Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Crying Scientists

This article talks about the need to let scientists cry when they witness horrible things. It also calls for providing psychological support.

That's a nice thought, but I don't think it's going to solve the problem. No amount of counseling can make a sensitive, intelligent person okay about the destruction of the biosphere, any more than it can make someone okay about being punched by an abusive spouse every day. You might manage to buffer the damage a bit, but nothing will stop it while the abuse continues. And right now, environmental science is a field that beats your soul with a baseball bat.

Obviously, the best solution would be to stop destroying the biosphere. People in charge don't want to do that, so it's not going to happen.

The next-best solution, I borrow from police work. Rotate people out of the most traumatic departments periodically, so nobody gets stuck in the worst situations without relief. If someone's studying coral bleaching, switch them to studying coral gardens or a sea sanctuary that is still in somewhat decent shape. Let them take a turn doing public outreach to raise funds or teach people about the biosphere. Doing something constructive can relieve the sense of helplessness that is a major cause of traumatic stress.

On a more personal level, the same problem happens to activists. So if you get frantic or depressed about how fucked up the world is, take a break. Go look at pictures of kittens or whatever makes you smile. Post links to recipes or songs. Make silly memes. I put leavening in my feed precisely because I often post things that are appalling, and I don't want my blog to be a wall of doom.

When you feel better, try to include lists of concrete things people can do about a problem when you are posting how fucked up things are. Even if individuals cannot solve big problems created by governments and megacorps, it is still possible to take action that disavows the misbehavior and sets one's moral stance against it.

EDIT 10/16/19: [personal profile] ioplokon  highly recommends the book Trauma Stewardship, and reading news in a different language than the one you use every day (because shifting languages tends to reduce emotional impact).

Tags: environment, nature, news, safety, science
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