"The sound of awakening in the time of climate change is a sob," Stephen Jenkinson tells audience at fundraiser for Wakan Tanka film

Photo of Stephen Jenkinson by Ian Mackenzie

“We rarely talk about loss, grief, and climate change. The losses come in many forms...Some of us may have chosen changes in lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprint; it is something we do out of love, but there can still be accompanying feelings of loss...Instead of guilt, fear, and depression, can we face our profound loss, talk about it, acknowledge our grief, and move forward within this new community?”

-- Katharine M. Preston, preacher

"There are people walking up my path, one-third my age. Their hands are full," spiritual activist and author Stephen Jenkinson told The Vancouver Observer a recent fundraiser for Wakan Tankaa film about environmental elders engaging youth on climate change. 

"One hand is full of a blistering hatred of anybody my age—the other is full of despair, something I’ve come to call principled anxiety...They say to me, ‘have you got anything?’"

Jenkinson says he doesn't have grandchildren yet, but that children born today will never live in the kind of environment he grew up with. Today, starfish are melting en masse in the ocean, and abnormal weather events have become the new normal. Naturally, he says, young people are upset.

"It’s the responsibility of anyone my age to have something to say to them, without trying to pry anything away — because what they’ve got, it’s entirely legitimate. But they haven't given up yet. This is moment you have to be ready for, if you’re my age, and you’re incapable of being ready unless you can bring grief to the banquet table." 

As a Harvard-educated specialist in palliative care, Jenkinson is an unorthodox speaker on the topic of climate change. His grey hair is pulled into a rope-like braid down his back, and his skin is sun-burned from years of "Iron Age" style farming. He quotes from Samuel Beckett as well as Chris Rock. But he's an entirely appropriate speaker in the context of the film Wakan Tanka, which is centred around an urban boy's journey through a climate-damaged dystopia with the guidance of elders.

Photo of disintegrating starfish. Causes are unclear, but some experts attribute it to warmer temperature and lower oxygen levels in oceans. 

Wakan Tanka Promo July 2014 from Margery Moore on Vimeo.

Grief: seeing reality for what it is

Amy Huva, a scientist from Climate Access (and writer for the Vancouver Observer), said young people like her have been thrust into a climate crisis that she thought would not  happen for at least another generation. 

"I come from Australia, a land of extremes where things are getting more extreme," she said.

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