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Grief for the Planet? How to Heal

Grief for the Planet? How to Heal

I am a bleeding heart when it comes to the Earth. I well up with tears when I see a deer dead on the side of the road, when I see a pond choked with algae from fertilizer runoff, when I hear of a newborn whale too entangled in plastic to drink its mother’s milk, when I think of polar bear cubs drowning without icecaps, when I think of maple trees dying.

The truth is, my grief about the disintegrating environment is overwhelming sometimes, it just seeps out of me. This must be what it means to be a bleeding heart. You feel like you are losing your life blood about something.

I am not sure how to manage the grief I feel for dying trees, when I hear that the songbird population is dwindling. It crushes my heart so that I can hardly breathe.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief as a way to help in the process of recovery from terrible loss. When it comes to the losses on the Earth I have long since evolved past the first stage, the denial stage. The “this can’t be happening,” stage. H-e-l-l-o. I read the newspapers and witness the destruction with my own eyes. I’ve also gotten past the anger stage, the “I can’t accept this” stage. I made that transition when I went from the rage I felt from being poisoned by pesticides that were so neurotoxic they were eventually taken off the market, to wanting to help others avoid being damaged by the accepted policy of putting products on the market until they are proven unsafe. I will forever be a proponent of The Precautionary Principle.

OK, so what about the third stage, the bargaining stage? In the case of the Earth, maybe the bargaining stage manifests in haggling with a school board to stop toxic VOC use in the schools, or with a neighbor to stop spraying their lawn with herbicides. I am not sure I am over this stage, because I know every little bit helps, and I will speak up when I am threatened or asked to help, yet in the end the greenhouse gases relentlessly keep growing and the haggling didn’t really make much difference.

I presume I am at least partially in the fourth stage, the depression stage, hence my need to share my feelings in this forum. I dip in and out of this. “We’re not going to be able to fix it, so give up.” Actually, I never dip into the “give up” part, so maybe I am not as depressed as I thought. Actually, that isn’t true. I am very depressed when I see a well-intentioned mom put toxic insect repellent on her child thinking she is doing the right thing. I am very depressed when I see politicians blindly squander our Earth’s resources, all for money in the now, not thinking of the future.

And the fifth stage of recovery from grief, acceptance? I wonder if I will ever be able to accept how human beings are degrading the Earth. But I know someone who has reached that high pinnacle of grief and been able to move on productively. I once went to hear the primatologist Jane Goodall speak. If anybody knows about the grief felt because of humans’ impact on the Earth, it must be her. How can she bear it when she hears about her beloved chimpanzee’s being slaughtered? How can she stand to hear about the bushmeat trade? When someone in the audience asked that question, she answered, “I just do the best I can every day.”

I had placed that quote on my desk for a number of years. I need to put it back, so I, too, can remind myself to just do the best I can for our planet. Every day.

Please share how you cope with this difficult time in human history.

Read more: Green Chi, Health & Safety, News & Issues, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, , , , ,

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

46 comments

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10:37PM PDT on May 3, 2013

“I just do the best I can every day.” Words for us all.

5:23AM PDT on Oct 5, 2011

Thanks for the article.

8:57PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

GOD BLESS the bleeding hearts! That means the sensitive ones, the ones that love...or want to. I actually have my metaphysical friends telling me that God is in everything, that it's all an illusion and just stay positive. Then I see a struggling animal after an oil spill, knowing it is doomed. Or an animal being shot because it's habitat went away so it ventured into the city to keep from starving. It is all about the money... horrific things are done to animals in labs, too. Because they are getting paid well for that torture. there was a film on PBS years ago that showed graphic scenes of seal slaughter, dolphins being killed by Japanese commercial fishermen (100,000 suffocating on the beaches and the ocean blood red)....and I think I am oscillating between anger and depression. What infuriates me the most is the cavalier attitude of people, and those that care are mocked as "bleeding hearts". Well, g.d-it, it's MY planet too! I have to live here with the aftermath that's occuring right here, right now. I don't want to have to do the clean up. What a joke BPI was! All I could think about were the sea creatures having to drink that crap. Really the only way I see is to live by example and for us to find ways to make it profitable for those that are destroying. Profitable for them to CONTRIBUTE to the planet and sentient life forms...ALL life forms. And somehow I think that this would get a "ho-hum" response from them. Blessings2U!.

