The Weight of Planetary Grief 

In an era shadowed by the threat of environmental crises and a profound sense of planetary grief, finding reasons for hope can be a daunting task. We live in a time when the weight of ecological degradation, climate change, and the loss of biodiversity bears down upon us like a relentless storm.

Yet, hope persists, emerging from the cracks of despair, and it is in our hands to nurture and cultivate it.

The term “planetary grief” encapsulates the profound sadness and collective mourning that many individuals experience witnessing the degradation of our planet’s ecosystems. It’s a grief born from the realization that the Earth, our shared home, is suffering.

It encompasses the sorrow over vanishing species, melting glaciers, and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. It’s a grief that stems from the understanding that we are at a critical crossroads.

A Ray of Hope: Uganda’s Resilience

Amidst the clouds of despair, there are moments of inspiration that shine through, reminding us of the Earth’s remarkable resilience. In 2022, I had the privilege of traveling to Uganda, whose natural beauty and rich biodiversity serve as a beacon of hope.

One of the most heartening sights was witnessing a baby boom among gorillas, elephants, giraffes, and chimps. Uganda’s concerted efforts in conservation (and, ironically, the “human pandemic” of 2020) have brought about something miraculous: population rebounds for these magnificent creatures. It’s a testament to what can be achieved when communities, governments, and organizations unite.

A particular highlight of my trip was a visit to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where the rainforest seemed to be expanding, thriving, and reclaiming its territory. This resurgence is a direct result of the local efforts to relocate farmers away from the rainforest and allow the plants and animals to have access to more space. It serves as a potent reminder that with the right conservation strategies, it is possible to reverse environmental damage and revive ecosystems.

Cultivating Hope in Our Gardens

I returned home from Uganda with a renewed commitment to making a difference. In my garden, I planted pollinator-friendly plants, creating a haven for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. This small act, replicated by countless individuals, contributes to the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of our food supply.

A heartening example is the resurgence of the monarch butterfly population. According to California’s Department of Fish & Wildlife, the western population has experienced dramatic swings, for a low of fewer than 2,000 in 2020-21 to over 200,000 in 2021-22. This concerted effort to protect their breeding and migratory habitats has yielded promising results. The monarchs’ rebound demonstrates that we can reverse declines and witness their recovery.

The Power of Statistics: A Glimpse of Hope

Statistics provide a sobering view of our environment, but they also reveal signs of hope:

  • Deforestation Reversal: In recent years, some countries have successfully reduced deforestation rates, demonstrating that with strong policies and community involvement, we can protect our forests.
  • Renewable Energy Growth: The global expansion of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, has begun to outpace fossil fuels, showing the world’s commitment to transitioning to cleaner energy alternatives.
  • Ocean Conservation: Efforts to establish marine protected areas and combat illegal fishing have led to the recovery of marine ecosystems and endangered species.
  • Climate Action: The Paris Agreement and the growing momentum behind climate action demonstrate a global commitment to addressing the climate crisis.

Nurturing Hope

Dr. Jane Goodall continues to remind us how potentiate human hopefulness is! In the face of planetary grief, nurturing hope becomes an act of resilience and a responsibility we owe future generations. Here are some ways to cultivate and sustain hope:

Educate Ourselves: Understanding the complex issues facing our planet empowers us to take meaningful action. It allows us to see the progress being made and the positive impact our efforts can have.

Engage in Conservation: Support and engage in local and global conservation efforts. Whether through volunteering, donations, or advocacy, every contribution matters.

Get Involved: Joining or forming community initiatives focused on sustainability and environmental protection can foster a sense of purpose and connection.

Advocate for Change: Use your voice to advocate for policies that prioritize environmental protection and sustainability. Engage with local and national representatives to drive change.

Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate environmental victories, no matter how small. Acknowledging progress keeps us motivated and encourages others to join the cause.

Develop Resilience: Develop mental resilience by practicing mindfulness, finding solace in nature, and seeking support from like-minded individuals.

Inspire Others: Share stories of hope and progress with friends, family, and your community. Inspire others to take action by showcasing the positive impact of collective efforts.

Keep Learning: If you are going to read more on this subject, I suggest one hour of tending to the planet in any way for every hour of bookworming. In addition to Sim Kern’s suggested reading, I would also add Francis Weller’s “Wild Edge of Sorrow.”


Planetary grief is a profound emotion that many of us carry, but it need not extinguish our hope. My journey to Uganda and witnessing the resurgence of wildlife and rainforests served as a reminder that change is possible. By feeling the grief, educating ourselves, taking action, and nurturing hope, we can be catalysts for a brighter future.

From one humble human to another, I end with this intuited keen:

Take your grief to the garden and get your nails dirty with soil!

Let your tears soak the ground and plant seeds abound!

Open your ears to Nature … what do you hear?

Tune into the message: Care, hear the whispers in the air, share, and be aware!

Honk your runny nose into a washable handkerchief, crying more is never a sin.

Or at least make sure your sorrow-filled tissues are fed to your compost bin!

No action is too little, and no grief is too big. This is the time to feel yourself as part of our Earth and give a frig!

Learn more about Ken Breniman, LCSW – Bay Area Therapy and Healing Services

Ken Breniman

I was born in rural Pennsylvania and spent 7 years living in Japan where he was a social justice advocate for the LGBTQ+ community Currently, I am an Oakland, CA-based Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Yoga Therapist with a passion for nudging the Western mental health paradigm in regards to safe, legal and ethical integration of sacred plant medicines or psychedelics. With a thanatological (study of mortality) approach to holding space for others, I hold deep reverence for Spirit while acknowledging each of us must find our own way of making sense of the experience of being human. Combining the essence of Kierkegaard's "Live life forward, understand it backwards" with Ram Dass' "We are all walking each other home" provides a hint at how I am attempting to understand my own being human. I strive to continually hone my skills as a culturally responsive space holder and continue to engage in ongoing learning opportunities around issues of culture, race, equality, equity, and social justice. In working relationally with my clients, I hope to be transparent and authentic in how I show up in my work and wish to keep the channels of communication open as to how social and cultural identities impact the healing process. As part of my evolution in the world of Thanatology, I will be teaching the first course on "Thanatology and Psychedelics" at Marian University beginning in the summer of 2023. I am dedicated to supporting clients during very challenging life situations. By incorporating the ancient healing practices of yoga, and the supportive counseling tools of Western psychology, clients heal, grow and are better able to cope with many of the stressors life can bring. I truly believe we all have innate healing powers and I am here to help others uncover their own amazing potential. The world is more interconnected than ever before, allowing important cultural and scientific dialogues to take place. There are many wonderful opportunities for those of us in the West to experience the life-transforming power of ancient wisdom traditions from around the world, including the practices of yoga and meditation, which are now broadly respected by the scientific and academic communities.

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