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Climate Mourning and Collective Action

Authors: Lindsey Dillon*, University of California - Santa Cruz
Topics: Political Geography, Environment
Keywords: climate change, grief, collective action, political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper relationships between climate mourning (or ecological grief) and collective action. Drawing on work by Cunsolo (2018) and Elliott (2018), and from the history of AIDS activism (particularly the work of ACT UP), I consider the potential of emotional responses to climate change as part of a basis for social movement building. Both the CDC and American Psychological Association recently released reports on the relationship between mental health and climate change. Environmental institutes like the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve hosts a “Climate Anxiety Support Group” while the nation-wide “Good Grief” network which brings lessons from Alcoholic Anonymous to “help people work through their grief on climate change.” As the work of AIDS activist group ACT UP demonstrated, shared emotions around grief and loss can create collective identities, and can be mobilized strategically toward common causes and social transformation (Crimp 1989). Psychologists write that through rituals of mourning, people attempt to rebuild a new self in the wake of loss. What if collective practices of mourning were harnessed to transformative social-ecological goals? For those of us engaged in research, teaching, and activism around human-environment relations, grief may be important to acknowledge in our students and ourselves. In this panel discussion, I consider whether and how the work of climate grief or mourning can include rituals that build community and connections, and can lead to social movements and political change.



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