Eco-Grief at Colorado College

By: Olivia Dicks

Colorado College students struggle with the grave impacts of climate change affecting many aspects of their lives. 

Many students are “scared for our kids and our grandkids,” as climate impact increases,  said Avery Bakewell, a first-year CC student from Maine. 

Eco-grief is the term researchers are using to describe a feeling of loss due to climate change impacts. This is a modern concept and feeling for people because environmental consequences are much graver than they have been in the past. The effect varies for different people and communities. Eco-grief shows not only the effects climate warming has on the physical environment, but also students’ minds and emotions.  

One of the problems preventing the decrease in eco-grief is that people don’t think they individually can make a difference, said Bakewell. At CC, students feel a “very obvious concern” towards environmental problems, she said.

All this is related to what climate scientists refer to as the Anthropocene.

 The Anthropocene is the geological period in which activities and actions from humans began negatively affecting the environment, said Ashlee Cunsolo, director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, in her article about ecological grief. 

Climate change accelerated after the Industrial Revolution and has been progressing, she said. With the human population increasing and climate change getting worse, Cunsolo argues humans must begin to deal with this grief and learn “what it means to be human in the Anthropocene.” 

Dealing with eco-grief is a new and pressing matter as we experience more climate change impacts on the Earth and citizen’s everyday lives, said Neville Ellis, a Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia School of Agriculture and Environment. 

With eco-grief becoming a critical issue, it’s essential to look at how it affects people’s mental health. Eco-grief is much different than most types of grieving because this form doesn’t have an end, said Francois Lenoir, in her article about the impacts of climate change. Society has no rituals for dealing with eco-grief, and may, therefore, battle more with overcoming it because there has been no past solution, explained Lenoir. 

Eco-grief affects every community and person differently. This makes it hard to find a solution. Where you live and the experiences you’ve gone through in life determine how eco-grief affects every human, she said.

There has been very little conclusive research on eco-grief and how it can be prevented and helped. As of now, most CC students are very aware of climate change and how it is affecting our Earth, but they’re not experiencing a sense of grief yet, said first-year students Nick Bishop from Seattle. Living near the coast, Bishop knows sea levels are rising and is aware that it could ruin a lot of his hometown, but has not experienced any grieving because of this. 

Concern for the environment at CC is very prevalent, and a sense of eco-grief is beginning to manifest itself as students experience more loss due to climate change. 

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