The 12 Steps for Climate Grief: Steps 10-12

What follows are the 12 steps I created for ClimateGriefGroup.org. I adapted these from the 10 steps used by the Good Grief Network.


Step 10: Show Up

The willingness to show up changes us.

— Brene Brown

Showing up is the step before reinvesting in meaningful work. You may not feel ready to plunge back into activity, but you can still show up to support others who are active with your presence. You can show up even when you don’t agree completely with the goals or methods of those you are supporting. The point is to reconnect with your community, to both give and receive the emotional support which we all need.


Step 11: Reinvest in Meaningful Work

“It’s just as important to fight smaller, more local battles that you have some realistic hope of winning. Keep doing the right thing for the planet, yes, but also keep trying to save what you love specifically—a community, an institution, a wild place, a species that’s in trouble—and take heart in your small successes.”

— Jonathan Franzen

What work should we reinvest in? Every person will have to work out for themselves what that looks like. 

Eric Demore, author of “A Palliative Approach to the End of the World”, recommends focusing on the short-term, the local, the concrete; for him, that means “comforting my immediate world, my school, my street, the ravine behind my house.” Paul Kingsnorth, author of Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, offers these suggestions:

1. Preserve Other-Than-Human Life.

“Maybe you can buy up some land and re-wild it; maybe you can let your garden run free; maybe you can work for a conservation group or set one up yourself; maybe you can put your body in the way of a bulldozer; maybe you can use your skills to prevent the destruction of yet another wild place.”

2. Get Your Hands Dirty.

“Root yourself in something: some practical work, some place, some way of doing. Pick up your scythe or your equivalent and get out there and do physical work in clean air surrounded by things you cannot control. Get away from your laptop and throw away your smartphone, if you have one. Ground yourself in things and places, learn or practise human-scale convivial skills.”

3. Insist that nature has value beyond utility … and tell everyone.

“Speaking the language of the dominant culture, the culture of human empire that measures everything it sees and demands a return, is not a clever trick but a clever trap. Omit that sense of the sacred in nature—play it down, diminish it, laugh nervously when it is mentioned—and you are lost, and so is the world that moved you to save it for reasons you are never quite able to explain.”

4. Build refuges.

“The ongoing collapse of social and economic infrastructures, and of the web of life itself, will kill off much of what we value. In this context, ask yourself: what power do you have to preserve what is of value–creatures, skills, things, places? Can you work, with others or alone, to create places or networks that act as refuges from the unfolding storm?”


Step 12: Do All This in Community With Others

We have been socialized by our hyper-individualist culture to think about solutions primarily in terms of individual action. But by acting as individuals, we simply reproduce the status quo. The most radical thing we can do is to act in community with others. Any action that broadens or deepens our experience of community is a form of resistance.

Our capitalist culture increasingly alienates us from each other, selling us forms of pseudo-connection like social media in lieu of real community. We need to build real life communities, communities of flesh and blood. We need to connect communities across cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and political boundaries. 

We must resist to fear at every opportunity and cultivate trust. Competition and fear help maintain the status quo. Their opposites are connection and joy. People who trust each other are more likely to cooperate with each other, to create alternatives to the destructive systems which constitute the status quo, and to withstand the shock of environmental change and economic collapse.

Building community doesn’t happen overnight, though. It takes years. We can start by resisting the impulse to act individually and seek out others with whom we can act together in community.

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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