Why should we care??? Isn’t it “too hard” to try and inspire change in a world that is spiraling out of control and as familiar laws and regulations are falling by the wayside like road-kill? It is heartbreaking, devastating and breeds a rampant hopelessness that leads to apathy, blindness and hard-heartedness. How can we remedy that??

The bullhorn approach of blaming and shaming has been the main call to action of environmental groups for many years. It works – but it also creates a backlash of numbness and we go into a kind of shock. We can’t understand or comprehend the scale of what is happening to our climate, to our political systems, to our bodies, to our souls. We shut down.

I used to teach a class at Antioch Seattle called the Psychology of Climate Change. Click here to view an article published on Huffington Post about my class.

It was hard class to teach and I tried to support my students as best I could through balancing what they were learning with how they were feeling. I had them write blog posts and create a wisdom project that could sustain them through the quarter. Using their creativity to help process their learning and keep them from falling apart. They still fell apart. In all my years of teaching I never experienced as much emotion in a class as this one.

Teaching became for me a practice in how to best understand how to inspire people to engage in a way that has the most meaning for them.   Interacting with their learning, finding a good, true relationship with the information, became a way for me to help them build a foundation based on science and individual understanding.

The last day in class they would share their wisdom projects. Some were pieces of artwork, some poetry, and even one student made a smoothie for himself everyday and brought his blender to class and made smoothies for all of us. It was a good day. There was laughter and sharing and a sense that we had all been through something together and came out with information, understanding and respect for the best that we could do.

My book The Same River is my wisdom project. I dove into the science, the history and the value of my own experiences growing up on the North Umpqua River in central Oregon. I didn’t shy away from what was so tremendously hard – my grief at losing my sister. Writing The Same River helped me to develop a perspective where my personal story of loss became part of a universal story – or the “cry of the river.” The cry of the salmon, the Native American people as they were driven from their homes, the pain of greedy decisions by corporations and the relentless demands made on this one river.

This is the way we can engage and sustain our actions.   It is hard, but it can be beautiful. Not the shouting we are familiar with but a song, a painting or a story that inspires – it helps us breathe when our chests tighten from the latest news story or social media posts.

Inspire – breathe in – it’s the best we can do for each other and all that is wild.