How to deal with anxiety and grief in an uncertain future
The world has never been in such a dire ecological state as it is today. Scientists have called our time, the Anthropocene, as the 6th Mass-extinction event since the beginning of life. Species are going extinct at unprecedented rates due to human-caused activities. On top of the species die -off we have been facing climate change catastrophes. Australia has lost over a billion animals in the bushfires from 2019. Water has become a scarce resource and many people have lost their homes due to flooding and droughts. The environmental imbalance and the ever growing encroachment of humans into wild spaces has made new headlines with the COVID-19 outbreak; a pandemic that brought the world to a stand-still leaving many people in fear of contracting this respiratory disease and many families in financial turmoil. With catastrophic news chasing the next, it is little surprising that many people suffer from severe depression, anxiety and eco-grief.
“The grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystem stemming by natural and man-made events” (KrissKevorkian), or “the grief felt in relation to experienced oranticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change.” (Cunsolo & Ellis).
Eco-grief has become and more and more recognized psychological issue, especially for people who work in environmental protection, conservation, climate research, and many first responders and rescue teams who witness bushfires, flooding and pandemic outbreaks. It is natural to be overthrown by a sense of hopelessness and apathy when faced with environmental degradation but it is crucial to be able to keep up the fight for the environment. Dr Sandi James and Dr Miriam Kunde have partnered up to develop a study investigating eco-grief in countries where the environmental destruction is visible, such in Bornean Malaysia where many people witness the forest conversion into oil palm concessions or in Vietnam where locals have witnessed the “empty forest syndrome” (the forests exist but poaching has eradicated almost all wildlife). In contrast, we are interested in eco-grief in the Western world, where many have already lost the direct connection to wildlife but are concerned about climate change developments and the potential future for their children. Last we are interested in studying eco-grief and the effect on productivity and magnitude in professions that are dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and the climate. We aim to gain a better understanding how eco-grief is impacting these target groups in order to develop a therapy and treatment plan for sufferers of eco-grief.
Who we are
The eco-grief research and initiative is founded by :
Sandi James is a registered psychologist from Australia. She worked at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) until 2017 when she returned to full-time research and clinical practice in addiction treatment in Thailand. Sandi continues to be involved in a number of research projects looking at alcohol harm minimization in Sabah with her graduate research exploring traditional alcohol in Sabah. She is planning to return to Sabah to take up a new academic posting at UMS in 2020 and to work with the development of a world class psychiatric inpatient unit in Hospital UMS, a new teaching hospital currently under construction. Sandi has presented research and case studies at numerous international conferences with many more planned for the future.
Dr Miriam Kunde is a conservation scientist who has first-hand experience with eco-grief after working in species conservation for over 10 years in several different countries and continents. She is well connected to communities and conservation scientists in first, second and third world countries. In her last position, Dr Kunde was the Scientific field officer and carnivore conservation officer for the DanauGirang Field Centre in Borneo, a research centre dedicated to research projects for species conservation. She has experience in a variety of research disciplines (e.g. phylogeography, genetics, forensics, reintroduction biology, spatial ecology, restoration ecology, zoology, environmental psychology, ethology, anthropology). She is currently expanding her research expertise into conservation marketing (and behaviour change) and holds a Master Degree in Wildlife Documentary productions. Dr Kunde is interested in studying eco-grief as well as developing a therapy plan with Dr James. Once this is achieved, Dr Kunde and Dr James would like to provide eco-grief counselling to all different target groups and sufferers and to invite the discussion about eco-grief and how to handle it through publicising it in scientific journals as well as broadcast media.