Here’s why climate change fear can feel like grief

Wawa Gatheru has a message for young climate change activists like herself: It’s okay to feel sad.

Gatheru, who recently made history as the first-ever Rhodes Scholar to come out of the University of Connecticut, is a force to be reckoned with. The daughter of two Kenyan immigrants, Gatheru blends her passion for environmentalism with her dedication to racial equality. Both causes can be draining and demoralizing. Sometimes, during the worst moments, it feels like there’s no solution in sight.

Gatheru’s goal is to “build community resilience through telling people it’s okay to be fearful,” she told In The Know at the 2020 MAKERS Conference. “It’s okay to experience grief as a psychological response to the loss that is associated with environmental degradation. The cultural loss we have from seeing our ancestral lands being surrendered to the sea.”

“When you think of who is impacted most, who’s impacted first and worst by [climate change], it’s communities of color,” she said.

To that end, she said, it’s only natural to at times become overwhelmed by the gravity of these issues. There’s so much work to be done, and so little time.

“The advice I’d want to give to young women is something I’ve had to internalize myself,” Gatheru said. “It’s the fact that my emotions and my emotional responses to injustice are not a bad thing.”

For more with Gatheru, watch the video above.

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