4:33PM PDT on Sep 5, 2010

Same for me. My heart bleeds.

9:54AM PST on Feb 7, 2010

im the same way, i get upset when a butterful is dead on the side walk.

7:51AM PST on Jan 29, 2010

I never say my heart bleads,{bleading heart}...but always say my heart cries! Of course I have been a rabbid environmentalist since the early 70's, so my heart is crying all the time these days. There is no other reason for our planet {and ourselves} to be so sick if corporate greed wasn't a huge factor. I was taught the TRUTH in highschool..1971..by a woman who was a class mate of Al Gore. What keeps me sane is my Organic Garden. EVERY fruit,veggie,herb is donated to different organizations. During this economic time I could use a quarter for an eggplant, but that is a quarter that would destroy my purpose of gardening. My severe depression disappears once I open the gate {had to build a fence around the entire garden last year because there were hundreds of baby racoons who frolicked through my @2,000 sq ft of BLISS, which means I had to reseed 3 different times!!!} and feel the dirt under my bare feet. And then there is always so much to do...so much love to receive...and to be shared with the community.

7:51AM PST on Jan 29, 2010

I never say my heart bleads,{bleading heart}...but always say my heart cries! Of course I have been a rabbid environmentalist since the early 70's, so my heart is crying all the time these days. There is no other reason for our planet {and ourselves} to be so sick if corporate greed wasn't a huge factor. I was taught the TRUTH in highschool..1971..by a woman who was a class mate of Al Gore. What keeps me sane is my Organic Garden. EVERY fruit,veggie,herb is donated to different organizations. During this economic time I could use a quarter for an eggplant, but that is a quarter that would destroy my purpose of gardening. My severe depression disappears once I open the gate {had to build a fence around the entire garden last year because there were hundreds of baby racoons who frolicked through my @2,000 sq ft of BLISS, which means I had to reseed 3 different times!!!} and feel the dirt under my bare feet. And then there is always so much to do...so much love to receive...and to be shared with the community.

4:50PM PST on Dec 29, 2008

I am like you ... depressed about the way our planet is treated and the fact that no one seems to care (well, some people do care; but you know the quote about a drop in the bucket ...)

I recall in the late 1970s when I was in elementary school -- on every lightswitch plate was a sticker that said "Conserve Energy: Turn the lights off when you leave the room." Ever since the third grade I have been doing just that. In fact, I often don't turn the lights on in my house if I can help it.

I find myself preaching to my family and friends about Earth-saving measures, only to realize that it falls on deaf ears.

I'm certainly not perfect and don't do as much as I could, but I do what I can to save the planet and its non-human inhabitants. Even if I know that it won't make a difference (or that I'll live to see it if it does), at least I'm not adding to the planet's destruction. It's very sad in this day and age that people still think that saving the planet is someone else's problem to solve.

7:13PM PST on Dec 27, 2008

when i get too depressed...i don't come here or anyplace like it for awhile. these things have bothered me since i was 10 yrs old...i am now 51 ( my family laughed at me ) its hard to accept..that sometimes it just sucks dust ... when i am healthy enough again, i am back..

8:04PM PST on Nov 13, 2008

hey Annie...I liked your entry...I too have experienced all of this and am up to acceptance...I find that it helps when dealing with horror on a personal or global front to remember the easten wisdom(and western quantum physics) take on the situation...this is that it is all just an illusion designed to help us elvolve...

I have also read websites suggesting that the power structure on the planet is such that energy is drained towards the top of the pyramind...and that stress over planetry conditions is one way in which this is done...your 'bleeding heart' and 'losing your lifeblood' is actually what is happening and I humbly suggest taking a leaf out of Buddha's book and stemming this outflow of your vital energy

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