“Planet of the Humans” and a Call for Emotional Intelligence by Laura Schmidt

Note: This is an except. You can read the entire article here.


Planet of the Humans has triggered a vast polarization amongst those of us working towards a livable future. … The responses I’m witnessing in the public spheres seem to stem from a place of emotional reactivity and the unprocessed grief is bubbling over. …

Despite its shortcomings, I see this Planet of the Humans as an invitation to look to the larger, systemic issues being presented. …

Our culture, including the dominant environmental movement, has promoted the idea that we shouldn’t explore these painful feelings, they take too much time and energy from the momentum needed to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The larger environmental movement is terrified that if we allow ourselves to plummet into the depths of hopelessness and despair there will not be enough optimism to propel us forward. Many of us feel that if we invite in our excruciating feelings, we will be stuck with them forever. This notion is not just wrong, it’s harmful. And it’s continuously perpetuated by our fast-paced, overly simplistic, and emotionally immature cultural norms. Through my research for my graduate degree and years of sitting with people in deep grief, I’ve come to see that any solutions, if they are to be meaningful, will come from those of us who have been courageous enough to take the time and energy to feel these scary and discomforting feelings. Through processing our griefs and facing reality, we open to new solutions that were previously unavailable to us. Additionally, if we do this processing in community, we open to the emergence of the moment and new perspectives that can only be birthed by a felt sense of urgency and an understanding of the severity of the predicament. …

There isn’t one solution that will fix this predicament. Joanna Macy teaches us that there are three types of actions: Holding Actions, Life-Sustaining Systems and Practices, and Shift in Consciousness. We need all three in these times. In fact, we must open to a whole range of solutions, many of which we haven’t begun to imagine due to our unwillingness to face the reality of the predicament. Arundhati Roy recently mentioned that it took millions of decisions to get us here, and we cannot undo the current predicament with one sweeping act. Instead, we begin unraveling the stitches from the millions of decisions made.

We cannot start unweaving until we courageously face the truth that this way of life is killing us. And if we keep pushing forth measures to prop up our lifestyles, we, too, will die. Sit with that realization. Be with the feelings that arise from reading those words. It’s a lot, I know. But it’s also true. We must face our mortality and the mortality of everything. Eventually, everything we know and love will die. Our lifestyles have been desperate attempts to ward off our deaths. We are ephemeral beings who have gotten lost in our quest for immortality. These truths don’t change in relation to our ability to stomach them. …

It’s on each of us to begin to heal from the inside out. You must tend to those feelings overwhelming you right now. You are responsible for feeling your full range of feelings, acknowledging your privilege, and taking seriously the situations in which you find yourself. You, and everyone else, is obliged to deconstruct your belief systems and come from a place of curiosity and nimbleness. You are not alone in doing this nor are you responsible for fixing everything yourself. Many of us are entering into collective spaces to heal these wounds and build courage for the road ahead. …

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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