Episode 31

Margaret Klein Salamon - Facing Climate Fears


July 7th, 2020

48 mins 30 secs

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About this Episode

Margaret Klein Salamon, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist turned climate warrior whose work helps people to face the deeply frightening and painful truths of the climate emergency and to transform their despair into effective action. She is the founder and executive director of The Climate Mobilization, which advocates an all-hands-on-deck, whole society mobilization to protect humanity and the living world from climate catastrophe. Her book, Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, is a radical self-help guide for the climate emergency.

I heard about Margaret through Humanity Rising and reached out for an interview when I heard her talk about the emotional disconnect we humans have in facing the climate crisis. I became deeply curious about the root cause of this and wanted to dive more deeply into revealing the answers.

When I read her book, I was struck by one of the first paragraphs:

“Inside all of us, a battle rages. It’s the battle between knowing and not knowing, between fully facing the truth — emotionally, as well as intellectually — and shrinking from it. We sense we’re in a climate emergency and mass extinction event, but we have a deep-seated psychological instinct to defend against that knowledge. The pain is shouting at us: “Everything is dying!” Somewhere inside, we know that humanity and the natural world are in peril. Indeed, we feel the horrors of civilizational collapse and the sixth mass extinction of species, in our bodies. Our minds attempt to shield us from this pain — we avoid, distract, deny, and numb ourselves. But these defenses work only temporarily: When we fail to process our emotions and mourn our losses, the pain takes on tremendous power. It follows us around like a shadow, and we become increasingly desperate to avoid what we know.”

I often talk about our social training ground and our society’s obsession with avoiding our emotions. I’m struck by the parallels between our stunted ability to process our suppressed emotion and our inability to truly feel what’s happening to our planet.

But I love Margaret’s attitude in this excerpt:

“We — humanity — are putting together a team of heroes to cancel the apocalypse, to protect ourselves and the natural world from catastrophic collapse. You might not realize it, but you are on the roster. Your jersey is sitting in your locker. We need to figure out your position and get you into (emotional) shape. The first step is to show up to practice. We are waiting for you.”

In Facing The Climate Crisis, Margaret also surfaces the teachings of Fromm, who postulated that the only reason people would not rise against the possibility of worldwide nuclear destruction was that they were already experiencing devastating destruction, internally. This validates my deeper knowing around our own unconscious self-loathing - the idea that it is unconscious makes me even more motivated to help us realize that the very symptoms we think are normal are actually not, and are, in fact, unhealthy and very destructive.

There are so many symptoms of self-loathing. The very idea that any of us would not feel a measure of panic and deep grief at the reality we are facing is in itself a testament to how disconnected from our true nature we are. It also shows a deep disconnect from love and respect for ourselves and for others.

Margaret shares the bottom line:

“To solve the climate and ecological emergency, we must transform our destructive economy into a regenerative one, and we must do it at emergency speed. We don’t just need zero emissions in every sector; we need huge carbon drawdown projects that restore ecosystems and the soil. We need permaculture and food localization; we need an end to mass consumerism and endless growth; we need to give back half the Earth to nature to restore biodiversity, and we need to create a society based on protecting and healing humanity and the natural world. This means transforming not only our energy, agricultural, transportation, and industrial systems — it means transforming ourselves”

I would add that the path to transforming ourselves is the path inward to loving ourselves.

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