Climate conversations

24 June 2023  |  by Helen Frederick

Article by Guy Gladstone, Seaford resident and member of the Climate Psychology Alliance.

There have always been topics for which a sustained conversation has been difficult. Famously in 50s Britain it was “no sex please we’re British”. The 60s rather eroded that and it was sometimes remarked, linking it to consumerism, that the tabooed subject had become death as the disruptor of happiness. Perhaps the pandemic in turn has somewhat reduced that taboo, with Britain amongst the highest levels of death pro rata per total population.

Today however the real party pooper, the new social no go area, is likely to be the climate and ecological emergency (CEE). So why would that be? In 2022 the CEE was driven home in Britain by a 40 degree C. heatwave, drought and the impact on crops; not to forget that it had already crept closer to the horizon of consciousness through spectacular floods in Europe. Why then the need to change the subject? The new subliminal horror is the consequent approaching end of “our way of life”. Not through a much exaggerated ‘invasion’ by immigrants,- that certainly gets talked about, but the end of Western consumer society as most of us have known it. This is the truly awful ‘death’ we will soon (if not already) be facing.

Enter the spread of Climate Cafes, with Seaford’s now running for a year, where the thoughts and feelings thereby triggered can be freely aired and discussed. Aptly enough, the already mentioned taboo on death as a subject of sustained conversation and reflection gave rise in the early 2000s to the meetings known as Death Cafes. Climate Cafes draw on the acknowledged need from that practice of a safe, nourishing and hospitable setting. Like death warmed up a cynic might say. However the argument for the provision of such a social space hinges on the fact, to quote the black American novelist James Baldwin (referring to racism): “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but until something is faced , nothing can be changed”. To be able to speak and address the feelings that arise with a given subject is the essential prerequisite for effective action. Climate Cafes have that specific brief, no more than that. So please note, there is no pressure from the facilitator or participants to follow up with any particular action. A Climate Café is therefore emphatically not a recruitment space for any organisation concerned with the CEE or other related political concerns, nor a debating room for arguing about the science.

We have our work cut out just to stay with that elephant in the room. Otherwise, for sure, in due course, we will be trampled on, disempowered by dread or lost in dissociation. Or, as commonly now, hovering in disavowal, that state of mind when we know something to be truly the case, yet we persistently pretend to ourselves and others that it is not so.

Please see our Events calendar for upcoming Climate Cafe’s at the SEA Climate Hub.

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