The Return of Climate Picnic

Our third climate picnic will be the MOST RELAXING yet!  You are not emotionally prepared for this level of RELAXATION!

We will have the same crystal juggler who wowed kids at the first event and some of the same musicians — plus new friends!

The focus will be on making crafts and plans for the global climate strike on September 27th, but we will have representatives of lots of other climate groups there to chat as well.  Please BRING YOUR OWN CARDBOARD for sign-making!

And there’s a public ping pong table there!  How cool is that.

Sunday, September 22 – Stanley Park (890 King St. West) – 11am-2pm

This event is B.Y.O.Picnic

 

Dealing with Eco-Anxiety: Embracing Sadness, Part 2

The next in a series of posts by Dr. Nate Charach. Read Part 1 here.

depression-2912424_1280In my first blog post I outlined my understanding that there are pleasant and unpleasant emotions rather than classifying them as positive and negative. The most crucial emotion to lessen my “eco-anxiety” has been sadness. Let’s first examine why sadness is appropriate and then we will look at how to use it effectively.

Sadness is the emotion of loss. If you lose your beloved mother, it is healthy to feel sad. If we lose our job, an important relationship or our purpose in life, it is imperative that we feel sad. This sadness alerts us to the importance of what we just lost.

When viewing sadness from this perspective, we don’t have to dig very deep to imagine why we feel sad about the current state of our world. Here is a short list of things that make me feel sad:

Loss of security about our survival
Loss of certainty that our children will live to see “old age”
Loss of meaning in our work
Loss of meaningful connections with people
Loss of security that we will have clean water to drink and healthy food to eat
Loss of security that we will know how to survive the heat and cold temperature           extremes when we run out of fossil fuels
Loss of connection with nature
Loss of confidence in the political systems that are supposed to look out for our   common good
Loss of control over a situation that directly impacts us yet we can only indirectly   effect
Loss of secure housing for millions of people
Loss of loved ones due to severe weather events

And I’m sure there are more. For each person, some of these losses will resonate more than others. Certainly there are many more reasons than I listed. The only way to identify which losses are the most important to us is to listen to our sadness.

So what does it look like to listen to our sadness?

We must connect with a part of our brain that is not “logical”. We must find an environment that feels safe and secure. We then ask ourselves what is making us sad. If this brings tears to our eyes then we are on the right track. Crying is a natural response to sadness. It acts as a stress reliever. The tears in our eyes contain stress hormones which can leave our body through this process.

To truly listen to our sadness, tears are a requirement and also not sufficient. We need to surrender to our sadness without trying to change it. And so, when our tears come, we must embrace them and allow them to guide us to the most important actions that we can take.

Many people are afraid to give themselves up to this process for fear that their sadness will never end. However, when we allow our emotions to run their course without blocking them they come in patterns of waves. These waves are time-limited and always end.

Once we clearly identify our losses through listening to sadness, we need to effectively prioritize how to fill this void. This is the way that sadness motivates us to make necessary change.

If we have lost our mother and therefore feel sad, the goal is not to find a new mother. Instead, to effectively use our sadness, we tell stories about our love for her and find ways that she can live on through us. Likewise, if we lose our job or our relationship, new jobs or relationships will not be identical yet if they fulfill us, our sadness diminishes. If they do not adequately fill our void, the sadness persists. This sadness is crucial because when we listen to it, we address any critical loss. When our life is full of meaning once again, our sadness subsides.

While writing this post I needed to take a break due to my own sadness. The Amazon Forest is burning and I only just learned the extent and causes of it. Waves of sadness overcame me for the majority of the day and continue to still creep in from time to time. My sadness was reminding me of the importance this rainforest holds to the planet. The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen. The Amazon is home to the greatest biodiversity left on this planet. It is home to many Indigenous people who hold customs that live in harmony with the Earth. One of Project Drawdown’s clear priorities is to protect our existing rainforests. All of these make the destruction of the Amazon a huge loss. My tears are entirely appropriate.

After listening to this sadness, I now find myself donating money actively to save the rainforest and brainstorming ideas to campaign for their protection on a much broader level. Responding to these tragedies in this way is the most effective action that I can take to deal with this issue. As a result, the sadness lessens. I cannot individually stop the fires in the Amazon and if I contribute as a piece of a much larger contribution, then there is hope.

The fear we have of listening to our sadness is deeply embedded in most of us. If we allow ourselves to drop below the surface of our icebergs we can sit with our sadness. Through this process we learn that sadness is not dangerous in itself. Our “eco-anxiety” will turn to “eco-grief”. The things we love that we are losing will become crystal clear. Contrary to our reflexive fear that our sadness is dangerous, connecting to our sadness is the most effective way that we will survive. Let’s embrace our sadness. Let’s validate it. And then allow it to guide us toward effective action.


