Local View: In Duluth, we need to dig deeper to face the climate crisis

Only then can we figure out how to move forward and give ourselves the best chance and opportunity to build a more resilient and sustainable city.

Tone Lanzillo.jpeg
Tone Lanzillo

Several months ago, I watched the documentary, "Living in the Time of Dying." One of the people interviewed was Jem Bendell, who had written a paper about deep adaptation. In the paper, Bendell stated that the climate crisis is much worse than we think. Given the potential, if not probable, collapse of our global ecosystem, he proposed we need to be more public about what's happening and find ways to help each other live through this most challenging of times.

After listening to Bendell, I found a group called the Deep Adaptation Forum on the internet. The forum stated it is "connecting people, in all spheres of life, to foster mutual support and collaboration in the process of anticipating, observing and experiencing societal disruption and collapse." On its website, the group states that with the uncertainty of the climate crisis and disruption of the biosphere, we have to change how we live.

I contacted the Deep Adaptation Forum and was invited to one of its monthly Zoom gatherings. In April, I joined about 40 people from around the world to talk about what we're thinking and feeling about the future. Also, many of us shared our different attempts to create a sense of community with others for support and encouragement.

That Zoom meeting was four hours long. And while I usually get tired and distracted after the first hour of any Zoom meeting, this gathering kept my attention and interest every minute. I felt like I had met kindred spirits from places such as France, the UK, and southern Africa.

We live in a most challenging and difficult time. This climate-change world, which is already impacting millions of lives around the globe, has begun to trigger our anxiety, fear, depression, and even anger. Whether we want to admit or acknowledge it, we find ourselves struggling to make sense of it all. And there are many of us trying to deny the reality of what's taking place right in front of our eyes, either because it's too overwhelming to comprehend or just too emotionally upsetting.


After being with this group, I realize and appreciate the need and benefits of not only talking about this climate crisis but also addressing the depth of our emotions. It is simply too unhealthy and destructive to disregard or bury our emotions. When we attempt to disconnect from or deny our feelings, we develop a machine mentality, become hollow inside, and, very often, take our frustration and anger out on others.

As a community, whether it's at a global level or here in Duluth, we have to dig a little deeper โ€” not only into how we're reacting emotionally to the climate crisis but, just as importantly, into how we can embrace those emotions as we navigate our climate futures.

In Duluth, we need to dig a little deeper. We need to create spaces for people who want to explore their feelings about the climate emergency as well as find different approaches and tools to address climate anxiety. We need healthy and supportive groups for those of us who are feeling overwhelmed with the climate news from around the world.

In his book, "Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World," David Sherrell wrote, "to contend seriously with the Problem you'll first have to let it in. And when I say let it in, what I really mean is drag it toward you, press it down, sit with it past the point of discomfort and pain and despair until you can observe it without blinking, until its weight is just a thing about you."

Here in Duluth, we need to let it all sink in. We need to sit with the discomfort and despair of the latest climate news and observe it without blinking. We need to feel the weight of what's coming. Only then can we figure out how to move forward and give ourselves the best chance and opportunity to build a more resilient and sustainable city.

Tone Lanzillo is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth, is a live-in volunteer at the Dorothy Day House, is an active part of the Duluth/365 initiative on climate, and is a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.

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