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A contributed article.

Adapting to Climate Change

by Emma Mary Gathergood*

I grew up in the Fenlands in Lincolnshire in the fifties, where it was impossible to be a child cycling around the beautiful leafy lanes on my way to school and not be inspired by nature, with the deep dark soil of the Brussel-sprout fields, combined with the endless skyscapes. But like most people, I left the simple life in the village of Frampton, drawn by the bright lights of Birmingham and London, losing this deep soul connection to the land. However, in my career as a therapist in the NHS and subsequently as a Holistic Life Coach, I became saddened by the lack of connection with nature that I encountered around me, both with my colleagues, as well as my clients.

More recently, as I work alongside other Climate Activists, both in Extinction Rebellion (XR) and in Deep Adaptation (DA), I am once again reminded of the lack of a deep and abiding connection to Mother Earth that is increasingly contributing to the Eco-Grief and Eco-Anxiety that is becoming the norm amongst the aware minority, who are waking up to our global predicament. Having studied Positive Psychology, I know how finding a chink of light in an otherwise totally dark and depressing situation can be the first step to re-empowerment and a return to a more optimal mind set. But where is the chink of light to be had in the real and disastrous prospects that lie ahead for us as the climate changes?

I had been inspired by the Mission Statement of Deep Adaptation: "To embody and enable a loving response to our predicament", which led me to look at the redemptive nature of love. I myself had in the last few years survived a trauma where the way out of my debilitated state came in the words of the song:

"I will survive
As long as I know how to love I know I'm still alive
I have all my life to live
I have all my love to give
I will survive".

And as I returned from this difficult period of time, this song in turn led me back to my first love affair......my childhood love affair with Mother Earth, the varied greens of the trees and bushes, the blossom, the bird song, the colour and smell of the rich dark soil, the snowdrops bursting through the snow, the joy of spring, the fullness of summer, the richness of autumn and the quiet reflection of winter. When we live closely with Mother Earth, celebrating the Celtic Festivals of the Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days of Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain, we begin to return to a sense of belonging to the whole.

One of my teachers Charles Eisenstein speaks of the main reason that we create problems for ourselves, increasing our depression and anxiety, is because we blame and criticise others. We apparently do this because we don't have a deep and innate sense of belonging. So, we set out to divide the world into them and us, in order to find the camaraderie and identification with the us who are opposing the them! Having identified the enemy, we can then relax and feel we belong to our group of like-minded people, and this applies to politics, religion, race, ideology, intellectual bias and belief systems. However, when we really start to identify with belonging to our Sacred Earth, we lose the need to be in opposition to anyone and anything. We can simply relax, knowing we do belong in our own bodies, in our own family and neighbourhood, and on the Earth.

Professor Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University says "We evolved with nature and its completely unnatural for us to be separated from it". In the media, we are increasingly hearing of the beneficial effects of 'Forest Bathing', first identified as a therapeutic activity in Japan. Dr. Matthew White of Exeter University is leading research into the link between nature and wellbeing, and is increasingly focusing on the effects on the body and brain, such as how brain activity corresponds with the experience of spending quality time in nature. He says the therapeutic benefits of forest bathing are now well documented, but he wants to take the concept much further. What if these benefits are mutually beneficial? And what if the earth benefits from these activities just as much as we do, and in fact needs them in order to restore a sense of wellbeing, just as much as humans do?

Bearing all this in mind, a year ago I started a weekly group on zoom in Deep Adaptation called an 'Earth Listening Circle', with my colleague Sasha Daucus. In it we discuss a different topic each week, in connection with seeing Mother Earth as our teacher, our friend, our companion, or getting to connect to the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and other related subjects. The discussion is then followed by a led meditation where we are taken in our imagination to our favourite spot in nature, connecting to the fact that we breathe in the very oxygen the trees have just released, and they then absorb the same carbon dioxide that we have just breathed out.This breathing with a living part of nature enables a deep sense of relaxation, plus a sense of belonging to this place. If we have gone there because we love it, because everything in the universe responds to the power of love, this natural place will actually be loving us back, adding to our sense of belonging and deep connection.

This is not just a nice fantasy. The twelve or so weekly participants regularly report back in the discussion that follows, quite amazing insights and breakthroughs that have entered their minds, during this meditation, and in the days following. So, if you feel the Eco-grief or Eco-anxiety that comes with waking up to what we humans have caused to happen to our planetary home over the last several hundred years, become aware of your deep and abiding connection to this planet and then start to really listen to what Mother Earth is calling you to be and do right now. Neither humans, nor Nature have the answers on our own, but together we just might have some answers, if we will only listen, and adapt to this unprecedented Climate Change.


*Emma Mary Gathergood is a retired mental health NHS therapist and Holistic Life Coach. Her interest in the environmental stems back to the sixties when she and her brother John Simpson became activists. He went on to start the Peace Squadron in NZ, which with the help of Greenpeace, led to NZ becoming a Nuclear Free Zone. Emma Mary furthered her interests in the need to care for the Earth through studies of feminism, matriarchal and indigenous cultures that saw the Earth as Sacred and would never have polluted, mined, destroyed, used and abused their home. Her more recent involvement with XR and DA has led to her developing and teaching the concept of Earth Listening as a way of changing our thinking about climate change.
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