Pictured: Slide reading "Regen 101: Regenerative cultures. Slide access at https://tinyurl.com/regen101aic. Extinction Rebellion."; sign language interpreter Hanna; workshop leader Kavya Gopal.
Regen 101: The Revolution is Healthy, Resilient and Adaptable was led by Kavya Gopal and Christie Wilson, who both support the Regenerative Cultures work within Extinction Rebellion (XR). During the two-hour workshop, Kavya and Christie spoke about the need to understand our relationship with the Earth, referred to as our ecological identity. This understanding enables us to recognise difficult or complex emotions brought about by the climate crisis, also known as Earth emotions. They also shared the ways in which XR as a movement tries to develop and promote Regenerative Cultures, which are cultures based on care and support for all in order to build healthy, resilient movements.
Christie and Kavya first shared their background as activists. Christie, now a professional psychotherapist working on improving the wellbeing of frontline climate activists, grew up around nature in Australia. Her first encounter with Earth emotions was when she saw the nature around her being destroyed for the construction of buildings. While her friends reacted with anger and grief, she recalled feeling optimistic that if the land was left undisturbed by human activity, nature would find a way to return to the space. Kavya, on the other hand, grew up among city life in Singapore and thought she had no real connection to nature. It was only when she returned to Delhi that Kavya found her ecological identity. She had seen a river—at first beautiful, pristine and clear at its source—turn black, bubbling and foul-smelling further downstream and felt Earth emotions, although she could not name it at the time.
Kavya went on to show how powerful Earth emotions can be by sharing a photograph known as “Earthrise”. It is a photograph of the Earth that was taken during the Apollo 8 mission and has been described as the “most influential environmental photograph”. It has inspired generations of scientists, artists, activists and more to protect our fragile planet and all of its beauty. To bring awareness to our relationship with nature and our Earth emotions, Kavya then led attendees through a guided meditation, in which she invited them to become more aware of their connection with the Earth and its elements: air, water and land. She also spoke about how, contrary to how many see humanity’s relationship with nature as one of dominance and control, we are not separate from nature but a part of nature itself. This interdependence creates connections.
Following the meditation, Christie elaborated more about specific types of Earth emotions, namely: eco anxiety, ecological grief, eco-paralysis, global dread, nature deficit order, solastolgia, terrafurie, eutierria and soliphilia. These Earth emotions were coined by an Australian professor, Glenn Albrecht, and an increasing number of people feel these emotions in our age of ecological crises. However, not all Earth emotions suggest overwhelming anxiety, grief or anger: for instance, Christie explained that “soliphilia” refers to feelings of overcoming disempowerment and alienation to find wholeness and unity with others. Soliphilia comes from the French solidaire (interdependent), the Latin solidus (whole) and the Greek philia (love of fellow citizens and neighbours).
Christie then spoke about how action is often the best outlet for our Earth emotions. Action not only enables us to feel a sense of solidarity alongside like-minded activists, it also creates room for us to express our grief after. To facilitate this, Christie shared that XR has the practice of forming grief circles, where participants gather to share their worries and anxieties in a safe space.
The creation of safe spaces for reconnection and release is part of XR’s broader work in Regenerative Cultures. Regenerative Cultures, as explained by both speakers, are cultures of respect and listening, in which people deal with conflicts when they arise and talk about disagreements and issues without blaming or shaming. These are cultures that also respect a person’s ability to commit time and energy to tasks, and normalise asking for help. By doing so, Regenerative Cultures are healthy, resilient cultures built on care and support, where people are in control of their commitments. In addition, Kavya touched on the multiple layers of Regenerative Cultures: self care, people care, community care and Earth care. These layers intersect with and strengthen one another: when we tend to ourselves through self care, we indirectly tend to the people around us, our communities and the Earth because we are then able to offer the best version of ourselves to our causes. These intersectional relationships mean that self care is inherently a political act.
Following the presentation was a Q&A session, from which three points were highlighted.
Firstly, we must be aware that Regenerative Cultures are still a work in progress and an ongoing commitment. There remains a lot of learning and unlearning to be done in order to let go of toxic or disempowering narratives that we have been conditioned to accept. For instance, we still have much to learn from native cultures and our biosphere in terms of how we can achieve harmonious living. This awareness is at the heart of Regenerative Cultures as they are about creating safe spaces for people to make honest mistakes and to approach these mistakes with goodwill and empathy.
Second, for Regenerative Cultures to truly take root, we must normalise these cultures in our daily lives. These cultures must go beyond the responsibilities or actions of any particular working group. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that Regenerative Cultures are not just about one-to-one counselling. They are made up of a range of processes and possibilities that can be shared by individuals, communities and societies.
Finally, being able to carry out both self care while fulfilling obligations to our fellow activists requires us to build good relationships with and a deep understanding of one another. This allows us to anticipate and stop burn out before it occurs. When we deeply understand someone, we can instinctively sense what the other person needs. Good relationships also help to foster open and honest conversations about our ability to fulfil our responsibilities to the movement. As our ability to commit time and energy changes, it is important to review the organisation or movement’s priorities, and redistribute responsibilities in turn. Activism is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We have to think long term and ensure that our goals are sustainable. To even begin to do so, we have to unlearn the narrative that self care or self-love is selfish. The kindness we show ourselves is the starting point for a healthy and resilient movement.
There is also a full glossary prepared previously for the module.
Alienation: The process where one feels alone and not heard around other people.
Biosphere: Everything that makes up our planet earth and supports life, including land, air and water.
Disempowerment: When one no longer feels in power or in control of their situation.
Eco anxiety: anxiety about ecological disasters and environmental threats like pollution and climate change.
Ecological grief: grief felt due to experiences of current or future ecological crises, including loss of species, ecosystems and landscapes due to environmental change.
Eco-paralysis: the feeling you can't do anything about the climate crisis. This appears to others as apathy (no interest), complacency (self-satisfaction despite major issues), or disengagement (lack of emotion).
Ecological Identity: How we see ourselves in terms of our relationship to the earth and with each other.
Eutierria: a positive feeling of unity with the earth and its life forces where the boundaries between self and the rest of nature are gone, and a deep sense of peace and connectedness enters our consciousness.
Global dread: the feeling of dread about the ecological state of the whole world.
Interdependence: A state where two or more things depend on each other to survive.
Intersectional: The state of how different parts of our relationship with nature are combined.
Normalize: Make something part of our normal lives.
Narrative: the story that is being told
Psychotherapist: Someone trained to treat people with emotional and mental issues.
Nature deficit order: the idea that humans, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioural problems
Solastolgia: pain or sickness caused by the inability to find peace from the present state of one’s home environment.
Soliphilia: the love of the entirety of our place relationships, and open to accepting the political responsibility for protecting and conserving them at all scales.
Solidarity: People showing support for another community’s interests, feelings and goals.
Terrafurie: the extreme anger within those who can clearly see the self-destructive trends in current forms of industrial-technological society, but feel unable to change the direction of such ecological suicide.
Wholeness: The state of being in harmony with oneself and others.