Nate Charach is a psychiatrist who works at a community hospital and has also completed his permacultural design certificate. His emotions urge him to combine these skills to create thriving communities that are in harmony with nature. With his clients, he attempts to work in partnership to find common meaning and value from their challenges.

The general information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider properly licensed to practise medicine or general healthcare in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else.

Continue reading “Dealing with Eco-Anxiety: Embracing Sadness, Part 2”

Dealing with Eco-Anxiety: An Introduction by Dr. Nate Charach

We are excited to introduce this guest post by Dr. Charach, providing timely insight into the swirl of emotions many of us feel as we strive to gain a sense of place in the midst of our climate crisis.

Many people struggle with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. Culturally we are often focused on “reducing stigma” of “mental illness” and this conversation is largely disconnected from how our world causes unpleasant emotions. Psychiatry’s current paradigm of mental illness is well-intentioned and often misses the mark. The real focus on reducing stigma needs to be on reducing the stigma of our emotions rather than their resulting “symptoms”. We need to connect our emotions to the things in our world that are demanding our attention. When we do this, we recognize that it is not a coincidence that mental illness is rising while the climate crisis unfolds. “Eco-anxiety” occurs when we miss out on what our underlying emotions tell us. Never before have Vonnegut‘s words been more true: “a sane person to an insane society must appear insane”.

The most important lesson I have learned from those I have worked with in my practice is to listen to what our emotions tell us. Our emotions always have some truth to them even if we cannot see it at first. Below is an image that summarizes my understanding of how emotions work:

The states of mind on the surface are the most obvious and are the emotions that we describe as mental health problems. If we are paralyzed by our worries, we call it “anxiety”. If we flip into a rage when we stub our toe, “anger” is the problem. All of the states of mind written on the tip of the iceberg are actually secondary responses to primary emotions that are beneath the surface. Emotions that we stigmatize and, therefore, subconsciously disconnect from.

Most people call the emotions below the surface “negative”. When we are young, our father comforts us with “don’t cry, you’re ok”. As we get older, our mother says “Oh, don’t feel guilty, you are doing the best that you can”. These are meant as supportive statements, yet they tell us that our emotions are wrong.

Our emotions are an interpretation of stimuli and are wired similar to our other sensory functions. Vision uses light as its stimulus, while emotions use “pleasant or unpleasant” and “aroused or calm” internal sensations as input. Emotions compile this information from our internal environment and use memories from the past to anticipate what this means about our external environment. This gives us important information and motivates us to action. When we learn to mistrust this function, we become disconnected from it. We have a sense that something is wrong but can’t identify what.

Imagine for a moment that, since I was three, my parents told me that red is a “negative” colour. When I pointed to a tomato, I was told “oh, that’s not really red, don’t look there”. I could try to do this. I could walk around and every time I saw a firetruck or a cardinal I would turn away. I would find this very difficult. Even if I was successful at always ignoring red, I would often make wrong decisions. If I was hit by a car because I ignored a red light, I would blame the other person.

And so the same goes for emotions. “Loneliness” as an emotion tells me to connect with more people. If I notice that I feel “depressed” when the underlying emotion is “loneliness”, I need to connect with the loneliness. If I only listen to the depression, I will isolate myself from others. This will exacerbate the loneliness rather than address it.

If we avoid feeling “negative” emotions, then our bodies feel greatly distressed because they are ignoring clear input. When we successfully disconnect ourselves, we make decisions on partial information. This leads us to make decisions that are not in our best interest while also ignoring the world around us. If we instead recognize these emotions as “unpleasant” rather than “negative”, our perspective on the world changes.

If you experience “eco-anxiety” or depression based upon the numerous “depressing” things in our world, I urge you to connect with your emotions more carefully. You likely have been pushing away very unpleasant emotions, as most of us have. For a solution to our climate crisis, we must connect with our unpleasant emotions. Let them teach us and motivate us. Learning to listen is tricky. In my future posts, I will discuss ways to listen to these emotions that can keep us from feeling overwhelmed. I will also discuss my understanding of how each of these unpleasant emotions can be effectively interpreted.

This process will involve feeling pain. Rather than disconnect from that pain, we should instead experience it with others. Through connecting with ourselves and our community at large, we can address the root causes of our climate crisis. In so doing, we will feel our unpleasant emotions less frequently. They will still come at times to remind us about the work that remains to be done, because there is so much to do. If we continue to listen to our emotions, together, we can build a way of living that is in harmony with nature.

