On the last morning of February, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dropped another devastating report. Buried in the news amid war in Ukraine, the document details “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” and carries an ominous warning that climate change could soon outpace humanity’s ability to adapt.
Hours later, six climate activists sit silently in separate rooms while gathered over Zoom. Gabrielle Gelderman, the Edmonton-based leader of the Climate Grief Circle, begins a guided meditation. Participants breathe deeply. For a moment, there is peace.
As 12 eyelids slowly lift in front of laptop webcams, Gelderman opens the circle for discussion, declaring all emotions are welcome and matters in the call will be kept confidential.
Climate grief, also called eco-grief, is a psychological response to loss caused by climate change. It’s a growing phenomenon, particularly felt by children and young adults, and is being studied around the world as people find ways to cope in their own communities.
“People don’t want to burden their loved ones with their fear and their despair. So, to be in a space with other people who understand, it helps people understand their own grief a lot more,” Gelderman says.
The 31-year-old launched the climate grief circles in January. She typically leads three to 10 people at a time. Half of the sessions are specifically for climate activists, while the rest are open for concerned citizens to safely grieve a future marked by climate catastrophe and stark economic prospects.