There's a buzz going around about "Years of Living Dangerously", the multi-part climate change documentary. It premieres on Sunday, April 13 on the Showtime channel. You can watch the first episode free at the "Years" website and on YouTube.
But before you settle in to watch it, you may want to find someone with whom to watch it, to discuss it, to digest it. Because while the documentary is a masterpiece of storytelling and will be easy enough to watch, it may be more difficult to absorb the message.
It may, in fact, be traumatic. After all, this is the story of how, through our own doing, the planet that's our home is steadily falling apart on us, while we are living in it. Never mind the ramifications for our children, and those who come after them.
This reminds me of a different TV broadcast from a different era: I was in college when "The Day After" was first aired, a fictionalised cold-war account that followed one family before, during and after the nuclear warheads were let loose. Help lines were set up, campus religious leaders opened their offices for extended hours, and psychologists were at hand to help students deal with the trauma of watching this realistic account. I thought it was all over the top until I heard from friends who couldn't sleep, or were physically cold for days after watching the movie. Some had to turn off their TV sets, unable to bear watching the whole thing.
"Years of Living Dangerously" is similar in many ways, in its message of a home changed forever from the way we have known so far, and in the global reach of climate change. It's all profoundly saddening. Psychologists have coined a word for this: solastalgia, "a type of homesickness or melancholia that you feel when you’re at home but your home environment is changing around you in ways that you feel are profoundly negative.”
As if that wasn't enough, the premiere of "Years" falls on the same day that the IPCC releases the third part of its fifth assessment report on climate change, and the signs are that even the mainstream news is now (finally) covering global warming. So in the next few weeks, it will be hard to ignore the reality of climate change.
There is a Dutch saying, "Shared joy is double joy; shared grief is half the grief", that speaks to our social nature. It holds never more true than at times like this.
Psychologists concur: Watch "Years of Living Dangerously", but don't watch alone. We will find enormous solace in each other's companionship and mutual support. Just being able to voice our reactions will relieve us of part of the burden. Knowing that we are not alone in this is hugely helpful.
So if you get the Showtime channel, please consider opening your home to friends and neighbours, or even strangers. You can sign up for hosting at 350.org, and if you don't have Showtime (or, like me, are TV-free) you can use that site to look for a watch party in your area. Facing these things together will create a bond and make for a stronger community.
Please consider very carefully whether or not you want to watch this documentary with your children. If you do, make sure to give them the support they need; as parents we know best what our children can handle, and when they need to be supported, protected, or simply shielded from a reality for which they are not ready. My previous post on how to talk with our children about global warming has a tips and resources.
And let us not forget: we are a resilient species. We have courage. There is a lot of grim news about climate change, but there are people making a difference, turning things around, providing us with hope and courage to make a difference by our own actions.
You may also like:
1. Let's Talk with Our Children about Global Warming, with Sense and Sensitivity
2. Teach Your Parents Well: Children's Views on Climate Change
3. We Need Good News on Climate Change