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Poor Will’s Almanack: December 8 - 14, 2021

Sandhill Cranes in flight against the setting sun near Wood River, Nebraska
Diana Robinson
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the first full week of Early Winter, the second week of the Sandhill Crane Migration Moon, the third week of the Sun in Sagittarius. 

I have recently finished reading a book by Lucy Jones called "Losing Eden." It is a compelling overview of the psychological effects of climate change and mass extinctions of species on the human spirit.

Like so many of the studies and projections about the future of the planet, "Losing Eden" is a litany of what humans have done to the planet and of what we still might do to turn around the on-going devastation and seemingly inevitable catastrophe.

One of the mental effects that Jones discusses and that I have noticed in myself is what is being called "ecological grief," a sadness at the changes in nature I am seeing around me. The feeling grew stronger throughout the summer as I saw a dramatic drop in the number and types of butterflies in my yard and garden.

I reviewed the five stages of grief to see what I might be experiencing.

The first stage: Denial. I had done that, but the events of the summer and fall put an end to it. The second step: Anger: I felt too helpless to be angry. The third step: Bargaining. With whom? The fourth step: Depression: well, yes. The fifth step: Acceptance and adaptation: well, that is the challenge.

Lucy Jones provides a litany of things one can do to fight ecological armageddon, everything from not flying on airplanes to not buying food wrapped in plastic.

But it all seems impossibly too much. In matters of ecological grief, numbness, hopelessness, and passivity are more likely to be the end steps which lead back to denial and indifference.

They are the most dangerous steps of all.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Early Winter. In the meantime, maybe the first step beyond all this is to figure it out. Are you in denial...or maybe you haven't really thought about it?

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.