Jennifer Atkinson interviewed on The 4 Stages of Climate Grief


IAS faculty member Jennifer Atkinson was interviewed in an Outside Magazine story on The 4 Stages of Climate Grief. Written by Heather Hansman, author of Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West, the essay profiled personal struggles with climate grief and eco-anxiety. Atkinson's contribution highlighted practical strategies for coping with distress that arises from assaults on places we are personally connected to. Hansman contacted Atkinson after learning of her work helping students build emotional strategies to cope with climate grief and environmental loss.

Hansman shared her deep connection to Escalante Canyons, Utah, which is being destabilized by climate change, aridification, drilling and mining. As she wrote in the article, "There’s no clear-cut way to grieve for a place. It’s a specific kind of heartache, because it’s grief in anticipation, grief without end. How do you know when a place is really gone? What could you have done? What can you do?" She notes that Iceland has recently held funerals for glaciers lost to climate change, while landscapes and communities ravaged by mega-fires can become completely unrecognizable. "Racing the edge of a storm might be too obvious of a metaphor," she writes, "but it feels about right."

Hansman self-identifies as "someone who is already anxious enough without the rapidly approaching end of the world as we know it." While she takes anxiety medications to ease responses to everyday stressors, she admits to being at a loss for coping with the existential threats of our climate crisis. "I’m not sure how to deal with that panic," she writes. "This dread is based in something very real—we have lost three billion birds in North America, landscape protection has been stripped from an area as big as California and Washington State combined—and there’s so little I can do about it." Atkinson, along with Laura Schmidt, a former environmental organizer who founded the Good Grief Network, both provided Hansman and readers of Outside magazine some practical tips for working through overwhelming climate loss. 

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