I want to take a second to talk about an event some friends of mine are putting together. It’s being done entirely on volunteer energy (except for some food provided by UMD catering), it includes music and writing and community discussion, and I’ve never been so excited for an event that I think will make me sad.
On Thursday, Nov. 9, Katya Gordon and Shawna Weaver will celebrate the recent publication of Weaver’s new book, Climate Grief: From Coping to Resilience and Action at UMD. The event has the feel of a party — there will even be music by the North Shore Fiddlers at 5:30, before the talk at 6. So I’m surprised I feel such apprehension about it.
I’ve worked with Katya as a visitor to my “Writing & Cultures” class, and in her capacity as winner of the University of Minnesota Climate Communication Award for 2022, and as a freelancer for Lake County Press. Katya is author of Climate Change Musings and Studies from Lake Superior’s North Shore. I find her a joyful colleague as a writer.
Similarly, I’ve worked with Shawna Weaver because I take a kid to the Music Resource Center regularly. Besides enjoying her book, I also enjoy her music (having heard her sing). I find her work joyful too.
And yet this event feels like something that will find joy after we move through the dark things.
“Climate grief is not a pathology,” Weaver writes, “but a reasonable, rational response to living in an increasingly unstable environment.” As a result, we don’t seek to avoid it, or to cure it, but instead to live with and to act within it.
I talked with Gordon about the talk, and she said that “now that we acknowledge the loss, we must make sure that we do the work of grieving! Otherwise we can get stuck, as every grief expert will tell you.” I don’t have a lot of frame of reference for climate grief, and most of my thoughts about grief come from books like Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking.
Weaver told me that “the phases of grief help us recognize and acknowledge what’s lost, help us explore what’s left, and as we build toward taking action, we are embracing what is possible.”
David, it feels like they are saying, to find the joy you want to find in this event, you have work to do first.
Weaver and Gordon promise a conversation that will help us express what is lost and experience joy in what is left and what is possible. I have seen the schedule, and it will be highly interactive. Participants are encouraged to come at 5:30 and enjoy food and music before the program starts.
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