Firstly, we want to begin this blog post by sending a message of solidarity to all those in the cyclone impacted areas across the North and Central regions of Western Australia.
We know there are many people still in the middle of working out where they will live, how to move forward without electricity and basic infrastructure, how to hold communities that are now unrecognisable and how to support those who were already vulnerable. The rebuilding of communities isn’t just about place and space - it is about people. CJU is in solidarity with those affected and commits the power of our members and networks to support these communities however we can. If you aren’t sure of how to do this, you will find some practical ways you can help at the end of this post
This last year has seemed like a rollercoaster of extreme events and for many of us the connections with climate change and climate justice are obvious. We’ve seen (and are still seeing) a pandemic, floods, drought, fires, smoke haze and now a cyclone. Even if you haven’t been directly involved in an extreme event, you may still find yourself impacted in very real ways.
For now, we just wanted to say CJU sees this and we recognise it can be difficult. This post is intended to bring visibility to what many of us may be experiencing right now.
It’s a long post - we hope you take the time to read and reflect on it’s content. In the coming months we will share more resources to support us during these times, but for now we hope this is useful.
Both the impact of these events and the release of reports, studies and news stories can affect our social and emotional mental wellbeing in a number of ways. We know that the road ahead will challenge us in many ways and that our emotional health might need some attention.
You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed. It's ok not to read up about each and every update. It's ok to dive in and then step back. Whatever you feel, anger, determination, sadness, loss, passion - It’s ok.
We might notice some, or any of the following reactions in ourselves and our fellow Climate Justice activists:
- anger and resentment towards people who don’t acknowledge climate justice, or don’t seem to be taking action
- anxiety, or panic
- guilt or shame about “not doing enough” or having limitations to the energy we can commit to taking action
- grief and sadness
- numb and detached
- overwhelmed about the reality of now and what lies ahead
- resentment at past generations or parts of our society for not making more progress
- constant and intrusive thoughts about the climate, social justice and the future
- repeated questioning of yours and others actions "What if I had done x, y or z, instead?"
- that other climate justice activists not doing enough or taking a hard enough line of action
- inability to focus
- inability to plan ahead
- intrusive memories or dreams related to the events
- difficulty in connecting with others
- 'replaying' the event and inventing different outcomes in order to be prepared should it happen again
- sleep disturbances
So in knowing this, what can we do?
Engage with our reality:
There is immense power in recognising your own personal reality, in acknowledging the feelings and fears that come from being engaged in what is happening. Giving space for these to be felt with help you process information and continue to take actions without being overcome by extreme emotional responses. Being real and bringing our whole selves to our activism also serves to reduce the barriers for other activists and peers to share their challenges and builds a sense of safety, solidarity and support.
Taking action personally and collectively is in itself a significant coping strategy. Taking action gives us multiple results. We are actively helping to restore a safe climate, creating a caring community, and being a part of the solution helps us manage our distressing feelings. Action is often the best antidote to feelings of despair and helplessness.
Call on the collective:
Working with others who are also taking action can increase your sense of connection and reduce the feeling of burden and overwhelm that may come when faced with the sheer scope of the challenges ahead. Being around others who have optimism and hope can help you hold that hope when you find it too heavy to hold alone.
Micro-wins can seem insignificant when stacked against the task ahead. But what if we all started sharing and celebrating the small wins? Having a conversation that changed the heart, mind or action of a single person may not seem like that much, but collectively we are all experiencing small changes in the communities we live, work and play in. Amplifying these positives can help keep us motivated during the times when it seems like we aren’t making progress.
Allow yourself (and other activists) to have options for different types of action you can take depending on your current capacity and life circumstances. There will be times when you can go to every protest and every meeting, and other times when you only have the time, energy and spoons to amplify events and voices via social media. Maybe you usually speak to every single person you know about the need to take action, but you have a big uni assignment, or your child is unwell, so you need to save your energy just to get through the next week. Your mental health might need attention so you might disengage with taking action so you can give yourself the time and space you need. Your financial situation may change so you can’t donate, your available time might change so you only give financially for a while. ALL ACTION IS VALUABLE ACTION.
Switch off/Switch on:
Be mindful about how, where and when you are consuming media and reports. If you are intending to delve into something heavy, plan for connection or debrief afterward. If you are swamped by casually coming across stories and media, plan for some down time that sees you totally switch off from the media (even if only for an hour). If you are finding heavy emotional responses to content don’t read it before you go to bed or when you first wake up. Having a deliberate plan about how you consume information can make it seem less out of control.
Share the feels:
Find casual and structured support places where you can connect and share. This may be in your own personal relationships, on the CJU members Facebook page, at a CJU Wellbeing Session or through a professional setting.
For a list of more formal mental health and well being supports click on this link.
What can I do to support those affected by current climate events?
The Lord Mayor’s appeal fund is set up specifically to provide financial support for those impacted by Tropical Cyclone Seroja and you can donate through this site.
Perhaps you want to learn more about how we can increase our ability to prepare for extreme events. This website has a host of materials and resources. Or maybe you are wanting to look into training as a local emergency services volunteer, it’s clear we are going to need more trained volunteers in the years to come. You can find out more about that here.
If you are aware of practical ways members of the Climate Justice Union can support recovery efforts for the Perth Fires or Cyclone Seroja (or other events) please get in touch with us and we can share through our networks.
If you have any questions, ideas or contributions for how we can better support the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of members, contact Bella firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat.