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Rage against the dying of the planet

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In the face of overwhelming adversity, the fight must go on (Screenshot via YouTube)

Saving the planet can seem like a hopeless endeavour, but it's more important now than ever before to find the resolve to keep fighting, writes Lyn Bender.

SCOTT MORRISON and his team of climate vandals have gained a majority in the lower house, bestowing anguish, pain and suffering on all who care about the continuity of civilisation and all living creatures.

We have been duped, sold out, ripped off and abandoned.

In the words of the poets:

Everybody knows the dice were loaded.

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.

Everybody knows the war is over.

Everybody knows the good guys lost.                                               

Everybody knows that the fight was fixed.

The poor stay poor and the rich get rich.

That’s how it goes. Everybody knows. ~ Leonard Cohen.

‘Do not go gentle into that good night...

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ ~ Dylan Thomas.

I am grieving for the planet. I am enraged at the stupidity of uninformed, self-focused voters. A friend told me to “cheer up”, but I expect my grief and rage to continue for three years.

I am one of the many who trudged the streets, distributed “how to vote for the planet” cards, signed petitions, participated in climate conversations and attended town hall forums. I am one of the many volunteers who wanted to contribute to saving the Earth by at least throwing out this science-denying Government of climate trashers.

As the election results unfolded, there was shock and disbelief. A climate-denying, coal-profiteering, refugee-persecuting, cruel and nasty Government had been returned to wreak havoc on the poor, our environment and our planet.

The ALP sat on the climate fence, declaring a climate crisis while offering a nudge and wink to coal in the north. They needed the votes. At least the ALP had a plan.

Merely changing the government would not have been the big fix, but it would have been a move in the right direction.

The election coverage was rolled out by the mainstream media, as they would a spectacle, a footy final or a game show. Many people I encountered were ignorant of politics and proud to declare that “they are all the same anyway”. Blatant lies were told: Beware of the death tax. They are going to steal your ute and your SUV.

Code for: They will steal your dreams. Ultimately, big money bought the Government. Small money bought the voters.

We forgot to vote for the Earth.

Now we are grieving. Whether we know it or not, we have all lost this election. We all need a viable planet and thriving ecosystems. We all need vital rivers, forests, oxygen, living seas, thriving fish arable lands.

Ken Ross, the son of grief expert Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, is visiting Australia. Swiss psychiatrist Kübler-Ross distilled years of research and conversations with the dying and grieving into stages of grief. These were not linear or discrete or finite emotions.

People moved in and out of:

(Image via psycom.net)

We have collectively responded to the science of climate change as though a medical team has given us a potentially terminal diagnosis that we refuse to acknowledge.

1. Denial.

Has been fostered by lies, sponsored by vested interests and devoured by our fears.

Denial protects the individual psyche but can be the most damaging of all defences. Like Valium, denial is useful in small doses but toxic when used long-term. We stop paying attention and don't take appropriate action.

Denial has been the world’s response to each new revelation of the unfolding climate catastrophe (but at least we still have franking credits). We live in an economy, don't we? There have been many warning voices, but denial has largely won the day and has suppressed action.

ExxonMobil knew about the science of climate change in 1981 but funded denial for decades.

2. Bargaining.

We try to strike a bargain with the climate gods.

If the economy booms, we will be able to afford to fix the climate. Technology will save us. We need to stop using fossil fuels but are too focused on the economy. Despite floods and fires, droughts and towns running dry, we argue about the cost of living. Politicians talk about food on the table and translate this into “tax relief” for the affluent, while the poor and homeless (who might not have tables) are ignored. We deny that these very concerns – food and water – will be magnified beyond imagination, as our planetary infrastructure crumbles.

3. Depression and nihilism.

Glimpsing the full magnitude of the problem can cause recession into isolation and depression. It’s too late. There is nothing we can do now. Why bother? We have no power. Screw humans, the planet will be better off without us. I’ll be dead by the time it gets worse. What I do is so small it doesn't matter. Australia’s emissions are too small to matter so we might as well mine coal.

The extreme enactment of depression can be self-harm or harm to others. Depressive thoughts support inaction and destructive action.

So, Scott Morrison has pledged money targeting suicide. That’s a good idea.

Suicide rates go up under conservative and Right-wing governments.

4. Anger.

Protest and defiant action. Activists, scientists and all who tried to vote for the climate have a right to be damn angry. Our kids and grandkids have a right to take to the streets. Constructive, non-violent anger can give us the energy we need to keep up the fight of our lives.

5. Acceptance.

“The situation is hopeless. We must take the next step.” ~ Pablo Casals.

‘Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ ~ James Baldwin.

The planet has already warmed over one degree. Emissions are rising. CO2 is now over the 350 parts per million safe limit. We have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe.

 This is the stark reality. What can we do? What is most important?

  • Digging up coal or preserving the water tablelands and food bowls?
  •  A lump of coal or food?
  • Contaminated water or drinking water? 
  • Clean air or jobs in the gas mask industry? 

Grief can bring clarity about what really matters and what we value deeply.

We can also add sadness to the list.

Acceptance of reality also opens the floodgates to sadness and pain. Pay attention to the people you care about and nurture those relationships. More than ever, love is needed. Music, literature, care of animals, the wild can bring us comfort. Like troops in a battle, we need rest and recreation to fight another day.

Empathy is also needed.

Hope and love were part of Kübler-Ross’s message. We try to deny our death and we deny the potential death of the planet. We all must die, but a big part of the meaning of our lives is what we leave behind.

One Jewish climate group proclaimed a climate lesson learnt from the Holocaust: Don't be a bystander.

Saving the planet is everyone’s job.

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

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