Eco-grief support group in Conway to address climate anxiety

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-06-2023 2:48 PM

CONWAY — In an effort to help people process their anxiety over the environment and climate change, a Conway artist is forming an eco-grief support group.

Hannah Harvester’s weekly community support group is designed to help people process their thoughts and fears about climate change and how it may affect communities in the future.

“The first step toward going through these emotions is realizing you’re not alone in this,” Harvester said. “I think a lot of people don’t talk about it, and that’s certainly true for me. We’re feeling these feelings for good reasons, so let’s talk about them and take it from there.”

Beginning Jan. 9, Harvester is welcoming people into her art studio, located 46 Delabarre Ave., each Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. to provide a space for people to process these emotions and talk with one another.

“I think this is a real need,” Harvester said, “which is why I’m trying to offer a space to have community support to do this internal work that I think is necessary.”

Climate anxiety, or distress relating to the climate and ecological crises, is a rapidly growing feeling spreading across the globe as the effects of climate change become more evident in everyday life or show up on social media.

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In a study spanning 10 countries around the world, researchers have found 59% of children and people aged 16 to 25 years old are “very or extremely worried” about the climate and 84% were “at least moderately worried” about climate change, according to a December 2021 study published in the scientific journal The Lancet.

Harvester said her anxiety stems from the experiences future generations of children will have to endure, especially because there are already people around the world suffering from extreme wildfires, droughts and torrential flooding.

“(Children) are innocent and they don’t know what’s happening to the planet they live on and it’s very heartbreaking for me because they’re getting a really raw deal,” she said. “I think that’s where most of my sadness comes from.”

A method to address climate anxiety is to acknowledge loss “collectively and publicly” because “community is crucial for collective resilience, as we are seeing in the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to an August 2021 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry and the National Institutes of Health.

For Harvester, she found her therapist was unable to ease her feelings, but found there are several groups that have formed over the years dedicated to climate anxiety, such as the Good Grief Network and the Work That Reconnects Network.

“I wasn’t aware of the amount of work that’s recently gone into thinking about ways to work with these emotions, these really difficult emotions people have about climate change and ecological collapse,” Harvester said. “I discovered that there’s a lot out there and that people have thought about this.”

To start, Harvester said she doesn’t have a “rigid agenda” because she wants to allow people to come together and discuss their feelings before undertaking any specific exercises or activities.

Additionally, she plans to hold monthly workshops with trained facilitators, with the first one on Jan. 28 set to be led by Work That Reconnects Network facilitator Karina Lutz, as she encourages participants to move through their pain and take action.

All meetings and workshops are free and donations will be accepted. The first meeting will be held Jan. 9, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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