Together, let’s change our cultural myths about emotions. Let’s allow them to genuinely motivate us to be part of a change that is much bigger than ourselves.

(Read Part 2)


Nate Charach is a psychiatrist who works at a community hospital and has also completed his permacultural design certificate. His emotions urge him to combine these skills to create thriving communities that are in harmony with nature. With his clients, he attempts to work in partnership to find common meaning and value from their challenges.

The general information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider properly licensed to practise medicine or general healthcare in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else.


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Low-Carbon Luxury – 5 – Be Where You Are

If you’re new to the Low Carbon Luxury Series, start here.

Would you rather be somewhere else right now?  Does simply reading that question make you enjoy being where you are a little bit less?

In a previous installment of this series, I wrote about finding the intrinsic value of experiences rather than ceaselessly comparing them to other possibilities.  But our modern economy thrives on comparison.  Deleuze and Guattari (1987) argue that the rise of money as a “general equivalent” allowed wealth and work, which once had qualitative meanings, to be tallied numerically.  The more things are on the market, the greater the field of profit.  If we find someone who will raise our children for less per hour than someone else is willing to pay us for our skills, we can increase our savings.  Quantitative comparison means that anything could just as easily become something else and this tendency pushes our society towards meaninglessness.  If we are always looking elsewhere we do not see what is right before our eyes.  That is why the final tenet of low-carbon luxury is to simply be where you are.

Investors don’t want us to stay put.  They want a “flexible” labour market.  They want to trade one thing for another as smoothly as possible.  Economic geographers (E.g. Coe, Kelly & Young, 2013) write about the ‘friction of distance’ impeding this ideal of instant exchange.  They highlight the difference between absolute distance and relative distance in cost and time.  Air travel reduces relative distance.  Computer technologies reduce relative distance.  They work to make everywhere the same place at the same time.  Capital strives to conquer time and space in order to make ‘frictionless’ exchanges — but time and space are where we live. 

Living means being where you are.  The ‘friction of distance’ is actually the specificity in which meaning is forged.  Being where you are means appreciating your neighbourhood, your city and your local environment.  It means delighting in seasonality.  It means never pretending that the world and the weather do not exist.

Shipping things across the world over night; building highways to rush us through a once-great city in a matter of minutes; designing franchises that can be replicated anywhere; flattening hills for residential developments; flying to the tropics in the winter — these all reduce ‘friction,’ but they also obliterate reality.

Think for a moment about the joy of a snow day — a very particular day, encapsulated in cold.  Why do we invest so much money and fuel into clearing our roads as fast as possible?  Why can’t we just stay home once or twice a year?  Especially when so many of us dread the repetitiveness of our careers, the endless sameness that swallows up years of our life and leaves nothing but an RRSP in exchange.  Working less and living more is also a climate solution, because a slower economy burns less energy.  And if we measure value in terms of meaningful moments, a slower economy will also likely produce more value as well.  So let’s take a snow day when nature asks us too.  Make hot chocolate.  Read a book.  You can go to work again on Wednesday.

Insisting on travelling the same route at the same time of day in the same vehicle for an entire year is crazy.  Think of all the time and effort and municipal taxes we pour into clearing snow for our cars.  Indigenous people just put on snowshoes and walked on top of it.

Being where you are means delighting in the seasons instead of denying them.  In general, this will also save us energy.  In the summer – make a salad with local tomatoes for dinner and give your oven a rest.  In the winter, bake root vegetables, knowing that your oven is doing double-duty and taking a little strain of your gas furnace.  Respecting seasonality also means you will pass on the flavourless imported tomatoes that clutter up our grocery stores all winter – saving yourself for the rare joy of a local heirloom tomato.  Respecting the seasonality of the harvest intensifies the pleasure of eating because waiting an entire year for certain delicacies makes them that much more glorious when they finally arrive.

Perhaps the most insidious and absurd denial of seasonality is our contemporary insistence that indoor temperatures should be 22 degrees all year round – such that many people are too hot indoors in the winter and bring sweaters to the movies in the summer.  Use your furnace, use your air conditioner – but let the temperatures fluctuate with the seasons.  Enjoy the coziness of sweaters in the winter.  Wipe your brow with a damp cloth in the summer.  This will also allow your body to actually get used to the season and make going outside less startling in both summer and winter.

