By Meghan Sullivan
Recently, it was 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit in Antarctica.
At a moment in our country’s political history when it seems there is no news that isn’t awfully alarming, it is the issuance of each news report reflecting evidence of climate change that evokes a deep dread in me as unprecedented as the peril in which our Earth now spins.
Our planet is encased now in an atmosphere that is made up of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. By contrast, the atmospheric conditions most conducive to bringing forth life on Earth is 275 ppm, and the outermost limit in which life can be sustained and survive is 350 ppm. (www.350.org).
It could be that it is too late to recover from the damage done by human participation in life on the planet, which is marked by our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels. We may be past the point of no return, and we may already have been there before November 8, 2016.
Nevertheless, it seems it was our zero hour as a nation during the last presidential election cycle to ensure the survival of our planet by supporting and electing only a candidate who made a platform priority policies to protect the planet, who pledged leadership in urging all of the world’s governments to participate in the mandatory effort to save the planet, and who recognized the validity – and foreboding – of climate science. Instead, there has been put into the office of the United States presidency a real estate magnate whose truculent antagonism to the science of climate change, whose refusal to take up the yoke of policy to reverse climate change, and whose vulgar cronyism with the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, seem to guarantee condemning this too fragile planet to the certainty of destruction.
Our planetary ship is sinking and there is a man from atop an opulent gold tower at this country’s helm who refuses to get on board with the observable surety of the climate catastrophe in progress. Worse, this naysayer-in-chief imperiously rejects the indisputable facts of climate change science as a hoax.
As I reckon with the Earth-quaking magnitude of fear for the planet these days, I also recall the dangerous bedfellow of systems of domination and exploitation of the Earth: that is, systems of marginalization and oppression of its peoples. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a man who has brazenly boasted of grabbing women’s bodies and doing “whatever I want” to them; a man who has demonized immigrants from Mexico as rapists and drug dealers; a man who has proposed measures to bar refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations, would also have no inclination to care for a planet whose resources have been recklessly commandeered, and would refuse protection of the Earth in favor of the profiteering of the fossil fuel industry.
As I sit with clients these days, I am ever aware of being together with them (and all other life forms), held in a precarious and inescapable planetary fate. As I tend with them to their suffering, their questions, their hopes and dreams, I fear that the ground beneath us is vanishing, the air we breathe is becoming increasingly toxic, and access to clean drinking water is in jeopardy. In this precarious environmental context, there is in office now a president who not only demonstrates reluctance to protect a dying planet (and instead clears the way for more dependence on fossil fuel), but who denies the truth that this planetary careen to permanent oblivion is happening. It is frightening to contemplate that the most fundamental requirement to do any of this work with clients – or anything at all for that matter – is endangered: that is, the only home we have in this grand universe.
As I work with clients, I also maintain a hopefulness that, like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in one place on Earth which effects faraway places, the work that I do with clients might reach beyond us to also impact the planet in a positive way. As I join with clients in processing their pain, an approach that includes a social justice focus can help to uncover roots of that pain in the human-made toxic environmental systems of racism, misogyny, homophobia, ablism, classism, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and others. I deeply hope to participate in the work of healing within my clients the corrosive effects of these systemic environmental disasters, and in doing so, that the Earth may be touched in a way that offsets its pain and forestalls its demise.
In this way, I hope to participate in therapy – the word that has its roots in the Greek therapeia. In ancient Greece, it is said that the therapeia were the healing attendants to the powers that created, sustained, sponsored, and protected life on Earth (for the ancient Greeks, these powers were understood as the gods and goddesses). It seems that the time has never been more urgently burning for healing attendants to Life.