26 May 2020
Ecological grief sets in as the lockdown highlights the looming plight of greater humanity – the destruction of our environment
“In an ongoing series of debates with experts in various fields, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) seeks to highlight aspects related to COVID-19 demands on humanity, and that which is unfolding as climate change steadily brings about corresponding and irreversible changes with daunting challenges,” says Cobus Meiring of the GREF Secretariat.
The matter of the fairly new concept of ecological grief and human behaviour, which was instigated by COVID-19, highlights the looming plight of greater humanity: the destruction of our environment.
According to Hanna Kotze, an organisational culture consultant and clinical social worker, climate change brings an unknown threat to normality in terms of how humans will experience the environment, and it will do so in many respects that are more often than not difficult to comprehend or even believe. In as much as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is invisible, but the threat is very real and present, so is climate change, and humanity sense the danger, which in turn brings about a constant anxiety.
Says Kotze, “Ecological grief is a relatively new term for the subconscious but the concept embraces the collective grief humanity experiences when witnessing and experiencing loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the natural environment.”
“Natural disasters with their roots in climate change, such as the recent Knysna wildfire disaster, catastrophic drought in South Africa, Hurricane Katrina in the USA, wildfires in Australia and Europe, and the Idai tropical cyclone in Mozambique are all examples where humanity suffers from ecological grief, which no doubt impacts on the emotional well-being of nations affected,” explains Kotze.
“Many of us may feel paralysed by panic over climate change and overwhelmed by the pace and scale of ecological losses. Mourning nature does a great service by giving a name to this grief, setting us all within a community of others who mourn alongside us, and by guiding us to respond not with despair but with hope and courage”.
“Hopefully, the advent of COVID-19 will have the right kind of response in how we ensure a more sustainable future in South Africa and the world, and planning for what is to come will go a long way in ensuring just that,” concludes Kotze.
The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a public platform for environmental management entities in the Southern Cape, and a regional think tank on climate change mitigation and adaption.