Being where you are will also strengthen your connection to your neighbourhood.  Walking will let you see all the little gardens and shops and unusual trees just around the corner.  If you go for regular strolls, your relationships with the people in your neighbourhood will evolve from glances to nods to waves to full blown conversations and maybe even friendships.  Cultivating things takes time and cultivating the place where you live is no different.  If you drive off in the morning and roll into the garage each night you will have a home, but not a neighbourhood.

If you’re not in a hurry, take a moment to appreciate this dance performance by BBOY CLOUD, a businessman misses his bus – and realizes how much beauty he was rushing past.

 

 

Driving in and out of your neighbourhood for every single errand can also impact other people’s friendships.  Take a look at this fascinating chart of friendship between neighbours compared to volume of vehicles.  If you feel like you never have time to go visit friends – perhaps it is because they are all so far away.

socialinteractionsbytrafficvolume
Donald, A., Gerson, M. S., & Lintell, M. (1981). Livable streets. Berkely/Los Angeles/London.

Donald, A., Gerson, M. S., & Lintell, M. (1981). Livable streets. Berkely/Los Angeles/London.

BEING WHERE YOU ARE draws together many of the other tenets of low-carbon luxury.  Certainly, working less and living more is a good way to give yourself time to get to know your neighbourhood.  Being mindful helps you to appreciate the little things.  And simply appreciating what your neighbourhood has to offer instead of comparing it to Vienna or Tokyo will help you develop your attachment – and all the interwoven layers of meaning that grow out of nurturing a sense of place.

Staycations can help you to love where you live.  Last winter, my wife and I spend a few days downtown at the Royal York; we ate out and pampered ourselves and swam in their pool and forgot it was winter.  And now, whenever I’m at Union Station, I see the hotel and recall that vacation fondly, those memories are nestled into downtown Toronto in a way that a tropical vacation never could be.  Even a space as dull and utilitarian as the PATH now has a certain luxurious resonance that it didn’t have before.

Staycations save money and reduce our carbon footprint, but they also colour our understanding of our hometown or province.  They help us to be where we are.  If you discover a perfect new restaurant during your staycation – you can go back again in a couple of weeks for a Friday night excursion that carries you a million miles away.

And as more of us choose to turn inwards for inspiration, instead of always looking abroad, the more residents of our city will get a chance to shine.  Think for a moment about what would happen if we spent as much energy and money supporting local sports as international leagues.  Imagine, instead of the Raptors, we had ten teams from different neighbourhods competing throughout the year.  Instead of supporting a couple hundred millionaires across North American – professional sports could pay a couple hundred people a generous, but not outrageous, salary in every single city.  Ten times as many athletes could live the dream of going pro – and we would see these men and women in our local coffee shops and restaurants or taking their family to the park.  And the cross-town rivalries would be even more delicious than national rivalries.  This same increase in equity could be achieved in the arts and other fields – instead of creating global superstars, we could nourish a deep field of local heroes.

Instead of Drake’s scorching sun circling the CN tower, blotting out all the other stars, a hundred local rappers would also get their time to shine.

 

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We Did it!!

Thanks to your ridiculously generous support, we’ve signed a contract with Pattison Media and we will have one 100 climate crisis posters on the TTC! When we launched, raising $10,000 in 17 days seemed absurdly ambitious — but we’re in the ‘try everything’ camp when it comes to climate action, so we tried.

AND YOU RESPONDED!  Keep an eye out for your ads starting on AUGUST 5th.

You can read more about the thinking behind the ads here: https://climatepledgecollective.org/climate-crisis-ads/

Help us put Climate Crisis ads on the subway!

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We have a plan to put ads on the TTC that tell the truth about our climate crisis.

We have a graphic designer willing to do the design for free!

We have a loose concept — simply sharing hard-hitting climate facts that are being under-reported, such as the water crisis in Chennai.

We have consulted with lawyers to make sure we won’t get caught up in election finance laws.

We have consulted with Pattison Media about pricing.

We just need you to kick in a few bucks or share it with your friends.

So please donate now!

We are aiming for $10,000, which will get us one ad on almost every train for a month. At $5000 we could run the campaign, but with considerably fewer ads. It seems like a lot, but we already raised over $2000 almost without trying — because everyone seems to love the idea and people have been very generous!

Two New Toronto Climate Websites and One New Climate Action Group

There is a lot of organizing energy in Toronto these days.  Climate Justice Toronto — which is partly an offshoot of the Powershift conference and the Our Time movement — recently named itself and their meetings are humming.

Canadian Climate Challenge launched a new home base for Canadian Climate Action news with an excellent events calendar.

Extinction Rebellion Toronto is also growing rapidly and has its own website now.

Check them all out!