Dear Earth, thank you for denialOn 11th September 2019 by Satya
When I think about the dying earth right now, I don’t feel a thing. Swathes of denial are shifting around me, like layered suits of armour.
This denial gets a bad name. We think that we’d be better off without it, and others too. Surely if everyone had their denial pulled away from them, people would start waking up to this emergency and do something?
In my early days of becoming vegan, I shouted from the rooftops. I shoved gory photos under people’s noses. I gradually learnt that these things just didn’t work. They didn’t work because, when you push at denial, it digs its feet in like an obstinate mule.
I love Aesop’s fable about the Sun and the North Wind, who both boasted that they were more powerful than the other. As they were quarrelling a traveller walked past, wearing a cloak. The Sun suggested that whoever was stronger would be able to strip him of his cloak. The North Wind blew -fiercely ripping at the cloak. As the wind whipped around him, the traveller pulled his cloak more and more firmly around him. The blustery North Wind tired himself out and admitted defeat.
Then it was the Sun’s turn. He gently shone, warming the traveller as he walked. The traveller rested by the side of the road and peeled off his cloak.
Those of us who’ve woken up to the calamity of your suffering, dear Earth, can be tempted to yank at other people’s denial. We might try to shame them or blame them, or use shock tactics. We might look at climate deniers with disdain or even disgust.
Our denial is always present for a good reason – to protect our system from collapse. Just like the other parts of us that get a bad name (and that cause chaos for us and for others) – addictions, greed, even violence – they have good intentions. These parts are trying to keep us from being flooded with shame, fear, fury or grief – so much intense feeling that our system fears we wouldn’t survive it.
I do think that there’s a place for shock tactics, or for showing others the depth of my emotion. I can knock loudly on the walls of denial. I also think that I need to be careful when I become the North Wind, blowing harder and harder as my colleague presses their hands even more firmly over their ears. Their denial is keeping them safe, and it’s not my place to rip it away from them. Also, we are more like them than we’d care to admit. We are all in denial about something, and we are all in the same boat.
What I can do is listen to them – listen and then listen some more. I can empathise with their need for denial, or whatever else is protecting them. I can remember how it was for me before I ‘woke up’. I can remember that not everyone will be able to hear the truth just yet, and that’s okay.
I’m privileged to be a (reasonably!) stable person, with lots of therapy behind me, no major addictions, and no crippling depression or anxiety. I’m not preoccupied by how I’m going to feed my children or find my next fix. I live in a wealthy country and I am well supported by my community and my faith.
If you are privileged in similar ways, then it’s up to us to hold the light. We can keep walking forwards, one step at a time, together – being as kind as we can to everyone we meet. Some of our fellow travellers need their cloaks right now. We’ll keep on shining.
Love, Satya <3