Reposted from The Work That Reconnects Network founded by Joanna Macy
“Truly the blessed gods have proclaimed a most beautiful secret: death comes not as a curse but as a blessing to men.”
– Ancient Greek Epitaph from Eleusis
The pace of climate change continues to accelerate, and it now appears inevitable that the Great Anthropocentric Extinction currently unfolding will include the end of life as we know it. Characterizing this ‘Great Dying’ as equivalent to a terminal diagnosis for the human race, and assuming an ecopsychological perspective that sees a close relationship between planetary health and mental health, the author applies the stages of grief to this Great Dying, exploring connections retroactively and prospectively between societal mental health trends in the U.S., our awareness of the severity of the threat we pose to the planet, and the stages of grieving the loss of life, and questions the role mental health professionals should play in this context. Looking ahead from this same perspective, the author asks if it is possible to alleviate the pain and suffering that will be associated with the widespread extinctions, mass mortality, and forced migrations that are anticipated by scientific experts as a result of climate disruptions, beginning with the idea of what a “good death” would look like in relation to the end of life as we know it, applying principles from hospice and palliative care. Finally, he offers a hopeful vision that, with an expanding planetary hospice movement and appropriate containing myths, it might be possible to re-cast this Great Dying as a difficult, but spiritually progressive, death/rebirth experience for homo sapiens. Download Planetary Hospice.pdf (430KB).
Zhiwa Woodbury is a long time dharma practitioner, hospice provider, and environmental attorney. He presently serves residents at Zen Hospice Project and is teaching Buddhist Theories of Self, Mind & Nature while completing an M.A. in East/West Psychology at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. He can be reached at email@example.com