The Five Stages of Environmental Grief
Are the Oceans a Failed State?
Hunger, Food Security and the African Land Grab
~A Trilogy by Richard Schiffman
* Editor’s Note
It was quite by accident that I found Richard Schiffman and immediately recognized an approach to eco-journalism and social justice that is as poetic and spiritual as it is practical. His work speaks with an eco-centric rather than ego-centric voice that sirens us to become responsible stewards for the one-of-a-kind island we all share—Earth.
While staffing a booth at an eco-conference this summer, I was startled to realize that every person I met carried some form of deep grief about our environmental state of affairs. They felt helpless and small if they allowed themselves to feel the magnitude of it; the realization simply generated too much despair. Some just could not go there. Some were angry. Some resigned to helplessness or fate. I recognized the stages of grief that accompany dying. Knowing this was important information to disseminate, I started piecing together the research and Providence led me to Schiffman’s work.
We don’t grow or change if we don’t let the grief do its job—as alchemy from the crucible of an awareness-- both stark and stinging. We awake to, or at least suspect, an environmental emergency; it grew from a spiritual vacuum that forgets and neglects to revere human life and the planet. Indigenous peoples don't forget and we can learn much about healing from them.
Staying numb or frozen in our grief won’t fix it. Denial won't heal the damage. Letting in the full pain of our recklessness moves us through the grief in a dynamic rather than static process, and helps to losen and release the energy frozen where anger and anguish took up residence-- whether consiciously or not. Embracing the feelings that surface and holding compassion for our own overwhelm allows the grief to crack and move and ultimately frees up energy that can be re-deployed in the will to act. We should not forget that these feelings come upon us because they stem from love. The longing and ache springs from the chest- where the heart lives. It's an exquisite heartache; it summons the grief because we intuitively know the stakes and we love our planet with its captivating biodiversity, its breathtaking and terrible beauty.
Schiffman is a trustworthy guide for this journey we must take that asks us to feel—the key ingredient for paradigm change. Paring his work down to one piece was impossible because his writings are so well researched and elegant. So we selected a trilogy in the hope that they will entice you to look into the rest of his craft, a life’s work honed to a voice in service to humanity.
~B. Kaufmann, Editor