to, and continuing to raise the alarm on her behalf, but there’s plenty we can do for each other.
Heathenry is about the people as much as it is about the gods–if not more so. That was the idea behind the rituals we’ve been writing for trans empowerment. We identified the aspects of ritual that had psychological benefits (with some help from a trained professional who prefers to be anonymous in this whole thing), and then provided an avenue for them to help a vulnerable population.
Therapeutic ritual can honor Jörð (or Nerthus, or Erde–whatever name she has in your tradition) while providing space for humans to share their love and grief. We can hold vigils. We can collectively plant and consecrate trees. Publicly scold and raise scorn poles against oil execs.
These do not change the actual physics or economics of the situation. But those of us aware of the problem, desperate to solve it and not equipped to make massive change, are constantly carrying rage and grief and terror inside of us. It’s rendering us less able to do anything for ourselves and for each other.
Competently crafted ritual provides a safe setting in which to experience emotions that are frightening–because the situation is objectively terrifying. And the community aspect of Heathen ritual, in particular, allows us to seek and give support while we push through these feelings.
The benefit of outright feeling your feelings is that tolerance can only be built through exposure. And while adjusting is usually cautioned against, I think that’s unsound advice. This is a situation that we cannot opt out of, and constant distress means burnout. And burnout means fewer resources to improve the situation.
My therapist, when I came in asking how best to manage the anxiety, had to remind me that buying Oreos is not going to single-handedly end the world–nor is avoiding them going to save it. Even if there is a lot of non-recyclable plastic in the packaging.
Energy spent on trying to minimize impact entirely, rather than letting myself settle for informed compromises once in a while, is energy that can’t be spent on activism.
And there’s a lot of energy in a package of Oreos.
So you do what keeps you sane, you muster strength in numbers. You direct those numbers where it can work some magic.
Literally, in the case of scorn poles.
When we have this emotional need met, we’re more able to focus on one another. We can develop groups and systems of mutual material support, or get on board with existing ones. We really don’t need a specialized, purpose-built and specifically Heathen approach to this.
That second step isn’t about us, but rather about our values. It’s not about being seen as Heathens, not about the P.R., not about the reclaimed symbolism and the patching up of our reputations–all of which, frankly, I’m tired of and I think is overemphasized.
It is about half a loaf and a tipped cup. It’s about displaced people taking their chances and hoping for your hospitality. It’s about whether we believe in the things we say, or if we’re just a bunch of pretentious dicks who mistake drinking mead for a personality trait.
I am not going to tell you to find clever ways to reduce your consumption and resource footprint. These are things I do because they help me, the individual, feel better. They are legitimate choices as coping skills, because they provide both a healthy outlet and distracting challenge. As long as they’re approached sanely, they’ll keep you sane.
Rather, I will point you towards resources that cover what I’ve touched on here–how we can adapt emotionally and materially while we scramble to slow the world going headlong.
Coping With Climate Change: A walkthrough for managing the fear and uncertainty of humanity’s greatest crisis, by Ben Sayler
Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance from the American Psychological Association. (PDF)
Food Not Bombs is an obvious choice, when our goal is to assist vulnerable people and build partnerships that allow for survival. Not all chapters are known to the people maintaining this site, you may have to ask around locally. Check your local anarchist bookshops or community spaces, they’ll probably know.
The Troth’s Red Hammer program provides financial support to those affected by disaster, violence and hate crimes–direct aid is a future goal of Red Hammer. Currently, they’re fundraising for people affected by Hurricane Dorian.