I'm reading
On grief and climate change
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
On grief and climate change
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
On grief and climate change
Pass it on
Pass it on
11 August 2017

On grief and climate change

“On the last day of the world I would choose to plant a tree”—W.S. Merwin

Written by Berry Liberman

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

I am the daughter of a father born on the floor of a displaced persons’ camp after a Holocaust that almost wiped out his entire community. I am also the daughter of a mother born in freedom, peace and civility whose privilege informed a deep gratitude and joy for life. The dual gift of these legacies inform me every day. I know that tragedy and trauma are often man-made. That showing up and personal fortitude are often forged in the fire of recovery and renewal. I take these lessons into account when I am wracked with grief about climate change.

The arctic ice shelf just cracked off, meaning a trillion ton of ice has now entered our oceans. We are in strange and frightening territory of our own making. The weather is our only compass and it is wild and vengeful in places where peoples are the most vulnerable. Issue 52 of Dumbo Feather, and the content we’ll be sharing online over the next eight weeks, is an attempt to have a purposeful conversation about how we can collectively remain engaged and active in campaigning for the renewal of our eco-systems which are crashing and destabilising all around us.

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust came so many reparative initiatives. Human beings touched the void of annihilation and rage so devastating I often marvel at how my grandparents started a family, moved to a new country and created a thriving business and community. What compels anyone to continue to build when everything is apparently lost? Who are we to give up? If the world could rebuild itself after the horrors of the twentieth century then it is incumbent upon us to wake from our consumer stupor, our Kardashian-induced emotional coma and begin the work of facing the devastation we have wrought through wilful blindness and broken systems.

We are in this together now. Our politicians are answerable to us if we make them. Our businesses are tools for change. We can use them not to shield us from society but to heal the vast economic divides. We have been living in a state of comfort and denial that is quite frankly, a crime. It will become a crime.

I’ve recently been reading a book by Steven Jenkinson titled Die Wise, a deep treatise on dying from a man who has attended over a thousand deaths—kind of like a doula of death. In a chapter titled, “The Ordeal of A Managed Death,” he writes about a young father who was taking jobs with questionable consequence for the world in order to provide for his family—bound to the idea that his children deserved more than he’d had as a child. In counselling the young father he encouraged him to consider that, “with all the evidence mounting, it is clear and relentless now that our children, in the deepest way this can be meant, deserve less, considerably less, than their parents had.”

This sentiment leaves me with two parts to process. Firstly, the sickening feeling that a bomb went off years ago and we are only realising it now. Denial is rife, urgent and panic laden. Let’s just Netflix that shit out of our minds, Instagram ourselves silly. It’s way, way more compelling than melting ice.

The second is that feeling the grief is all-important. If we do not feel the grief of climate change, let the devastating truth settle in our bellies, we will not be able to change anything. Our politics is inadequate to deal with what really needs to change. We are inadequate because we cannot bear the pain of pain. We avoid it naturally. And so nothing gets done.

We need to feel this loss. We need to find the words. We need to find each other in a common ground of action. Between denial and despair there must be action. It is the only moral thing left to do. To speak, to act, to read, to discuss, to lobby, to pressure, to participate.

The idea that our children deserve less has started to resonate with me. A world without so much stuff, without plastic packaging, without petrol. Maybe our children deserve less of the epic tonnes of crap we bought, ate and threw away and more of the real stuff. Maybe the old economy can’t deliver what we need. Maybe growth at any cost is just an idea that has to die. The death of a lot of ideas that held up the 20th century after two devastating world wars. Maybe by feeling the grief we can inform ourselves more appropriately on what we need to do next. Maybe six-figure salaries for bankers and five-figure salaries for teachers, nurses and social workers needs rethinking.

Maybe prosperity needs re-thinking

The work for me for the next decade, as my children grow from babies to teenagers, will be to detach from outcomes. There is no knowing what the future holds. Try as we might we cannot find a clear path forward. So we have to detach from outcomes but not from hope. Detach from old models of success or failure and work towards something greater and more elusive. Possibility. Maybe we won’t stop global warming, maybe we won’t stop all war or terror or social dissolution. But I reckon we should double-down on our commitment to the dream of a better world.

Because it’s more fun that way.

There’s work to do. Let’s make it meaningful.

With love,


Berry Liberman

Berry Liberman, Dumbo Feather’s publisher and editor-in-chief, drives our passion and purpose. While she’s not immersed in the heady scent of old fashioned flowers, she’s also the Creative Director of Small Giants and a mum to the three cutest kids in the world.

Feature image by Laura Jones

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