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Byron Shire
May 7, 2021

Panic and the climate emergency

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As a psychologist I’m intrigued by the cultural framing of our emotional experiences. Unfortunately in our patriarchal western culture we collapse the feeling of panic with the behaviour of panicking – as if they are the same thing.

These are actually separate events. One of the central catch-cries of the patriarchy is ‘Don’t Panic!’ The subtext is that some all-knowing unflappable male figure will come and rescue us from whatever is happening (like Scott Morrison?). The underlying message, particularly to men, is that it’s unmanly to feel panic. Anything to do with panic is taboo. Most men are conditioned to squash any such feelings from their own private awareness, let alone allow them to be expressed to anyone else.

This inaccurate glitch in our framing of panic and anxiety is a massive problem for creating the kind of transformational change we must have. Although it is very important that we don’t panic behaviourally, it is equally, if not more, important that we allow valid feelings of panic to land within and between us.

If you’re informed of the catastrophe (I use that word mindfully) coming at us without radical and decisive change, then feelings of panic are a sign that you have accurately assessed our collective situation. These powerful gut feelings are the ingredients we need to form into a tenacious and unstoppable collective resolve to transform on every level. You can’t get to that level of power if you skip over your own emotional knowing.

Embodied knowing, formed up from a gut and heart level, is exponentially more powerful than the head alone. This is an alchemical process which involves allowing not only feelings of panic/anxiety but also sadness, anger and appropriate guilt at our contribution (without letting patriarchal structures off the hook). Our earth identity is being born. Like any birth it’s a very intense process.

What can we do? Let ourselves feel. Create safety for vulnerable conversations. The emotional meta-silence is finally breaking as shown in the Climate Strikes and Extinction Rebellion.

Now we must completely break through this silence. Creating safety to feel, and sharing our feelings, is the portal to transformation.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Evocative, eloquent & brilliant. Thank you for summarising & expressing so well the repeated shock & frustration felt by so many at our inability to acknowledge, accept & act.

    I fear you’re going to need a larger waiting room & a longer working week to get through this lot……Can I refer Anton, barrow, Denis & others to you? I’ve suggested being open-minded, less opinionated, and reading the science but it hasn’t sunk in yet & I’m not a psychologist – just a lowly environmental scientist existing for public denigration.

    • M Clarke.
      Most people relate and deal with truth and facts .
      Unless, you , were not in the country at the last election? The majority our the country voted accordingly on this Global Warming hysteria
      And the rest is history!! Now are you suggesting that the majority of the population are some need of climate change transformation treatments?
      Its not difficult its a absolute hoax this eco anxiety .
      The northern hemisphere and the southern Hemisphere have had the coldest winters on record and still snowing in Autumn !!!
      Just keep listening to the IPCC, who infact have admitted there is no Climate emergency at all .
      Also the traveling cocktail party refered to as the UN and who would take any notice of them
      Broke and run by a Socialist ! This has absolutely nothing to do with Global warming, its all about
      Riding the world of capitalism, and western imperialism… and admitted by the leader of extinction rebellion in the UK ..M. Clarke iam all in
      If the world was in a emergency phase regarding Global warming 100 % but this is not the case
      Peace, ecology, harmony to you !!

      • Beautiful. Even if: “its all about
        Riding the world of capitalism, and western imperialism”
        as you proclaim, would that be such a bad thing? Riding? Or ridding? We all love our philanthropic billionaire mining magnates. Maybe some do like being ridden?
        I love your logic too: “Truth and facts”. Yes it’s called Science. It appears Tim wrote the letter about Panic, not M.Clark. The coldest winters on record and unseasonal snowfalls are more likely evidence of this climate change hoax, not disproof. Thought about that?
        Meanwhile XR started about 1 year ago but the science demonstrating climate change is a major concern is closer to 50 years old. Unless XR are your time travelling alien lizard people who arrived on the chem trails for world domination?

      • FYI.
        Truth: noun – That which is true or in accordance with actual facts or reality; genuine; authentic; real; honesty; integrity; non-fiction; does not involve belief.
        Fact: Truth: noun – A thing that is known or proved to be true; reality; information used as evidence; something known by actual experience or observation, as in “scientists working with facts”; truth as opposed to interpretation.

  2. Dear Tim, so true, well said.
    I have variously been told to – get over it, it’s not real because of blah (insert spurious reasons here), stop being a panic merchant (??), you’ve been brainwashed. But my fav is “Man Up” – umm how and why? – what does that mean in this discussion when the world is in such good condition. Some of those people I now avoid. Their haranguing is becoming incessant.
    Take cover. You are really going fire up the trolls.

  3. Thanks barrow I wish fishing were that easy. Didn’t disappoint.
    Maybe it is PCCDHD (Post Climate Change Denial Hysteria Disorder) after all?
    & not ADD or IAOMS (Irrelevant Angry Old Man Syndrome) like we all suspected. But that just illustrates the problems with relying upon Dr Google for an explanation – difficult to diagnose even with all the symptoms. I should have consulted an expert for advice.

  4. The matter of panicking is certainly publicly framed, and we now have very public panicking. And woe betide any public figure who dares not to panic at the right time and the right intensity at the the particular object of panic of their critics.

    The Prime Minister is advised on climate change by the Chief Scientist who has commended to him and to us the CSIRO’s report on climate change and its impact on Australia. It provides a cogent readable explanation of why climate change is marked and probably caused by human production of greenhouse gases, and presents very real and serious risks to Australia and he world. It provides advice on the costly timely actions needed to reduce emissions, ameliorate the risks and deal with the consequences.

    Many people do feel a need to react publicly and emotionally to such a serious issue. Others do not and I would note the CSIRO report does not at any point recommend panicking.

    • Thanks Peter, what a relief, we should just asked you! Phew.
      The Chief Scientist also does not recommend doing nothing, nor continuing down this path. I don’t think ANY scientist has actually said “Start panicking”. They all say time to listen and act.

      Thousands of scientists have demonstrated the disasters unfolding in numerous and related fields are all linked to climate change and are worsening to the point of catastrophic collapse…. virtually every species on the planet negatively impacted, food production systems, reefs, insects, birds, water availability, fires, severe weather events, flooding, erosion, pick an environmental topic and it’s in trouble.

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