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Playlist: Science

Compiled By: Kristen Sevier

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Climate One (Series)

Produced by Climate One

Most recent piece in this series:

2021-10-15 Zen and Coping with Climate

From Climate One | Part of the Climate One series | 58:56

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Host: Greg Dalton


Guests:

Sister True Dedication, Zen Buddhist nun, editor of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Zen and the Art of Saving The Planet 

Leslie Davenport, author, Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change; All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal With Climate Change


More and more of us are seriously worrying about what we’ve done to the earth’s climate. But while climate predictions can be scary, Sister True Dedication says we don’t have to live in a place of fear or denial. 


“We all need a real practice to be able to not be afraid of our fear and not be afraid of our despair and anxiety and to learn some really concrete practices to be able to acknowledge it, and recognize it and embrace it every time it comes up,” she says.


In fact, the Zen Buddhist nun says accepting and even leaning into these difficult feelings can make us stronger and more ready to act.


Sister True Dedication is editor of internationally renowned zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s latest book, Zen and the Art of Saving The Planet. She says while the climate crisis is urgent, living in a constantly reactive state is unhealthy and doesn’t help us take action. But there are approaches that can help: 


The power of zen and the power of mindfulness is that it roots this in the present moment so we can be alert to what is going on, we can be responsive, we can be the master of our mind and awareness in any given situation,” she says. “So, we can really have the present moment as the ground for our urgent action and that is action taken with clarity, with courage, with solidity, with freedom, and not with panic.”


She offers simple guidance for someone interested in beginning a mindfulness practice: take some time for yourself, outside in nature if possible, and relax your body with mindful breathing. 


“And then just take time to listen,” Sister True Dedication says. “Say we’re out and sitting underneath a tree, just to listen to the birds and if we’re listening to the birds, we know we’re in the present moment. We know we’re alive, we know we are in touch with the miracle of life.”


Psychotherapist Leslie Davenport is author of several books, including Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change. Her new book, All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal With Climate Change, is targeted at middle-school kids and guides them through exercises designed to build their emotional resilience. 


Davenport says many kids struggle with climate anxiety and grief, particularly as they get into high school and early college. 


“It's the time in life when you look to the future. Do I want to get married, what kind of relationship would I want, what's my career path, what do I dream and envision my life might look like? And that’s where the youth today are really feeling the climate anxiety and the climate grief because they are tuned in to the scientific projections about what could unfurl, especially without significant and immediate action,” she says.


Davenport says there’s a tremendous need to support our youth, not only in the 16 to 24 age range but also younger children her book is targeted at, to help them develop emotional resilience tools to be prepared for those feelings they’ll encounter as they grow. 


Davenport suggests parents and caregivers first take care of their own emotions, so they can model strength and resilience for their children. And then when supporting children:


“Make room for and welcome the feelings. Validate that the feelings are there because you care, because you're paying attention, because it is distressing what's happening to the environment and people and our biosphere as a whole.”


Related Links:


Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet


All The Feelings Under the Sun